MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — After its fourth consecutive win, West Virginia climbed to No. 20 in the Associated Press rankings, remained shoulder-to-shoulder with the Big 12 elite and became a “College Gameday” destination. Momentum, it is building, no?
“We’re satisfied, but we’re not satisfied,” said receiver Mario Alford after the Mountaineers doused Oklahoma State 34-10. “We still got a lot of work to do. We’ve got a top-ranked team coming in next week and they’re running pretty high right now. I heard they just scored 80.”
Well, 82 actually. But before No. 10 TCU brings its amphibiously awesome offense to Morgantown, the MMSR gives West Virginia the up, down and neutral bumper-to-bumper inspection after its triumph in Stillwater:
West Virginia played with the lead all day thanks to Clint Trickett’s two touchdown passes in the opening 7:11. He was 3-of-3 for 112 yards after that terrific start and seemingly headed for a huge game before Oklahoma State’s secondary switched to Cover 2 to devote safety help on Kevin White and Alford.
Trickett finished 21-of-30 for 238 yards, settling for season lows in attempts and yardage as WVU emphasizing the run game to counter the defensive alignment.
“They obviously were very conscious of our deep threats,” he said. “And when they do that we’ve got to be able to run the ball.”
While Trickett’s string of eight straight 300-yard games ended, he played interception-free football and saw a third-down pass dropped by Alford. The difference between a stellar day and a merely adequate one? Missing high on two downfield targets to White, one of which could have been a 26-yard fourth-quarter touchdown.
“I was kind of tired but I thought I handled it well,” said the sophomore, who averaged nine carries through West Virginia’s first six games and has 43 the past two weeks.
Once again, Dreamius Smith was valuable in a relief, piling up 72 yards on five carries. He reeled off a 40-yard touchdown late in the game and also had a 20-yard run on third-and-19.
“Everybody expects you to throw when it’s third-and-long. We saw the defense, we called the outside zone play and it hit,” said Smith, who played his high school two hours away in Wichita and scrounged up game tickets for 52 family members. “Just about everybody on the team helped me out with tickets.”
White caught a 19-yard touchdown on WVU’s first series (against OSU freshman corner Ramon Richards) before turning human to close the game with three catches for 27 yards. Kevin Peterson, one of the Big 12’s best cornerbacks, did a stellar job on White, benefiting from frequent safety help.
“We said that we were going to go out there and try to be a better athlete than him and to try and contain him the best we can,” Peterson said. “I think we did that for the most part.”
Peterson’s focus on White left Richards matched against Alford, who gained a season-high 136 yards on seven receptions. A chunk of that came on WVU’s second-series touchdown, a 79-yard catch-and-run.
“When that safety dropped, it just opened up the whole field,” Alford said. “And I just knew I was gone.”
Jordan Thompson worked the middle for five catches for 46 yards.
Still, the 238 passing yards was the lowest since 2013’s shutout loss at Maryland.
Said coordinator Shannon Dawson: “There were some things we could have hit today that would’ve made it look a lot better … but we didn’t sit there and try to throw it into coverage. We did enough to win the game, and on the road we’ll take it.”
What essentially was a good-enough performance contained some flaws. Chief among those was allowing a season-high four sacks, one of which was nearly disastrous. Big 12 sacks co-leader Emmanuel Ogbah zipped past right tackle Maurice Lucas and forced a Trickett fumble that Lucas recovered inside WVU’s 10.
The number of hits on Trickett was alarming considering the season-low number of drop-backs. Mark Glowinskis surrendered an inside sack to defensive tackle Ofa Hautau, centerTyler Orlosky was beaten by James Castleman, and both WVU linemen were flagged for holding. Left tackle Adam Pankey also drew two false-starts.
Yet, West Virginia continued to prosper in the run game and finished with 210 yards—about 70 more than OSU was allowing per game. The 4.8 yards per carry became a sack-adjusted 5.9, which allowed the Mountaineers to control clock in the second half, with 25 runs compared to 15 passes.
Oklahoma State handed off to speedster Tyreek Hill 14 times for 78 yards (both season highs) and averaged 5.0 yards rushing as a team. Typically that’s bad news for a defense, but West Virginia stiffened up when necessary as OSU netted only 10 points on eight drives across midfield.
Kyle Rose led the unit with six tackles, and his mates popped up in a few crucial passing situations. It was still a 10-point game at the 8-minute mark when Noble Nwachukwu pressured Garman into throwing a fourth-down duck at the WVU 37. Dontrill Hyman, still rounding into playing shape after missing two games for minor knee surgery, assisted on a red-zone sack that preceded a missed 36-yard field goal.
Shaq Riddick had a sack for the third consecutive game.
Nick Kwiatkoski (seven tackles, one QB knockdown) is having a season worthy of all-conference consideration, and Shaq Petteway (five tackles) is emerging as a crucial sub on passing downs.
Edward Muldrow made two stops behind the line and forced a holding flag on another blitz. Reserve Isaiah Bruce spelled Wes Tonkery in the first half, a nod to the hottest Oct. 25 in Stillwater history.
Speaking of history, the 10 points were OSU’s lowest output at home since 2005.
Cowboys quarterback Daxx Garman threw for 242 yards and was victimized twice by Dravon Henry interceptions. The second one the freshman ran back 52 yards for WVU’s first defensive score of the season.
Garman’s inaccuracy showed at other times, such as oversthrowing a fourth-and-4 pass after Austin Hays got behind Karl Joseph (team-high eight tackles).
Daryl Worley, recovering from a previous week’s rib injury, played physical in run support with five tackles. He also didn’t allow a completion, though he let James Washington run free on a fourth-quarter sideline route that Garman floated out of bounds.
K.J. Dillon remains a threat blitzing off the edge, sometimes to his own detriment. Along with a knockdown of Garman, he also committed a hands-to-the-helmet personal foul.
Icky Banks, starting in place of Terrell Chestnut (concussion), allowed only a few short completions but missed a tackle that sprang Brandon Sheperd’s 51-yard reverse.
Josh Lambert improved to 18-of-23 this season with field goals of 39 and 43 yards. For the second time, he avoided an illegal motion penalty despite beginning his approach before the snap.
Not to be overlooked, Mike Molinari blasted touchbacks on 5-of-7 kickoffs, limiting Hill’s return opportunities.
Of course there was the weekly fumbled punt. Thompson pounced on this one.
West Virginia vanquished worries of a Baylor hangover by bolting ahead 14-0 after eight offensive snaps. Then came a lull, from which the Mountaineers recovered with a dominant second half. The coaching staff not only has this team enjoying success, but handling it in the correct manner.