MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Billionaire Boone Pickens owned many things in his lifetime, so perhaps it is fitting that the football program that benefited the most from his personal largesse also possesses something of significant value.
Oklahoma State owns West Virginia football.
The Cowboys came to Morgantown and won for the fifth straight time in this series, with three of those games taking place at Milan Puskar Stadium.
This year’s defeat is a bit more excusable than the others given No. 21 Oklahoma State’s considerable edge in talent this season. But even with that being the case, the Mountaineers somehow managed to let this one slip away more so than the Cowboys took it from them — much like last season, when they blew a 17-point halftime lead.
“I think we wanted it more,” said senior left tackle Colton McKivitz. “It was just those key couple plays that cost us that win [today].”
For the most part, it felt like West Virginia outplayed Oklahoma State. The Mountaineers held the Cowboys offense 200 yards below their season average. Jarret Doege threw for 307 yards and never turned the ball over.
In other areas, the game was dead even. Both teams had 18 first downs. Both teams were 5-for-14 on third down. Time of possession was nearly dead even. The Cowboys had the ball for 30:48, gaining a slight edge because they were able to kneel out the clock.
Yet somehow we are left looking at the exact same result as we have every year since 2015.
Logic does not apply to the one-sided nature of this rivalry.
Oklahoma’s ownership of the Mountaineers makes sense. The Sooners are perennial conference champs and College Football Playoff contenders who sign a Top 10 national recruiting class every season.
Oklahoma State’s success is befuddling. The teams are typically evenly matched, with this year marking only the third time the Cowboys will finish ahead of the Mountaineers in the standings during this five-year stretch. Oklahoma State has seven more overall wins than West Virginia since 2015, but almost all of that ground is accounted for from head-to-head play.
There isn’t exactly a talent disparity. Over the past six years on average, the Cowboys have had the fifth-best recruiting classes in the Big 12 while the Mountaineers have been sixth. WVU has slipped the past three seasons on that end, but not enough to fully explain why this keeps playing out the way it always does.
Obviously Mike Gundy’s coaching skills are a major factor, if not the single biggest. So it makes sense that earlier in the week Neal Brown praised Oklahoma State as a program playing at the level he wants West Virginia ultimately achieving.
“Since 2010, they’re averaging 9.5 wins a season,” Brown said during his Thursday radio show. “Oklahoma State is a good blueprint for what we want to do here. They’ve played really consistently.”
In order to reach that level, West Virginia will need to beat Oklahoma State one of these days. Right now, there’s no telling when that will be.