In comparison to last season, the expectations from West Virginia were humble and modest at best. The change at quarterback, bringing in Clint Trickett to start for the first time this season, didn’t offer one big deal of a change, but it was part of a whole much better and responsive performance than before, resulting in the first loss of the season for Oklahoma State.
Being the top ranked team among the Big 12 schools and considering the Mountaineers had just lost 37-0 to Maryland, a visit to Morgantown should have been a much simpler affair. But the game never really got going for the Cowboys except for their early phase when Josh Stewart took a short pass from J.W. Walsh to a 73-yard touchdown.
Oklahoma State turned the ball over three times, including two interceptions by Walsh, who did most of the things on the Cowboys’ offense himself, also finishing as the leading rusher with 52 yards. The problem was the mistakes that kept on coming, as Oklahoma State struggled on defense against a surprising West Virginia offense, and kept making the wrong decision on offense. Their running game, one of the best in the nation up to their first road game of the season, was halted, as Jeremy Smith ran for only one yard on 15 carries.
When you’re not functioning offensively and you have mistakes and drops and interceptions and fumbles, then it’s really difficult to get in a rhythm. We just had a few little difficulties we’ll get corrected. It’s a long season. West Virginia played a great game. We’ve just got to respond next week.
For West Virginia, this win over Oklahoma State (30-21) might be their biggest since moving into the Big 12. There was that win in Texas, but the Longhorns are always overrated early in the season. This was about putting the program back on the right track and hoping that the sights and sounds from their collapse last season after a 5-0 start, in which Geno Smith was crowned as the best quarterback in the nation, aren’t going to return this time.
Without anything special on offense, as Trickett completed only 48% of his passes for 309 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions, it was about their scoring defense. Ishmael Banks took his interception all the way into the end zone, in the move that probably changed and made the whole game in the first quarter. West Virginia didn’t get anything special going on the ground (68 yards on 39 carries), but Oklahoma State were shaken up, and couldn’t get their passing game to work again.
There has been a bunch of emotions over the past week, embarrassment and disappointment. But they kept working. It was the best week of practice that we have had all year. We felt like we could win, so we went out there and wanted it pretty bad.
A bowl game is the best West Virginia can hope for this season, nothing more, as the team rebuilds their offense from the shambles that were left after the exodus of last season. The best they can hope for along the way is to also mess it up for other BCS (or more) hopefuls.