MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Lost under the avalanche of mistakes and points that went against West Virginia in its 37-0 loss to Maryland last week was one fact that didn't wash away the performance, but provided some escape from that reality.
Nothing went the way of the Mountaineers.
At the end of a week spent trying to right what had gone wrong, the biggest fix Saturday was something they could not control.
WVU defeated No. 11 Oklahoma State 30-21 before a crowd of 57,280 at Mountaineer Field and was the beneficiary of a bunch of critical breaks along the way.
"I addressed that this week," said Coach Dana Holgorsen, who beat the 11th-ranked team in the fifth game for a second straight season. "Everyone was like, 'We got no breaks.' Well, this is how breaks work: If you play with tremendous effort and try really hard, you'll get breaks. And that's what we talked about on all three sides of the ball.
"Maryland played harder than we did. They got breaks. We didn't. That's not a coincidence. I felt our guys played harder than they did (Saturday), that they gave more effort, that we strained our bodies hard and prepared hard. You do all that and the breaks will come."
Perhaps most important toward the outcome was OSU's 23-yard field goal attempt that bounced off the left upright in the middle of the fourth quarter and kept the lead with the Mountaineers.
The Cowboys had scored on all 15 red zone possessions in their first three games, and every score had been a touchdown. They had the ball on the goal line before trying the field goal.
WVU's offense did nothing with the ensuing possession, but punter Nick O'Toole, who was again a weapon for the Mountaineers, fired a 54-yard punt over the head of dangerous return man Josh Stewart. He bobbled the punt and lost six yards on the return.
Field position now altered, the Cowboys took over at their 15-yard line and then lost half that distance on a penalty for a block below the waist. On second-and 13, quarterback J.W. Walsh threw deep on the right side to Jhajuan Seales, who was behind two defensive backs, but couldn't hang onto a pass that could have easily been a touchdown.
A 40-yard punt gave the Mountaineers (3-2, 1-1 Big 12) the ball at their 48. They nearly stalled twice, but found 17-yard gains on two third-and-long plays. The second, by a leaping Jordan Thompson, saved WVU from a decision about a punt or a long field goal and moved the ball to the 14.
Josh Lambert, who missed two field goals in the third quarter, hit from 27 yards out for a 27-21 lead with 3:54 to go.
WVU safety Darwin Cook picked off a pass on the next drive and Lambert hit again from 34 yards out for the final score. The Cowboys had turned the ball over once all season before committing three turnovers Saturday.
"Tough week," Holgorsen said. "The whole week was challenging. I'm really proud of our team, though. Our coaches and players stayed the course, and we got to the point where we played ball. You can look at stats, but the bottom line is our team bought in and started playing well."
Not that it was easy. The Mountaineers used their third different starting quarterback against the Cowboys, which was one of 21 changes to the weekly depth chart.
"We're going to keep getting better, and if that means changing people around, we'll do that," Holgorsen said.
The Mountaineers offense that totaled seven points in losses to Oklahoma and Maryland finished with 388 yards against the Cowboys. Clint Trickett, starting in place of injured Ford Childress, completed 24 of 50 passes for 309 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
Running back Charles Sims had 60 yards rushing and 82 yards receiving. Ronald Carswell caught five passes for 77 yards.
"Lots of room for improvement," Trickett said. "We're never going to be exactly where we need to be. I don't know the stats off hand, but we've got a long way to go, and we can get there. That's what's so exciting. We did beat the No. 11 team in the country, but we didn't play our best at all.
"But I do know the defense played phenomenal."
The defense allowed 433 yards, but held the Cowboys (3-1, 0-1 Big 12) to 2.8 yards per rush on 40 attempts, stopped OSU on 14 of 20 third downs, forced 10 punts and five three-and-outs, scored on an interception return and set up a field goal with a fumble recovery.
Walsh passed for 322 yards and three scores, but his interceptions were meaningful and he completed only 20 of 47 passes.