In front of a national television audience, in a game lauded as among the biggest in school history, the Mountaineers put in as thoroughly poor a performance as at any time in recent memory. We could wax poetic for hours on the superiority of Oklahoma, the approximately 500 yards surrendered, the complete meltdown that caused the a mass exodus even before the half.
Because outside of that, there's really not much to write about. West Virginia was outclassed, out-executed and outperformed in every facet. Fumbles in the red zone again, the miscues on special teams, a defense unable to slow the run, missed tackles, Skyler Howard struggling with early throws, then putting the proverbial icing on the Sooners win with a pick six that put OU ahead 41-7 and served as a rub-the-nose-in-it exclamation point. There seemed to be some fight in West Virginia when it stormed the midfield logo after Oklahoma jumped on it in pregame. But that was all washed away after the Sooners landed the first body blows, and went in for the TKO early.
That, in fact, would have been better, because if it was a fight they would have stopped it. Instead, the whole sad affair had to play out, even as the stadium emptied and views flipped channels to far better games. This is one of those losses that's so over the top, all one can do is wash the hands of it and get into next week's preparation. And that's of prime importance to West Virginia's season.
The key here, in a moving-in sense, is to see if WVU can recover psychologically. It has been poor over the last few seasons in taking a significant defeat, then bouncing back to win games and salvage the season. In 2012, Texas Tech delivered a major blow and the Mountaineers wilted to a 7-6 finish after a 5-0 start. In 2014, TCU's last-second field goal proved the domino that segued into a 1-4 finish after a 6-2 start. West Virginia seemed to right the ship last season after the 0-for-October, then was stung by a 24-23 loss to an inferior Kansas State team that tarnished the end of the season before the Cactus Bowl win.
Now the same set of circumstances again face the Mountaineers. At 8-2, this group has thus far outperformed but now faces a major hurdle at Iowa State. The Cyclones traditionally play well at Jack Trice Stadium, and will come off a 66-10 win over Texas Tech. ISU is just 3-8 overall, 2-6 in the Big 12. But this game won't be as much about schematic match-ups and overall talent as it will be a test to see if West Virginia does indeed have solid senior leadership and the ability to recover from the humiliation suffered against Oklahoma.
This season will go one of two ways, and it hinges on the performance next week. Win in Ames, and the possibility to finish with double-digit regular season victories and a high-level bowl remain. That sets up a regular season finale' against fading Baylor program, and ushers in the positive feelings of a probable contract extension for Dana Holgorsen. Lose, however, and the Mountaineers might sink into the abyss of an 8-4 record and a far more minor bowl that will neither excite the fan base or cause it to travel - as well as following the pattern established in three of the last four seasons.