It was said to be the biggest game at Mountaineer Field in over 20 years when the 14th ranked West Virginia Mountaineers hosted the ninth rated Oklahoma Sooners in a primetime contest on Saturday night.
However, the players must have missed the memo.
A true tale of two halves, the Sooners left Morgantown with a 56-28 victory. But the first half is what beat WVU. They let early miscues get in their heads, they turned it over and basically lost. Even though the second half was much better for the gold and blue, it was too little too late. Before the game, Oklahoma players stomped on the Mountaineer logo at midfield and kept the stomping going into play.
After a good stand by the WVU defense on the game’s first possession, Gary Jennings misfielded a punt that had possibly hit teammate Nana Kyeremeh and the Sooners hopped on it. Knowing the Mountaineers like we all do, the game was technically over at that point.
Struggling to deal with adversity, West Virginia (8-2, 5-2 Big 12) gave up 34 yards over the next six plays including a 2-yard touchdown run to Samaje Perine for a 7-0 Oklahoma lead.
Unfortunately, that was just the beginning of this Saturday nightmare.
When the Mountaineers got the ball, Kennedy McKoy got hurt on the very first play and went to the locker room.
Oklahoma (9-2, 8-0 Big 12) got the ball back after a punt and once again WVU was haunted. On third down, Baker Mayfield threw a short screen pass to Dede Westbrook who broke off of a Justin Arndt tackle attempt and took it 75 yards to the house for a 14-0 lead.
Another struggle on offense that resulted in a punt on the ensuing drive gave the ball and even more momentum back to the Sooners.
They used the run with Joe Mixon and Perine to perfection as they gashed the Mountaineer defense with ease. At the conclusion of the drive Jeffery Mead caught a 5-yard touchdown pass and the Sooners kept piling it on and led 21-0.
Justin Crawford got WVU down the field on the possession, but then he fumbled inside the 5-yard line for the second time in two weeks and the Sooners jumped on the loose ball and recovered again.
Mixon scored from five yards out to capitalize on that turnover.
If that wasn’t enough, after Crawford once again got the Mountaineers inside the 5-yard line, this time Skyler Howard fumbled the snap and yes, Oklahoma recovered.
During the following series, which began from their own 3-yard line, the Sooners went right down the field with ease and a little help from personal foul penalties from Noble Nwachukwu and Christian Brown on the same play as they were fighting on the field with Sooner linemen, and Perine scored on a 9-yard touchdown run and Oklahoma held a dominating 34-0 lead.
Howard orchestrated a six play, 60-yard drive late in the first half and finished it with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Jovon Durante for a 34-7 score at the break.
What piece of little hope that remained went away quickly at the start of the third quarter. With the Mountaineers driving, Howard threw a terrible pass into double coverage that was picked off by Jordan Evans and returned 80 yards for a pick six score as the Sooners took a 41-7 lead.
It was not a pretty night for Howard. He mocked some of his own fans early in the game after some boos rang out after a three-and-out drive. He did get a couple rushing touchdowns late and made some better throws, but this night just was not one of his finest moments.
Ka’Raun White caught a 37-yard pass with 10:06 left in the game as West Virginia pulled within 13 points at 41-28 and things started to get very interesting, but Oklahoma put together an 11-play drive that chewed over four minutes off the clock and put the game away for good.
The one positive to take from this one is that WVU never quit. They got down so big they could have just rolled over and taken a beating, but they kept fighting. The defense played better and the offense started clicking. However, it was just too little too late. If you could eliminate three or four plays, the outcome could have been different, but that’s why you play four full quarters.
West Virginia actually outgained the Sooners 534-484.
The loss eliminates WVU from the conference title discussion.
Crawford ran for 331 yards on 24 carries, a career high for the junior.
Perine and Mixon ran for 160 and 147 yards, respectively.
The Mountaineers will look to bounce back next Saturday when they hit the road to Ames, Iowa for a matchup with the improving Iowa State Cyclones.
Cover Photo Credit: Kelsie LeRose, BGS