Clint Chelf, the third OSU quarterback to start a game this season, threw four touchdown passes — two to Josh Stewart — and the Cowboys put the game away with 17 unanswered points to whip West Virginia 55-34 on Saturday.
“Clint’s a great kid,” said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen, who was Chelf’s offensive coordinator in 2010 at Oklahoma State. “He’s made some strides and gotten a lot better as a quarterback. He came into this game with a lot on his shoulders and made some plays.”
Stedman Bailey made some plays for WVU (5-4, 2-4 Big 12), but even his 14 catches for 225 yards and a score couldn’t deter the Mountaineers from a fourth consecutive loss. After opening the season 5-0, WVU remains a win shy of becoming bowl-eligible.
“With all the preseason hype, I felt very good about this year,” said Bailey. “But now, we just want to make sure we get in the bowl game. It would be very disappointing if we weren’t. We won’t let that happen.”
Oklahoma State (6-3, 4-2 Big 12) scored 10 points off two West Virginia’s special-teams turnovers and added another touchdown on a 96-yard return by Justin Gilbert.
“We just flat-out gave them 17 points on special teams,” said Holgorsen. “When you make those kinds of mistakes you won’t beat anybody.”
Chelf made his first career start with Wes Lunt still suffering from last week’s concussion. The junior was 22-of-31 for 292 yards, though he threw an interception that linebacker Terence Garvin returned to the 1 to set up a WVU score.
“We had 66 plays, and I’m going to guess that on 50 of those he had to decide what to do with the ball,” said Cowboys coach Mike Gundy. “I think he only made a mistake twice.”
Geno Smith, despite missing a wide-open Bailey on the game’s first series, rebounded for to complete 36-of-54 passes for 364 yards and two scores. His bullish, 1-yard touchdown run — set up by the Garvin interception — brought WVU within 38-34 in the third quarter, but that was as close as the Mountaineers came.
Oklahoma State scored on its next three drives. After a 32-yard Quinn Sharp field goal extended the cushion to 41-34, Chelf fired a 20-yard touchdown to Stewart, who made 13 catches for 172 yards. Jeremy Smith then put the game out of reach with a 21-yard touchdown run.
Smith and WVU were shutout on their final four drives, including a failed fourth-and-4 at their own 39. As one final point of misery, the Mountaineers failed on fourth-and-goal from the OSU 5 with 1:21 to play, a play on which Smith threw incomplete into the end zone as he was getting belted by Cowboys linebacker Shaun Lewis.
“I take every game hard, I hate to lose,” said Smith, who became WVU’s career total offense leader in the second quarter, surpassing Pat White. “We need to get the offense to score just enough points to win the game.”
Down 14-0 and facing fourth-and-13, WVU got an unexpected lift from backup quarterback Paul Millard, who threw a 37-yard touchdown pass to Bailey. Millard was only in the game because Smith had his helmet knocked off on the previous play.
As Millard celebrated his stunning, pinch-hit TD on the WVU sideline, Oklahoma State’s Gilbert countered with a 96-yard kick return — behind a well-blocked middle wedge — to rebuild the lead to 21-7.
A 17-yard screen pass from Smith-to-Austin on third-and-10 drew WVU to within 21-14. But the Cowboys punched right back with a four-play, 59-yard scoring drive in just 70 seconds, as Chelf found Blake Jackson streaking all alone on a 38-yard touchdown.
Three Mountaineers combined to botch the ensuing kickoff — the ball skipping over cody Clay, then ricocheting off Andrew Buie and Austin, before the Cowboys coverage team at the WVU 14. That led to Sharp’s 26-yard field goal and a 31-14 OSU lead.
West Virginia’s Tyler Bitancurt hit a 41-yarder with 55 seconds left in the half, but it was of small comfort to Holgorsen: “We should have been up at halftime.”
Read the replay of Allan Taylor’s blog from Stillwater, Okla., and contribute your postgame comments: