STILLWATER, Okla. -- Clint Chelf became the third quarterback to start and win a game for Oklahoma State this season and a Boone Pickens Stadium crowd of 57,799 watched West Virginia lose a fourth straight game for the first time in 11 years and for the first time ever in conference play.
"It was bad," Mountaineers Coach Dana Holgorsen said. "I understand how bad it was."
Chelf completed 22 of 31 passes for 292 yards and four touchdowns in the 55-34 win against WVU. The last one, a 20-yard play to Josh Stewart with 12:05 remaining, halted WVU's prolonged comeback effort. The Mountaineers trailed 14-0, 21-7, 28-14, 31-17 and 38-24, but the pass to Stewart, made it 48-34 and put the pressure on WVU's offense.
WVU then turned it over on downs at its own 39-yard line. The Cowboys scored again three plays later on a 21-yard run by Jeremy Smith. It was the fifth scoring play of 20 yards or more against WVU's defense in the game.
In addition to the defensive woes, the special teams committed a list of costly mistakes. Among the many, the Mountaineers allowed a kickoff return touchdown and turned the ball over on errors fielding a kickoff and a punt. Those miscues led to a field goal and a touchdown.
"Some of the issues we had were flat-out unacceptable," Holgorsen said. "I don't know how to coach that when the ball comes to you, you get it and return it. If the ball hits the ground on a punt, everyone in the country, starting in junior high, goes, 'Peter, Peter, Peter, Peter,' and gets away from the ball.
"I can't explain that. I have no answers for that. The special teams flat-out gave them 17 points. That was probably the biggest difference in the game."
The Mountaineers (5-4, 2-4 Big 12) play host to No. 12 Oklahoma (7-2, 5-1) at 7 p.m. Saturday looking to avoid the longest losing streak since six straight in 1986. There is also the issue of bowl eligibility, which requires six wins and which seemed like a given when WVU was 5-0 and ranked No. 5 in the Associated Press poll and No. 4 in the coaches' poll Oct. 7.
WVU began the season thinking and speaking openly about a conference championship and an inside track toward the national title. It is now simply angling for a bid in the Pinstripe Bowl, the last of the Big 12's seven bowl tie-ins and, ironically, against the fourth pick from the Big East, which WVU paid $20 million to flee this season.
"I just want to make it to some sort of a bowl game now," receiver Stedman Bailey said. "It will be very disappointing if we don't, but we're not going to let that happen."
Quarterback Geno Smith rebounded from three shaky games by completing 36 of 54 passes for 364 yards and two scores. Bailey, who had 12 receptions for 120 yards and one touchdown the previous three games, caught 14 passes for 225 yards and a score against the Cowboys (6-3, 4-2). The running game again struggled and finished with just 75 yards on 33 attempts.
OSU's Joseph Randle rushed 21 times for 74 yards, 42 yards below his Big 12-leading average. He had 47 yards in the first quarter. Stewart caught 13 passes for 172 yards and two scores and added a 46-yard touchdown run that opened the scoring.
Chelf, a rarely used junior, started in place of true freshman Wes Lunt, who was hit in the head and left early in last week's loss to Kansas State. He was named starter in April, but was injured in the third game and watched redshirt freshman J.W. Walsh take control of the job. Walsh was lost for the season in a win against Iowa State Oct. 20.
"We wanted to get him comfortable," OSU Coach Mike Gundy said. "I'm pleased with the way he handled the offense. We had 66 plays and I'm going to guess that on 50 of those he had to decide what to do with the ball. I think he only made a mistake twice."
WVU found itself behind at the half for the fifth time in six Big 12 games, but gave itself a chance. Down 31-17 -- the fourth time in six conference games the other team has managed at least 31 points in the first two quarters -- the defense forced a punt and the offense made a big play.
Smith threw a 75-yard pass to Bailey on the same play Smith overthrew Bailey on in the first half. Smith threw a touchdown pass to Ryan Nehlen, a game captain, two plays later to make it 31-24. The Mountaineers squibbed the kickoff and it hit an OSU player 10 yards away, but the Cowboys recovered at the WVU 49.
The defense forced another punt and WVU's Tavon Austin decided not to field it. The ball bounced and Austin waved off teammates, but Austin never left the vicinity of the ball. It hopped up and hit him in the stomach and OSU recovered at the 12. A 5-yard touchdown pass made it 38-24.