MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — What a difference a week makes.
Last Saturday, the Mountaineers played their best game of the season, coming away with a 38-31 win over then-No. 22 Iowa State. But in the matchup with Oklahoma State, West Virginia was battered by the Big 12’s top scoring defense, mustering just a field goal in a 24-3 loss.
These are the biggest takeaways from that contest, as well as from head coach Neal Brown’s postgame press conference:
“They just consumed us”
Oklahoma State, which led the Big 12 in scoring defense and ranked second in total defense entering the contest, dominated this matchup with West Virginia.
The Cowboys held WVU to 133 yards of total offense. Sixty-four of those yards came on the game’s opening possession, which ended with a WVU field goal. Another 40 of those yards came on the final Mountaineer possession in the contest, which resulted in a turnover on downs.
West Virginia amassed a net of just 29 yards across its other 10 drives in game. The Cowboys forced the Mountaineers into six three-and-outs. Three of those drives netted negative yardage.
“They got to a fifth rusher and got our offensive line in one-on-ones, and they just consumed us,” Brown said. “[Tackles for loss], sacks — I’m not sure we’ve ever had a game with that many — but too many negative plays. They won at the line of scrimmage. That was clear.”
Oklahoma State recorded 12 tackles for loss, including eight sacks. Both are season-worst marks for WVU.
“They were clearly better than us today,” Brown said.
While Oklahoma State’s dominant defense dictated the flow of the game, two critical mistakes made matters worse for the Mountaineers.
With WVU leading 3-0, defensive lineman Dante Stills came up with an interception on a deflected pass late in the first quarter, setting the Mountaineers up with possession inside enemy territory.
But instead of cashing in on the takeaway and some great field position, WVU gave the ball right back to its opponent. Two plays after the interception, backup quarterback Garrett Greene fumbled, and while WVU’s Tony Mathis recovered the ball, the play resulted in a loss of 26 yards.
West Virginia promptly punted, capping a three-and-out that resulted in a net loss of 15 yards.
“I thought a big play in game early is the sudden-change. It was Garrett’s turn to go in, and the fumble where we got — really, we lost field position and an opportunity to score there — that was big, too,” Brown said.
Then, midway through the third quarter, return man Graeson Malaschevich muffed a punt, and the Cowboys recovered, regaining possession deep inside WVU territory.
Four plays later, Cowboys quarterback Spencer Sanders hit Tay Martin for his second touchdown reception for the day, giving OSU a 17-3 lead, and essentially putting the game out of reach.
“The fumble on the punt was big,” Brown said.
Wide receiver Isaiah Esdale did not play in the game, and fellow receiver Bryce Ford-Wheaton was limited after he didn’t practice during the week. Ford-Wheaton, who is coming off arguably the best game of his WVU career, caught one pass and was targeted four times.
The Mountaineers had played in two physical games since the open week, and Brown said that impacted his team in another physical matchup against OSU.
The Mountaineers netted just 17 rushing yards in the contest. They ran it 33 times, averaging 0.5 yards per carry.
West Virginia has now lost seven in a row against Oklahoma State. The Mountaineers are a combined 2-17 against the Cowboys and Sooners as a member of the Big 12. WVU has never defeated Oklahoma as a member of the league.