Oklahoma State (6-2, 4-1 Big 12) was in danger of letting a 17-point lead evaporate in the second half against No. 10 West Virginia (6-1, 3-1 Big 12), but the Cowboys held on and pulled away to hand the Mountaineers their first loss of the season, 37-20. The result may effectively put another nail in the coffin for the Big 12’s playoff hopes and also adds another ingredient to the Big 12 championship picture.
West Virginia pulled to within seven points of Oklahoma State in the fourth quarter when Skyler Howard ran 12 yards to the end zone for a score and Mike Molina kicked a short 21-yard field goal after Oklahoma State went three-and-out in between. Oklahoma State then flipped a switch to put the game away with an answering touchdown drive (Mason Rudolph to Chris Lacy) and an interception of Howard that ultimately led to a field goal by Ben Grogan for a little more breathing room. West Virginia would run out of time from there.
West Virginia committed three turnovers in the game, which led to 17 points for Oklahoma State. The two Oklahoma State touchdowns off turnovers also only had to travel a combined 17 yards, and the field goal came on a 4th and goal from the six-yard line (following a delay of game penalty). Turnovers have a way of influencing a game, and they certainly had an impact in the decision of this Big 12 tilt.
It is the first time West Virginia has taken a loss, and it may be another tough blow to the Big 12’s playoff hopes. As it stands right now, the big 12 likely needs Baylor to run the table the rest of the way, because Oklahoma already has two losses, as does Oklahoma State. One loss is not quite an official eliminator for West Virginia, and they do get two of their toughest remaining games at home (Oklahoma and Baylor), but the path to the College Football Playoff for a second straight season is getting more treacherous for the Big 12 without getting help elsewhere.
Oklahoma State now is in the Big 12 hunt, which is not a huge shock. Oklahoma State does have a head-to-head loss against Baylor, but they will play Oklahoma in the final game of the regular season. The Big 12 could potentially be on the line in that game, which should create quite a raucous atmosphere in Norman on December 3. But Oklahoma State heads to Kansas State first next week and still has Texas Tech and TCU to get through first.
West Virgina will look to bounce back next week at home against Kansas.
What looked like it could setup to be a bit of an offensive showcase has instead been a much more defensive battle than expected. Oklahoma State’s upset bid against No. 10 West Virginia is one half closer to completion, with the Cowboys taking a 20-10 lead on the visiting Mountaineers in Stillwater. A key turnover by West Virginia quarterback Skyler Howard led to a go-ahead score for Oklahoma State.
West Virginia and Oklahoma State exchanged field goals on the first two possessions of the game, and the Cowboys took a 6-3 lead on their second offensive series with a second field goal from Ben Grogan. West Virginia scored the first touchdown of the afternoon when Shelton Gibson stretched to bring in a 19-yard pass in the end zone from Howard.
Howard has generally been reliable for West Virginia, but he lost the football while being sacked by Vincent Taylor deep in his own end, giving Oklahoma State the football at the West Virginia eight-yard line. Two plays later, Mason Rudolph completed a pass to Chris Lacy for a 13-10 lead. Oklahoma State added to the lead on their next offensive possession, after West Virginia missed a field goal. The 15-play drive ended with Rudolph connecting with Jalen McCleskey for a short touchdown play, putting the home team up 20-10.
Oklahoma State (3-2, 101 Big 12) had the look of a Big 12 contender Saturday afternoon against No. 22 Texas (2-2, 0-1 Big 12). It also looked like Texas still has a long way to go to play up to the level Charlie Strong would prefer in Austin. Oklahoma State and Texas played a wild second half with four lead exchanges, but it was the Cowboys who took control of the Big 12 contest in the second half en route to a 49-31 victory.
Mason Rudolph passed for 392 yards and three touchdowns without an interception for Oklahoma State. Jalen McCleskey was on the receiving end for 109 of those yards and two of the touchdowns and Justice Hill led the Oklahoma State ground game with 137 yards and a touchdown. Barry Sanders Jr. also contributed a touchdown on the ground. As a team, Oklahoma State rolled up 557 yards of offense and converted seven of 15 third down plays against Texas. The Longhorns have looked shabby on defense this season, and this was just the latest example of how far off Strong’s defense is from where he would like to see it.
Oklahoma State’s defense gave up some big plays and yards as well. Texas actually out-gained Oklahoma State with 568 yards, including an astounding 329 on the ground. But the Longhorns had the one turnover of the game and could not find a way to stop Oklahoma State every time it looked as though Texas could seize momentum.
Texas running back D'Onta Foreman was forced to leave the game with an injury in the third quarter. He went down without contact after taking a handoff, clutching his right rib and going down voluntarily before being touched by an Oklahoma State defender. Before his awkward exit, Foreman had rushed for 146 yards and two touchdowns. Oklahoma State’s James Washington was also knocked out of the game following a big hit, but Gundy said after the game he expects Washington will be available next week.
This was Oklahoma State’s first home win against Texas since 1997. The Longhorns had won eight straight meetings in Stillwater. All but one of those wins had come by a double-digit margin. Oklahoma State will look to keep the good vibes going next week with another home game. This time, Iowa State comes to town after suffering a gut-wrenching loss at home this afternoon against Baylor. Iowa State blew a 14-point lead and lost on a game-winning field goal by the Bears.
It will not get easier next week for Texas as the Red River
Shootout Rivalry gets fired up in Cotton Bowl Stadium next week at the state fair in Dallas. Texas shocked Oklahoma last year, seemingly boosting Strong’s job security at least a little bit. Will he need some magic once again this season to defeat the Sooners?
The early slate of games has been highlighted by blocked extra-point attempts. Three of them have come in Stillwater, Oklahoma with Oklahoma State doing the job against Texas. One of those blocked attempts was returned by Oklahoma State for two points. Oklahoma State holds the halftime edge with a 37-25 lead following a back-and-forth second quarter that saw four lead changes in the second quarter. Yep. That’s the halftime score.
Oklahoma State jumped out to a 14-0 lead on the Longhorns, with Justice Hill running for a 30-yard touchdown on the opening drive of the game and Mason Rudolph connecting for a 54-yard touchdown pass to James Washington. Texas would settle down though and come back in the first quarter with two straight possessions with touchdowns. Tyrone Swoopes capped a six-play, 84-yard drive with a short touchdown run. One play earlier, Shane Buechele completed a 49-yard pass to Dorian Leonard.
It looked as though Texas was about to tie things up on their next possession (after an Oklahoma State three-and-out) when D'Onta Foreman ran 22 yards for a score, but special teams would help Oklahoma State keep the lead. Tre Flowers wound up returning a blocked PAT attempt to the house off a lateral for two additional points for the Cowboys.
The Longhorns did take a lead in the second quarter with a Swoopes touchdown run inside the red zone, and the lead exchanged hands twice more before the end of the first half. Rudolph capped an 80-yard drive with a 10-yard touchdown run to regain the lead, 23-19, but Buchele launched a 42-yard pass to Beck for a 42-yard score on the ensuing possession. Four plays later on the ensuing possession, Oklahoma State was back on top with a Rudolph touchdown pass to Jalen McCleskey from 36 yards.
We could have a wild one in Stillwater in the second half.
The 2015 season was a successful one for the Big 12. The league got into the College Football Playoff for the first time, overcoming the bitter denial of Selection Sunday 2014, but is still looking for its first title game appearance since 2009 and its first national championship since 2005.
Will this be the year it happens? Most likely, no. But will it be entertaining? You betcha.
A quick rundown of the conference as it enters the season.
- Oklahoma (11-2 overall, 8-1 Big 12 in 2015): The Sooners are your undisputed preseason favorites. The 2015 champs have college football’s most fearsome backfield and enough talent returning on defense to get the job done. Problem is, the poll position is exactly where this program doesn’t want to be. The last four times OU started the season in the top four nationally? A No. 15 finish, a No. 16 finish, and two finishes outside the rankings.
- TCU (11-2, 7-2 Big 12): A former Aggie (starting quarterback Kenny Hill) and a former Red Raider (offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie) will team up to try to lead TCU to its first undisputed Big 12 championship and Playoff appearance. Years where Gary Patterson has to re-tool are years where he’s most dangerous.
- Texas (5-7, 4-5 Big 12): Who would have ever thought it possible Texas could beat Oklahoma and Baylor — both away from Austin — and yet miss a bowl game? Such is life when you’re gutting a program to its studs and rebuilding all over. That’s all over now. Texas is no longer swimming upstream offensively with the hire of Sterlin Gilbert; it’s time to out-talent the teams below them and steal a game or two against those above them.
- Oklahoma State (10-3, 7-2 Big 12): Behind quarterback Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State has enough talent to be competitive in any Power 5 league. However, do they have enough, particularly up front, to actually win any of them? Another 10-win season in which they finish near the top of the table may be the best Mike Gundy and company can shoot for.
- Texas Tech (7-6, 4-5 Big 12): Much like Oklahoma State above them, Kliff Kingsbury has figured his formula out in Lubbock. Now it’s about maximizing it as much as realistically possible — particularly while Patrick Mahomes still wears black and red.
- West Virginia (8-5, 4-5 Big 12): It’s a big season for Dana Holgorsen. His teams have played explosive offense at times. They’ve also played solid defense at times. Problem is, they’ve never done both at the same time. With a new AD in town, it’s now or never for the Mad Scientist.
- Baylor (10-3, 6-3 Big 12): Look up what happened to 2011 Ohio State and 2012 Arkansas before you throw your peanuts at the screen. Baylor won’t fall all the way to those depths — their sheer offensive talent plus a repugnant non-conference schedule virtually guarantees a 5-1 start at worst. But take a look at who the Bears play after their Oct. 22 bye: at an improving Texas team, back-to-back games with TCU and Oklahoma, a feisty, physical K-State team, a shootout against Texas Tech, then a trip to frigid Morgantown. For a team starting the season with 72 scholarship players and a smoldering crater in their head coach’s office, this has the makings of a team that falls down a cliff over the second half of the season.
- Kansas State (6-7, 3-6 Big 12): I’ll be honest here. All of these predictions are educated guesswork for us media types, but K-State’s preseason ranking is actual guesswork. I wouldn’t be surprised if this team won five games, and I would be even less surprised if they won 10.
- Iowa State (3-9, 2-7 Big 12): Matt Campbell is in stage one of a rebuild, but expect the Cyclones to be a tougher out than this ranking indicates. Iowa State won’t start in its default No. 9 slot for much longer.
- Kansas (0-12, 0-9 Big 12): David Beaty should be Big 12 Coach of the Year if the Jayhawks win two games, and national coach of the year if they win three.