WVU football: Mountaineers fall short at No. 16 Oklahoma
NORMAN, Okla. -- If there was a singular moment from West Virginia's 16-7 loss to No. 16 Oklahoma on Saturday night, it was the play that ended the Mountaineers' night and summed up the many frustrations that preceded it.
On fourth-and-2 with 6:22 remaining at the Oklahoma 49-yard line, quarterback Paul Millard stared into the defense and raised his glance to a play clock that was ticking toward zero faster than he could ready his offense. He signaled for a timeout, entirely unaware the Mountaineers had called all three in the third quarter.
A five-yard penalty for delay of game came before anincomplete pass to tight end Cody Clay. Following the turnover on downs, OU would clinch the game by running more than five minutes off the clock before missing a 35-yard field goal attempt.
"We will continue to get better on all three sides of the ball," Coach Dana Holgorsen said. "We'll learn a lot from this."
There are plenty of miscues to review and Millard's was one of many gaffes before a crowd of 84,692 at Memorial Stadium -- the 88th straight sellout and the 83rd home win in that span for OU. WVU committed four turnovers and committed eight penalties for 66 yards. Two special teams errors led to 10 OU points in the first half on the same day special teams coordinator Joe DeForest was accused of paying players for making plays while he was an assistant at Oklahoma State.
"Those are the two (mistakes) that everyone is going to see, but last week -I guess it would be about the same number this week - but you're looking at about 40 percent of our team that's never played a Big 12 football game," Holgorsen said. "Then couple that with being at Oklahoma in week two and it's tough.
"But we put those guys in position to make plays. They've got to make plays. Those two stand out, but there are a whole lot of things out there we can pinpoint where guys are inexperienced that are going to have to get better."
DeForest did not speak to reporters after the game.
In his second start, Millard was largely ineffective. He completed 21 of 41 passes for 218 yards and lost a fumble on a sack for a second straight game. He was never taken out of the game for backup Clint Trickett.
Holgorsen said he "almost" changed quarterbacks, but was mindful of adjustments WVU made this week to disguise the offense OU Coach Bob Stoops and defensive coordinator Mike Stoops know so well.
"They know all our signals, they know all our route combinations," Holgorsen said. "We had to be smart with that. We had to put guys in the position offensively where we weren't just going against a defense that knew exactly what we were going to do.
"I felt like it was in the best interest of the team to do some specific things and that means the communication on the field had to be spot on. Paul's the best we've got at that. Because Clint is inexperienced in our offense, we didn't feel comfortable doing that, but I thought about it a bunch."
He said the competition to start remains open and allowed for the possibility redshirt freshman Ford Childress could get snaps in practice this week.
The Mountaineers play host to lowly Georgia State (0-2) at noon Saturday at Mountaineer Field.
The offense managed 387 yards and was 3-for-13 on third down. On the game's final play, a first-and-goal from the OU 3 on an untimed down, WVU ran and freshman Wendell Smallwood lost two yards.
OU quarterback Trevor Knight wasn't much better than Millard in his second start -- he was 10-for-20 for 119 yards -- but the Sooners had 78 snaps for 435 yards and ran 57 times for 315 yards. Brennan Clay carried 22 times for 170 yards and Damien Williams had 21 carries for 95 yards.
The Sooners pulled the trigger on a quarterback change and 6-foot-5, 255-pound Blake Bell relieved Knight in the fourth quarter. He ran for 10 yards on his first play and OU converted a first-and-15 two plays later.
The ball would get to the WVU 19, but a loss, a penalty and a dropped pass on a screen set up third-and-16.
Bell ran for 10 yards and the Sooners settled for a 32-yard field goal to go up 16-7 with 10:16 remaining.
WVU got a 26-yard kickoff return from Mario Alford and then a 16-yard run by Charles Sims and reached midfield before a third-and-8 pass to Kevin White picked up six yards to set up the fatal fourth down.
The ending followed an eventful third quarter that saw four turnovers -- two by each team -- and 233 yards of offense, but no points. After two runs gained 60 yards for the Sooners and a WVU penalty pushed the ball to the 5, the offense got fancy and a play action pass from Knight was intercepted in the end zone by safety Darwin Cook.
A streak of three straight three-and-outs ended and Millard moved the offense into Sooners territory, but he threw well short of his receiver and underneath the route and was intercepted by Gabe Lynn.
After two runs gained 34 yards, Knight was asked to pass again and his throw was tipped by WVU freshman Marvin Gross and intercepted by safety Karl Joseph.
WVU followed with its most productive drive, moving from its 15 to the OU 35 in 10 plays. On the 11th, which was a third-and-20 after center Tyler Orlosky's holding penalty on first down, Millard hit White sweeping across the field. He reached the first-down marker, but was hit and fumbled.
Inexplicably, Holgorsen called his final timeout with 8:24 to go in the quarter and wanted the play reviewed, even though White clearly fumbled before he would have been down. In the first half, Holgorsen wasted his only challenge by challenging Millard's fumble, even though the play had been reviewed in the booth between plays and appeared to be another obvious WVU fumble.
"We didn't do a good job managing timeouts," he said.
It was also WVU's third turnover in Sooners territory.
The Sooners challenged WVU's defense in the first half, but those Mountaineers did what they could. OU had 45 snaps and held onto the ball for 17 minutes, 43 seconds on a night when the temperature was 95 degrees at kickoff, thanks in large part to WVU mistakes.
The Mountaineers scored first on a 75-yard touchdown run by Smith, when he started inside, caught a block in the middle of the field and then cut outside and beat the defense up the left sideline. The defense forced a punt, but freshman cornerback Daryl Worley hit punter Jed Barnett and the personal foul penalty gave the Sooners a first down at their 43.
OU converted a third-and-3, but ended up kicking a 44-yard field goal to make it 7-3.
WVU had to punt, but nose guard Shaq Rowell and linebacker Doug Rigg stood up running back Brennan Clay on third-and-1 at OU's 24 to force a punt. WVU's Alford signaled for a fair catch, but fumbled and turned the ball over at his 34.
Alford, a junior college transfer, didn't return punts in the season-opening win against William & Mary, but got the nod against the Sooners ahead of Jordan Thompson, who fumbled and recovered a punt last week.
Knight's 1-yard touchdown pass to fullback Trey Millard gave the Sooners a 10-7 lead.
The Mountaineers avoided a disaster following another error. On third-and-2 at OU's 41, right tackle Curtis Feigt flinched for a false start. The Sooners then blitzed and Everett Kass hit Millard and forced a fumble Chuka Ndulue recovered at the 49.
On third-and-11, Knight hit Lacolton Bester for a first down and Bester ran through Cook's attempt at a tackle. Linebacker Isaiah Bruce chased down Bester and yanked the ball from his grasp. Cook recovered at his 18.
The teams would trade punts with the Mountaineers twice going three-and-out before the Sooners moved from their 14 to WVU's 3. The defense forced a field goal to make it 13-7 at the half.
WVU's offense converted 1 of 6 third downs. Millard was 7-for-13 for 79 yards with 33 yards coming on one completion to Ronald Carswell. WVU ran 13 times for 97 yards, but just 12 times for 22 yards outside of Smith's score.