Mountaineers Drop Heartbreaker to No. 21 Oklahoma State.

Christopher Hall

Morgantown, WV – The West Virginia Mountaineers fell 19 yards short of tying the No. 21 Oklahoma State Cowboys with under two minutes remaining in a 20-13 loss Saturday afternoon. West Virginia slowed down the Cowboys rushing attack, however, the same self-inflicted mistakes that have afflicted this team all season long reared its ugly head again.

Oklahoma State quarterback Dru Brown got the start in place of Spencer Sanders after surgery on his thumb earlier in the week sidelined him for the rest of the regular season. That didn’t slow down one of the best offenses in the country on their opening drive.

The Mountaineers got a big dose of running back and Heisman candidate Chuba Hubbard. Although his big gain came through the air on a 46-yard screen pass that set up the Cowboys at the six-yard line. It took all four plays, but Brown found tight end Jelani Woods wide-open for the early touchdown lead.

West Virginia appeared to be on its way to finding the endzone on its second offensive series, but a busted play and a false start stalled the drive before kicker Evan Staley missed short from 47 yards out.

On the Mountaineers ensuing drive, they marched right down the field behind a big 17-yard catch from Sean Ryan with a defender draped all over him and Leddie Brown gashed the defense for 14 yards. Then, Sam James hauled in a pass over the middle but was tackled inside the one-yard line, although it did look like the ball crossed the goal line. Nonetheless, after the review, the play stood and WVU has given three chances to get the ball into the endzone. After two failed quarterback sneaks and a fall start on third down, the Mountaineers had to settle for a 22-yard field goal.

The West Virginia defense contained Hubbard in the first half, allowing just 41 yards on the ground and keeping an Oklahoma State team that averaged 36.5 points a game to just seven points in the first 30 minutes.

“Defensively, we did some really good things,” said head coach Neal Brown. “We held them under their averages in every phase. We limited their run game. I thought our lack of depth hurt us in the second half. Chuba is the real deal. He hurt us in the pass game today, especially on a couple screens and a couple third downs. They got the ball to him. He either made us miss or stiff arm or ran through tackles. We had him bottled up a couple times, and he got out. That’s not just us, he’s been like that all year. I knew coming in, he was a great player.”

Jarret Doege and the offense took advantage of the defense's outstanding play after back-to-back completions to receiver Ali Jennings for 30 yards and a nine-yard swing pass to Leddie to get inside Oklahoma State territory. Four plays later, Doege made a high-arching throw, fading away off his back foot and George Campbell ran under the ball for the 34-yard touchdown pass as the Mountaineers took a 10-7 lead into halftime.

Oklahoma State opened the second half with a nine-play, 45-yard drive that ended in a 44-yard game-tying field goal by Matt Ammendola.

West Virginia retook the lead late in the third quarter when Doege and Campbell began the drive, hooking up for a 39-yard toss and catch and another swing pass to Brown - this time for 21 yards - got the Mountaineers deep into Cowboy territory. However, a sack killed the drive and West Virginia settled for an Evan Staley 29-yard field goal.

Oklahoma State answered on the following drive with receivers Dillon Stoner and Braydon Johnson combining for five receptions for 45 yards and a touchdown to take a 17-13 lead.

After a sluggish first half, Hubbard found his groove, leading the Cowboys down the field and setting up a field goal with only 6:13 remaining in the contest.

Neal Brown was all in on the final drive and the offense quickly began clicking with Doege hitting Sam James for 13-yards and Ali Jennings for another 20 that got the offense across the 50.

Pass interference on the Pokes and a nine-yard reception to James got West Virginia inside the 20 to the 17-yard line. Momentum shifted to the Mountaineers, but not for long.

West Virginia stalled inside of the redzone, burning all three of its timeouts in the process.

“I knew this was going to be our last kind of go at it,” said Brown. “That’s why on those short-yardage plays, we went on and used our time outs. It’s been a struggle. In short-yardage, we were actually a little better except for that goal-line sequence, which I thought we scored on anyways. I wanted to make sure. We didn’t have our eyes up in our stance, and they slanted and beat us on the third. On that fourth down, I wanted to make sure that we got lined up and were ready to go.”

Oklahoma State ramped up the pressure and held the West Virginia offense out of the paint to secure the win.

“Used a timeout there on the last play of the game because at that point I knew there were going to zero blitz us, which they did,” said Brown. “They brought seven, so we brought them over to talk about it. I don’t know if we sorted it out correctly. I’ll have to watch it, but we ran the same play that we scored on. They zero blitzed us on Georgia’s touchdown earlier in the game. We ran the same play. It comes down to one play. That one play didn’t necessarily hurt us. We had a couple opportunities on that drive to make plays, and we didn’t do it. It’s disappointing.”

It’s been the story of the year, West Virginia cannot overcome its own mistakes to put points on the board. Whether it’s the lack of any resemblance of a running game, penalties or dropped passes, they have been their own worst enemy. As a result, the Mountaineers will not make a bowl appearance since 2013.

“I think the story of the game came down to the issues that we had all year,” said West Virginia head coach Neal Brown. “They are the issues that haunted us today; our lack of ability to run the football. We didn’t score touchdowns in the red zone, and we had critical drops.”

West Virginia will be back in action next Friday in Ft Worth, Texas to take on Texas Christian University at 4:15 on ESPN.

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