"Any time you play on the road you have to eliminate big plays on defense, you have to avoid turnovers and be good in the kicking game. We were poor in the kicking game, we turned the ball over, (and) we gave up a couple of plays on defense but overall didn't really give up many plays. So, two out of the three areas that are crucial to winning football games, especially on the road when you have to play in front of a crowd ... it's really difficult," said Cowboys head coach Mike Gundy, whose team lost their fourth consecutive Big 12 road game dating back to Nov. 3 of last season.
"Any time you have a loss like this it's always tough for everybody. We (will) try to identify the problems, find ways to correct them and come up with solutions, and then go back to work Sunday night."
The Cowboys' ineptitude was evidence throughout the game:
** Walsh apparently under threw Blake Jackson on the pass interception by West Virginia's Ishmael Banks that was returned 58 yards, allowing the Mountaineers to tie the score 7-7 midway through the first quarter.
** Punter Kip Smith badly shanked two punts in the first quarter. His 16-yarder in the first quarter led to the Mountaineers first offensive touchdown drive of the day to go ahead 14-7. Then he had a 13-yard punt in the second quarter which set up a five-play, 43-yard touchdown drive to make the score 24-14 at halftime.
** Running back Jeremy Smith's fumble gave the Mountaineers the back on OSU's 29-yard line, and although the Cowboys defense only allowed one yard on three plays the Mountaineers still took advantage of the mistake with Josh Lambert's 45-yard field goal.
** Freshman kicker Ben Grogan was only 1 of 2 on field goal attempts in the first three games but missed twice on Saturday. His 44-yard attempt late in the first half was wide left and his 23-yard attempt early in the fourth quarter to tie the game 24-24 bounced off the right upright.
** Grogan's game-tying field goal attempt came after Stewart had set the Cowboys up with a 36-yard punt return. OSU drove from the Mountaineers 44-yard line to the 1 but couldn't put the ball in the end zone. The Cowboys had a first-and-goal from the 3, and Jeremy Smith almost scored to give them the lead but came up just short of the goal line on first down. Walsh's fade route to Tracy Moore fell incomplete on second down, and then Smith was dropped for a 5-yard loss on third down. That led to Grogan's field goal attempt.
"We had an opportunity to win (on the goal line) but we made some mistakes. Those are situations that you can't make mistakes when you're in conference play and playing on the road," Gundy said.
All of West Virginia's 24 points came in the first half, and the Cowboys defense only allowed one lengthy drive all day – a 9-play, 70-yarder that culminated with quarterback Clint Trickett hitting Kevin White for a 17-yard touchdown to give the Mountaineers a 14-7 lead. The Cowboys defense held the Mountaineers to a field goal – after gaining just one yard – following Smith's fumble and a 43-yard scoring drive after Kip Smith's short punt.
"In the first three games this year, we didn't turn the ball over," said Gundy of the Cowboys, who turned the ball over three times (two interceptions and a fumble. "We threw the ball to the other team and we put the ball on the ground, and we weren't good in the kicking game. It's real simple.
"We have to go back as coaches and make sure as coaches that we have the right schemes, and that we're not asking our players to do too much, and have them thinking more than we want them to. That's our responsibility."
Walsh was 20-of-47 passing for 322 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. The Cowboys only had 111 rushing yards on 40 attempts (2.8 per attempt), with Walsh leading the way with 52 yards. Desmond Roland finished with 46 yards on seven carries, while Jeremy Smith had a dismal 1 rushing yard on 15 attempts.
"We have to continue to work and get better in the running game. We've got to identify backs who can make people miss, and we will get better," said Gundy. "I'm not very sure that we blocked very well today ... but I do want to give West Virginia credit. I thought they had a nice plan. They are better on defense ... but we contributed to their benefit with key mistakes in crucial times."
The Cowboys will be back in action next Saturday when they host Kansas State, 2-2, at Boone Pickens Stadium.