The No. 4 Sooners (11-3), had rallied from down 20-6 to pull within five at 20-15 on a pair of defensive three-and-outs and a 42-yard field goal and Chris Brown's one-yard plunge to cap a seven-play, 80-yard drive. OU's sideline bounced with energy and enthusiasm, as aspect lacking early. Then head coach Bob Stoops became inpatient.
He chased points, going for two to attempt to get within 20-17. But quarterback Sam Bradford's pass was wide of a receiver near the sidelines, leaving Oklahoma down by five. Still, with more than 21 minutes left in a one-possession game and a defense that had thus far held WVU's offense to just 13 yards on six plays in the second half, Stoops would have been wise to kick deep. He instead made the game's biggest blunder in having Garret Hartley onside kick. Hartley's attempt failed to roll 10 yards. Ridwan Malik knifed through two players and recovered the loose ball, securing a short, 39-yard field. West Virginia (11-2) scored six plays later on Noel Devine's 17-yard, end-around carry on third and one.
"You are in a tough situation," Stoops said. "We had momentum and if you get the onsides kick you really have a chance to make – to give them a blow. We didn't kick it far enough and there you have it. You don't do those things when you don't have momentum. I felt we had that and the opportunity was there. There were still a lot of plays after that, and they played a heck of a lot better and executed a heck of a lot better than we did in other areas."
The 27-16 edge haled Oklahoma's immediate threat and gave the No. 9 Mountaineers added room for error. It will likely be on of the few moments remembered in a defensive-based first three quarters. The team's combined for 27 fourth-quarter points, with WVU answering every Oklahoma threat.
"Congratulations to coach Bill Stewart and the whole staff at West Virginia and their team," Stoops said. "They really beat us on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball and in every part of the game, just definitely out-coached us and outplayed us. They were more physical and more disciplined in every aspect of the game. They are to be credited and we're not. Very disappointing end to the season."
Devine replaced an injured Steve Slaton – the back pulled a hamstring in the first quarter and never returned – and ran for 108 yards and two touchdowns -- a 17-yarder and a 65-yarder that clinched the game in the fourth quarter as the Mountaineers became the second of seven teams to win under an interim coach in this bowl season. OU has dropped four straight BCS games; WVU is 2-0.
"I'm very honored," WVU interim head coach Bill Stewart said after the game. "Our players deserve the credit. To play what I think is the No. 1 team in the nation with the No. 1 staff was a real challenge. If we want to be considered the nation's elite – and we have beeen pretty good the last few years – then you have to come in and beat a team of Oklahoma's stature. That was very impressive."
Not as much as Stewart's play calling, the resemblance of which to a complex, yet finely-tuned machine made former head coach Rich Rodriguez look like a stubborn toddler with tinker toys. Stewart passed downfield. He mixed in all the weapons. He kept Oklahoma off balance – and not playing downhill all game against a gluttony of zone read calls. It was, in short, the way West Virginia's spread offense is supposed to be run – and the way it has not since Rodriguez went into an ego shell after the 2006 Sugar Bowl win. Stewart helped the Mountaineers continue to build upon the edge and advantage of the onside kick and Devine's run. It went ahead 34-15 on Darius Reynaud's 30-yard misdirection run with 20 seconds to go in the third quarter. The Mountaineers went 75 yards in three plays -- 42 on a run by quarterback Patrick White up the middle. And it didn't settle for merely running clock via an ad nausea running of the football. No. Instead, White hit Tito Gonzales with a 79-yard touchdown pass on the first play from scrimmage after OU got within 34-21 early in the fourth. That was lights out, the KO blow delivered.
"We didn't do a whole lot," Stewart said. "We threw a couple razzle-dazzle. My job was just not to screw it up."
Refreshing. West Virginia finished with a school bowl-record 525 yards of offense. It racked up 48 points, just one off tying the mark set by WVU under retiring head coach Don Nehlen in 2000 versus Mississippi in the Music City Bowl. And it did with without an All-American back and with a coach the players are campaigning for.
"He needs that job and he deserves it," White said of Stewart. "He is a great man and a great coach. All the players respect him and love him. We couldn't ask for a better man to lead us to victory."