WVU football: Austin shocks Oklahoma, Sooners sock WVU
MORGANTOWN -- West Virginia sprung a surprise on Oklahoma and used receiver Tavon Austin with stunning success as a running back, but the 12th-ranked Sooners survived on their final play and handed the Mountaineers a fifth straight loss Saturday, 50-49.
Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones threw his sixth touchdown pass of the game, and the fourth to receiver Kenny Stills, on fourth-and-3 with 24 seconds to go as the Sooners escaped Austin's school-record 344 yards rushing and WVU's rally from a two-touchdown halftime deficit.
"You get in those tight games and it's about who is going to make those tight plays at the end of the game to get the win," Oklahoma Coach Bob Stoops said. "Fortunately, we were able to do it this time and execute well when we had to and put it in there at the end."
The losing streak is WVU's longest since 1986. The Mountaineers (5-5, 2-5 Big 12) go to Ames, Iowa, for Friday's 3:30 p.m. ABC game against Iowa State as they try for bowl eligibility for a sixth straight game.
The Cyclones (6-5, 3-5) sprung a surprise of their own Saturday and used a new quarterback, who in his first real action passed for 250 yards and four scores in a 51-23 win against Kansas.
A crowd of 50,238 at Mountaineer Field saw Austin set a WVU and Big 12 record with 572 all-purpose yards. Austin, who led the nation in all-purpose yards per game last season and was leading the country with 10.67 receptions per game this season, carried a career-high 21 times, caught four passes for 82 yards and had 146 yards on kickoff returns.
"Moving him around and giving him some different matchups was probably a good idea," Coach Dana Holgorsen said.
His 54-yard run in the middle of the fourth quarter -- and then 23 yards in Oklahoma penalties on the same play -- gave WVU a first-and-goal at the 8-yard line. Geno Smith's touchdown pass to Stedman Bailey put WVU ahead 43-38 with 7 minutes, 12 seconds remaining.
The Sooners (8-2, 6-1) needed 2:55 to take the lead on a 7-yard pass from Jones to Stills. Austin then ran 47 yards from his 8 to set up a 40-yard touchdown pass from Smith to Bailey with 2:53 to go for a 49-44 lead.
Oklahoma's Brennan Clay returned the kickoff 46 yards and Jones completed a 36-yard pass. WVU's defense forced fourth down at the 5, but Stills slipped inside and caught the game winning pass.
The Mountaineers, once unbeaten and in the top five of both national polls, have lost the past five games by 35, 41, 1, 21 and 1 point. The first one-point loss was to TCU when the Horned Frogs completed a game-winning two-point conversion pass in the second overtime.
"The kids played hard," Holgorsen said. "How many losses like this do we have to go through?"
Jones completed 38 of 51 passes for 554 yards and Monday could become the fifth straight WVU opponent to win the Big 12's offensive player of the week award. Stills caught 10 passes for 91 yards. Jalen Saunders caught seven passes for 123 yards and Justin Brown caught six passes for 112 yards. Damien Saunders rushed for 92 yards and added 71 receiving.
WVU has now allowed at least 50 points in four games -- and 49 and 45 in two others.
Austin would be the biggest obstacle to Jones winning the weekly award. He averaged 16.4 yards per carry. In addition to his two school records, he also became the first player in school history to score a touchdown on a rush, reception, punt return and kickoff return in the same season.
Austin had just 103 yards rushing all season and 70 of those came on one play in the season-opener against Marshall. Last year, he only carried 16 times for 182 yards and a touchdown, but he was beyond all of that by the start of the fourth quarter.
"Obviously," Stoops said, "we weren't ready for it."
WVU had 374 yards rushing the previous four games
"We hadn't been able to run the ball, so we had to do something," Holgorsen said. "Obviously, he goes for 344 yards, it probably should have been done four years ago."
Smith passed for 320 yards and four touchdowns, each to Bailey. Oklahoma had allowed three passing touchdowns all season and ranked No. 2 in pass efficiency and No. 8 in passing yards allowed per game. Bailey caught 13 passes for 205 yards.
The Mountaineers, who had 458 yards rushing, the most since 571 against Connecticut in 2007, had 778 yards of offense and still lost. It was the second-highest total in school history, topped only by the 807 against Baylor earlier this season.
Only once before in NCAA history has a team lost with more yardage. Nevada managed 791 yards in a 1991 loss to San Jose State.
WVU made a game of it to start the second half and handed the ball to Austin on second down. He was in the end zone 74 yards later with the longest running play of the season. Oklahoma's lead was 31-24, but its offense needed five plays, 80 yards and 2:15 to answer.
A short pass on second down to Sterling Shepard turned into a 52-yard gain as cornerback Terrell Chestnut, who'd barely ever played defense for WVU before starting against the Sooners, and safety Karl Joseph missed tackles. Jones threw an 11-yard touchdown to Stills to restore the two-touchdown lead.
The Mountaineers plodded along on their next drive, going 92 yards in 17 plays and 6:03. The offense converted on fourth-and-1 at the 5 and scored on Austin's slippery 3-yard run after he shook two defenders on the way to the end zone.
Tyler Bitancurt missed the extra point to make it 38-30 and really complicate matters for WVU as it neared the end of the game.
The defense forced a punt and then Austin ran 56 yards on first down. The drive made it to Oklahoma's 14, but WVU's offense came up short on fourth down when Andrew Buie was tackled for a loss. Jones then threw a misguided pass deep on a first down at his own 48 that was intercepted by Brodrick Jenkins at the 3.
The Mountaineers needed five plays to go 97 yards and score on the touch pass from Smith to Bailey.
Forced to go for the two-point conversion after Bitancurt's miss, WVU missed when Smith's pass to Bailey went through Bailey's hands when a catch would have tied the score 38-38.
The Mountaineers had their familiar flaws in the first half, most notably on defense. Oklahoma won the toss and took the ball and scored on a 13-play, 75-yard drive that saw three third-down conversions, including the first on third-and-15. A 4-yard touchdown pass to Trey Millard on third-and-goal gave WVU's opponent the first score for the fifth straight game -- and four are touchdowns.
The chance for a quick reply ended when Smith was intercepted on a pass that wasn't close enough to Ryan Nehlen. A 32-yard field goal made it 10-0, though WVU got on the board thanks to Austin. He ran 31 yards to Oklahoma's 11, which was the team's longest run since Buie's 30-yard gain against Oklahoma.
The Mountaineers ended up kicking a 19-yard field goal after deciding against a gamble on fourth-and-goal at the 2.
The quarter ended with the Sooners ahead 10-3, which pushed WVU's first-quarter deficit to 62-17 during this five-game losing streak.
The teams traded punts before the Mountaineers forced a fumble and then followed Austin into scoring position. On fourth-and-goal at the 1, WVU gambled and won on Buie's touchdown run to tie the score 10-10.
The excitement lasted 18 seconds. Jones connected with Saunders on second down and Saunders broke a tackle and ran away from the defense for a 76-yard touchdown. It was the second-longest passing play against WVU this season and the eighth to cover at least 50 yards.
More tellingly, it was the 13th touchdown drive that needed a minute or less.
That was the first of three straight touchdown drives for the Sooners. The Mountaineers went three-and-out with Austin not getting a touch and Jones finished a 76-yard touchdown drive with completions to Stills on passes on three of four plays, including a 4-yard touchdown.
WVU responded, first getting a 41-yard pass from Smith to Austin to move to midfield and then scoring on Smith's 33-yard touchdown pass to Bailey. Four plays later, though, Williams ran 48 yards and was untouched to make it 31-17.
It was the seventh quarter in which WVU has allowed at least 21 points this season and the fifth time in 13 halves of Big 12 play that WVU has given up at least 30 points.
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu. Follow him on Twitter @mikecasazza.