MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia’s defense was up to the task against the best running back in the country, but the Mountaineers offense left too many points on the field as it closed out the 2019 home schedule with a 20-13 loss to No. 21 Oklahoma State.
“I’m proud of our guys. I thought they played extremely hard,” said West Virginia coach Neal Brown. “Last time I was in this chair after a home game, I was not pleased with the performance we had and how we represented our program. It’s a totally different story today.
“I think the story of the game came down to the issues we’ve had all year, they 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.”
The Cowboys (8-3, 5-3 Big 12) picked up their fifth straight win over the Mountaineers, while West Virginia (4-7, 2-6) will miss the postseason for the first time since 2013.
WVU only scored six points on three trips into the red zone, continuing a season-long trend. West Virginia came into the game 103rd in the country in red-zone touchdown percentage (51.7 percent), a figure that will only plummet further this week.
Jarret Doege drove the Mountaineers down to the Oklahoma State 17 before things fell apart on the game’s final drive.
Following a first-down incompletion, the Mountaineers lost two yards on a screen pass to Kennedy McKoy. On third-and-12, Doege found T.J. Simmons just short of the marker, but Simmons dropped it — the fourth drop by a WVU wide receiver in the game, continuing another season-long trend.
Oklahoma State sent the house with a blitz on fourth down, forcing Doege to release the last pass of the game too early to be caught.
“I was trying to get it out as fast as possible,” Doege said. “I just couldn’t really step into it.”
The Mountaineers squandered a far better opportunity to score in the second quarter, though that failure came with some controversial assistance.
Receiver Sam James appeared to score a touchdown, but was ruled down short of the goal line even though replay clearly seemed to show that his knee never touched the ground before the ball crossed the plane. The call on the field was upheld after the review.
“I don’t really understand it,” Brown said. “I thought he was in. I thought the replay showed he was in. I don’t know if since they called him down the replay was inconclusive. They felt his shin was down. I didn’t see it that way. I don’t know, I have to talk to [Big 12 director of officiating] Greg Burks to get a clearer understanding of that.”
The Cowboys stopped Doege on back-to-back quarterback sneak attempts, though Brown is not so sure about the first one.
“I thought we were pretty close to getting in on the first one,” Brown said. “I’m kind of wondering why they didn’t send that one to replay.”
Prior to third down, left guard Mike Brown committed a false start, moving the Mountaineers back to the 6. WVU was attempting a pre-snap shift that went awry.
“Coach Brown was not happy, and neither was I,” said senior left tackle Colton McKivitz. “Really we shouldn’t have had to go to three downs to have a chance to punch it in. We have practiced having an unbalanced front moving the guard. But the message wasn’t relayed that the guard was supposed to be over, and we lined up in our base alignment instead of the guard being over.
“Those little mistakes and miscues have plagued this team, really. Texas, Okie State, Baylor. Those small plays and details.”
A third-down incompletion forced by Oklahoma State’s pressure resulted in the Mountaineers settling for a 22-yard field goal.
The offensive failures spoiled a mostly sparking showing for West Virginia’s defense. The Mountaineers limited Cowboys running back Chuba Hubbard to 106 yards on 26 carries, marking a season-low for the nation’s leading rusher outside of an early-season blowout against FCS McNeese State in which he was pulled early.
“We held them under their averages in every single phase,” Brown said. “We limited their run game.”
As a team, Oklahoma State rushed for 89 yards, its worst performance since a 2017 game against TCU. The Cowboys came into the game averaging 498.1 total yards per game. The Mountaineers limited them to 285 yards, marking the first time a defense has kept the Pokes below 400 this season.
However, Hubbard was able to hurt West Virginia as a receiver. He caught seven passes for 88 yards after entering the game with just 11 catches for 82 yards all season. His 46-yard reception in the first quarter moved the Cowboys inside the 10, where they eventually capitalized with a 1-yard play-action pass to tight end Jelani Woods.
“We didn’t really anticipate that many screens, but we knew he would be involved into the offense a little bit more with their starting quarterback going down [this week],” said WVU linebacker Josh Chandler.