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MONDAY MORNING QUARTERBACK: Missed chances cost WVU, again

For the second straight week the West Virginia Mountaineers battled a ranked team to the wire, but this time a final drive to win or tie the game came up short in the final minutes. It was the fourth straight home conference loss.

As we all by now recognize, this WVU team is not good enough to prevail against quality opponents unless it takes advantage of its scoring opportunities and avoids mistakes. The Mountaineers were successful in doing so against Kansas State the previous week but failed on Saturday.

On its second possession of the game West Virginia had efficiently driven to the Oklahoma State 22 yard line facing 2nd down and four. But then a broken play caused a seven yard loss, followed by a false start penalty, and suddenly a great scoring opportunity turned into the Mountaineers staring at 3rd and 16. Unable to convert the first down, a 47 field goal attempt beyond the effective range of kicker Evan Staley was unsuccessful.

The very next possession WVU again drove 70 yards down the field. On a pass to Sam James it appeared to fans in the stadium that he had scored a touchdown, but the replay official ruled otherwise and the ball was placed at the one foot line. Yet even with the disappointment in the ruling, this was a spot from where the Mountaineers should have scored. Instead, two quarterback sneaks failed and then an inexcusable false start moved the ball back five yards. A third down pass attempt was incomplete, and a golden opportunity to score a touchdown turned into only a field goal. The four points lost haunted West Virginia the remainder of the afternoon.

WVU was inside the 20 yard line five times on the day yet scored only 13 points. The final red zone effort in the waning minutes failed when Oklahoma State brought all out blitzes on 3rd and 4th down and quarterback Jarret Doege did not have time to make an accurate throw.

Doege had another outstanding day, completing 28 of 38 passes for 307 yards with no turnovers, a remarkable stat line considering the Mountaineers’ continuing futility running the ball. The running backs had 16 attempts for only 42 yards. Short yardage situations were an adventure, and at times fans were just hoping to avoid seeing lost yardage carries, of which there were several.

The Cowboys were victorious by taking advantage of all their scoring opportunities, committing only two penalties, and having no turnovers. West Virginia won the total yardage battle, which was the third straight week that the team with the most yards lost the game, proving that sometimes it’s the little things that make the difference between winning and losing.

The Big 12 does not have an elite team and is unlikely to have a representative in this season’s college football playoff, but it may be the deepest and most competitive league in the country. Over the last two weeks 8 of the 10 conference games were not decided until the final minutes.

THIS FRIDAY: The Mountaineers travel to play TCU in the season finale Friday afternoon. The Horned Frogs have had a frustrating season of their own and need a win to be bowl eligible. Saturday night TCU looked as if it was going to be run out of the stadium at Oklahoma (trailing 21-0) but to their credit stormed back and left the Sooners hanging on to a 28-24 win. Even though WVU has improved with the quarterback change and good defensive efforts the last two weeks, the home field still gives the Frogs the edge. TCU 23 WEST VIRGINIA 17.

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