WVU Corrals Cowboys, Runs Record to 6-2

West Virginia rode its defense – led by a pair of Dravon Henry interceptions – and a gritty run game to a 34-10 win at Oklahoma State on Saturday that set-up a major showdown with No. 10 TCU next weekend.

The No. 22 Mountaineers, now bowl eligible after winning just four games last year, barely allowed Oklahoma State double digits in putting together its second consecutive exceptional defensive performance in as many weeks. After holding then-No. 4 Baylor, the nation’s top offense in points and yardage per game, to just 318 yards and 27 points, WVU’s defense controlled OSU, which failed to convert on a whopping 14 of 16 combined third and fourth downs until the final meaningless drive. The Cowboys tallied 436 yards, but were shutout in the second half and was never able to finish effectively once inside the red zone.

WVU’s offense, meanwhile, lacked its typical explosive passing game because of the defensive alignment of Oklahoma State. Instead, the Mountaineers turned to their bruising run game highlighted by Wendell Smallwood’s 132 yards on 23 carries, a 5.7 average. Clint Trickett started hot both halves and finished 21 of 30 passing for 238 yards and two scores with no interceptions. The two touchdowns – a 19-yarder to Kevin White and a 79-yard catch-and-run by Mario Alford – put West Virginia ahead 14-0 and caused the defense to begin keeping its safeties over the top for better protection. Oklahoam State responded with the game’s next 10 points for the 14-10 margin at the break.

The game remained tight into the last five minutes when Henry, having already picked off Daxx Garman to snuff an early drive, turned the trick again with a 52 yard interception return for score for a 27-10 lead with 4:44 remaining. Garman, a junior transfer still trying to adjust to live action after not playing for three-plus seasons, completed 21 of 41 passes for 242 yards and a score, but missed a handful of open targets and threw the pair of picks. The latter were the first WVU points off a turnover this season, a remarkable statistic for a team that has won six of eight with among the more difficult schedules in the nation. The Mountaineers entered minus-11 in turnover margin, but finished plus-two against OSU in holding an offense that average 33 points per game to just 10.

West Virginia (6-2, 4-1 Big 12) capped the scoring when Dreamius Smith busted a 40-yard run with 3:12 left for the 44th and final Mountaineer rush of the game. That left Smith with 72 yards on just five carries. Alford finished with 136 yards on seven catches (19.6-yard average) and the score. White had just three receptions for 27 yards, his quietest game of the season. But that opened the field for Alford at times, who took advantage. James Washington led Oklahoma State with five catches for 83 yards. Tyreek Hill, who returned a kick for a touchdown in the previous two games, was kept under wraps by very solid coverage units. Hill rushed 14 times for 78 yards.

The Mountaineers outgained OSU 448-436 and converted nine of 18 third downs via a ball control style that aided somewhat in offsetting the 88-degree heat. WVU had 22 first downs to Oklahoma State’s 23. Arguably the biggest came early in the second half as the Mountaineers cashed a get-out-of-jail-free card on its second drive. After an intentional grounding call set-up a third and 19 from its own five, Smith picked his way for 20 yards and a huge first down. The drive eventually stalled when WVU couldn’t convert after poorly executed screen and end around plays around midfield after being set-up with a second and five. The drive took more than seven minutes and flipped field position, but did leave Oklahoma State within a single possession at 17-10 entering the fourth quarter.

That became irrelevant when the defense forced a three-and-out, and the offense responded with another grinding, nine-play, 37-yard march that ended with Josh Lambert’s 43-yard field goal for the 20-10 edge with 10:14 to play. To that point, OSU had run just eight offensive plays in the second half, and was behind in time of possession by more than 13 minutes.

West Virginia led 14-10 at the half after opening the game with consecutive touchdowns. The Mountaineers pieced together initial drives of five plays for 62 yards and three plays for 90 yards as Trickett found White and Alford on slants for scores. The first touchdown to White came off play action after WVU ran the ball effectively early.

The Mountaineers then forced an OSU punt – no teams have scored upon West Virginia on their opening possession this season – before Alford took a quick slant 79 yards for the 14-0 lead. Oklahoma State then began to tighten defensively, routinely pressuring Trickett and corralling the pass game while its offense responded with a pair of scoring drives for 10 second quarter points. The Cowboys (5-3, 3-2) could have been within one at the break, but Ben Grogan missed a 36-yard field goal. OSU’s first five drives totaled just 143 yards on 27 plays, and included three punts, a turnover on downs and the first interception by Henry.

The teams combined to convert just two of 13 third downs over the first 30 minutes. West Virginia, behind six of seven passing from Trickett, opened the second half with a 12-play, 53-yard drive that culminated in Lambert’s 39-yard field goal for a 17-10 lead.

The win, combined with TCU’s 82-27 ripping of Texas Tech, likely pens the marquee match-up into the prime time slot on national television. The teams, currently jockeying for position behind league undefeated Kansas State, split their first two conference games played. Both went into overtime, the visiting team winning each. The 82 points set a Big 12 record for a league game, and are just two shy of the most ever scored by any current Big 12 team ever.

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