It was a long, late night drive home for WVU football fans after another excruciating one-point home loss, this time to Oklahoma, 50-49.
Not that we didn't get our money's worth. In one of the best games ever played at new Mountaineer Field, West Virginia fans witnessed the greatest single game performance ever by a Mountaineer player, as Tavon Austin rushed for 344 yards in his debut at the running back position. Austin amassed 572 all purpose yards, six short of the NCAA record. Stedman Bailey tallied another 200 yard game. West Virginia had an incredible 778 total yards, the most by far ever against the storied Oklahoma program.
And for all that it was still a losing effort.
It was an incredible second half of football, as the Mountaineer offense became unstoppable, but as usual the same was true of our opponent. As exciting as the final two fourth quarter scoring drives were for the Mountaineers to take leads, fans knew that the Sooners would be able to do the same behind quarterback Landry Jones, who set a school record of his own for total passing yards (554) and tied one for touchdown passes(6). The only realistic way the Mountaineers would be able to preserve a victory was to take a lead with virtually no time remaining.
As we have seen throughout this difficult inaugural Big 12 season, little things make the difference between wins and losses. After a third-quarter touchdown, Tyler Bitancurt missed an extra point, leaving the Mountaineers down 38-30. As the fourth quarter played out, WVU ended up chasing that lost point with attempted two point conversions, both of which failed. Each team scored seven touchdowns and a field goal, and the one point margin ended up being that failed conversion try.
Equally important was that the West Virginia frittered away all of its second half timeouts in situations where there was confusion or delay. One was used when the Mountaineers were about to receive a punt. Another was used as Oklahoma was lining up for a two-point conversion, and the final one when WVU was going for 2 after its last score when there was disorganization about who was supposed to be on the field.
The absence of the timeouts at the end may very well have spelled the difference between winning and losing. As Oklahoma was driving for the winning score, the Sooners milked the clock to leave no time for a WVU comeback, which could have been prevented had the Mountaineers had any remaining timeouts.
But perhaps the bottom line is that there is no way a team can be successful surrendering 51 points per game as the Mountaineers have in Big 12 play. The defense saw some new faces on the field, and they played hard. But the talent level simply isn't there. If some impact players aren't recruited on that side of the ball WVU fans, will be looking at a lot of seasons like the one we are witnessing.
This Friday: Iowa State had been struggling at the quarterback position in 2012 until Sam Richardson, who had not thrown a pass all season, came off the bench for the Cyclones to complete 23 of 27 passes and four touchdowns in a 51-23 win over Kansas. Oh boy. That's just what the last ranked WVU pass defense needed, a team to suddenly find a quarterback and playing for a winning season in its last home game. It will tough for the Mountaineers to bounce back from Saturday's loss. Early in October there were a number of skeptics after I opined that WVU could be looking at a six-game losing streak. We're almost there. Iowa State 38, West Virginia 37.