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Mountaineers Suffer First Loss of 2016

The 10th ranked West Virginia Mountaineers made too many mistakes, failed to come up with key plays and were sent home from Stillwater, Oklahoma today with their first loss of the year.

Mason Rudolph threw for 273 yards and three touchdowns as the Oklahoma State Cowboys stole a 37-20 win.

WVU did things they haven’t done all season, and not in the good way. They turned the ball over three times and could not get out of their own way en route to their sloppiest performance to date.

However, West Virginia started off fairly well on their opening drive.

Daikiel Shorts caught a 14-yard pass, Rushel Shell rumbled for 15 yards then Kennedy McKoy got 13 more. But the drive stalled late as the Mountaineers settled for a 36-yard Mike Molina field goal and WVU took an early 3-0 lead.

Oklahoma State did exactly the same thing on their first possession. Rudolph found James Washington for 33 yards on a quick post route that took the Cowboys into Mountaineer territory. But then the WVU defense stepped up and forced the Pokes into a field goal attempt, a 33-yarder which Ben Grogan drilled and the score was tied up at 3-all with 7:02 left in the opening quarter.

After a Mountaineer punt on a drive where momentum was killed by a non existent pass interference call on Ka’Raun White, the Cowboys took the ball back with the loud sellout crowd on their side.

Washington had a 12-yard catch on the first play. Then Hill and Chris Carson moved the ball well on the ground. With the WVU defense on its heels, Jalen McCleskey had a 19-yard catch deep on the West Virginia side of the field. But again, the defense stepped up in the red zone and limited the OSU offense to a 25-yard Grogan field goal to make the score 6-3, Oklahoma State.

Dana Holgorsen and crew then drew up a good plan.

A methodical, 12-play drive that featured big plays from Shorts, Shell and Shelton Gibson, was highlighted by a 19-yard touchdown pass from Skyler Howard to Gibson, who stretched his arms out and planted his feet beautifully for a 10-6 Mountaineer lead.

The next series of events is where the game turned.

The Mountaineer defense got a much needed three-and-out and forced OSU to punt. WVU had a golden opportunity to move the ball down field, run some clock and get some points. Instead, they ran two plays, and on the third play Howard tried to do too much when he probably should have taken a sack, he tried to throw under duress and was hit and fumbled the ball. Oklahoma State recovered and then scored two plays later when Rudolph found Chris Lacy for a 2-yard touchdown pass. That made it 13-10, OSU.

After a Molina missed field goal on the ensuing drive that made the stadium even louder, Oklahoma State scored again before the break when Rudolph found McCleskey for a 2-yard score and a 20-10 halftime lead.

The opening possession of the second half belonged to the Cowboys and the way it started it looked as though it was going to be a rough one for the WVU defense. Kyzir White was called for a facemask that negated a big tackle for loss and Blake Jarwin had a 23-yard catch on third-and-six that was deflating. Grogan saved face for WVU when he hooked a 39-yard field goal and gave hope to the Mountaineers.

Several possessions later, after punts by each team, Mountaineer linebacker Xavier Preston sacked Rudolph and forced OSU into another punt.

That so happened to be when the game was lost for good.

On the first play, Howard made a nice throw to White, but White let it bounce right off his hands into the mitts of Ramon Richards who returned deep into Mountaineer territory.

Three plays later, Rudolph faked a handoff, kept it himself and scored from two yards out to give the Cowboys a commanding 27-10 lead.

West Virginia showed resiliency even though their backs were completely against the wall.

The offense finally got going on the ensuing drive. They ran hard with Justin Crawford and McCoy. It concluded with Howard scoring on a 12-yard run to bring WVU back to within 10 points, 27-17.

After another good defensive stand by the West Virginia DAWGS, the offense continued to build and show signs of life.

Crawford went for 20 yards on the first play. Shorts then caught a 16-yard pass. Three plays later, McKoy burst through the line for 13 and Durante took a reverse 21 yards to set up first-and-goal. Unfortunately, the Mountaineers had to settle for a 22-yard field goal from Molina that moved the deficit to 27-20.

But when the defense needed a stop at the most critical time, they didn’t get it. Oklahoma State chewed up nearly four minutes of clock on the next drive and converted a crucial third down play that sucked the wind out of the Mountaineer sails. The drive was finished off with a 7-yard touchdown pass to Lacy, who was actually well covered by Elijah Battle.

Howard did not have his best game. The senior was 24-of-39 for just 212 yards with one touchdown, two interceptions–one was not his fault– and he lost a fumble.

Crawford led the rushing attack with 87 yards on 14 carries after Shell left with an injury. McKoy gained 83 yards on 10 carries.

The defense was really solid in the second half as WVU actually  outgained the Cowboys in total offense 421-358.

The loss puts the Mountaineers at 6-1 on the season with a home game against Kansas coming up next weekend.

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