MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — Oklahoma State entered with a perfect 15-for-15 in red-zone efficiency, J.W. Walsh owned a 70-percent completion percentage and the Cowboys had conceded only one turnover all season.
However, Oklahoma State wasn’t the same high-performing offense Saturday, a glaring reason for its 30-21 upset loss to West Virginia.
The Cowboys had just one opportunity in the red zone on Saturday after averaging five visits in each of their previous three games. Not only did the West Virginia defense hold to force a field-goal attempt, but Ben Grogan’s 23-yarder ricocheted off the upright, costing OSU a chance to tie the game in the fourth quarter. Grogan was 0-for-2 on the day.
“We were poor in the kicking game,” said Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy. “Our field goals weren’t great. It’s really not detail that you can go into, it’s cut and dry. We need to work on our mistakes.”
The failure in the red zone came with less than 10 minutes left and the Mountaineers clinging to a 24-21 lead. Oklahoma State didn’t return to that part of the field for the rest of the day.
“It was because we needed it to tie,” said Walsh, who misfired on a second-and-goal pass from the 1, and then saw Jeremy Smith smothered for a 5-yard loss on their down. “At the same time, there were three other downs before that where we should have put it in.”
Walsh threw for three touchdowns and 322 yards but wasn’t crisp for the large part of the game. He was just 20-for-47 passing after throwing just 25 incompletions combined in his first three games. The Mountaineers also caused Walsh to throw two interceptions and also recovered a fumble.
“Playing on the road is about avoiding turnovers, perfecting the kicking game and not giving up big plays on defense,” Gundy said. “In two of those three areas we were poor. We were poor in the kicking game and we turned the ball over. It’s really very simple.”
Despite giving up 433 total yards to the Cowboys, WVU’s defense saved the day. Gundy believes, though, this defensive unit is greatly improved.
“Obviously they are playing much better,” he said. “They have much better gap control. They are running to the football. They are better tacklers than last year.”
— Joe Mitchin