Four turnovers — three of them in their own territory — and a 31-14 halftime deficit put them in a huge hole, but Oklahoma State mounted a second half rally to stun No. 9 West Virginia, 45-41. In a battle of fifth-year senior quarterbacks, Oklahoma State’s Taylor Cornelius threw a touchdown pass with 42 seconds remaining to give the Cowboys their first — and only — lead, while Grier’s pass inside the Oklahoma State end zone that would have won the game with time expired was batted away.
The win clinches a 13th straight bowl trip for Oklahoma State (6-5, 3-5 Big 12) while eliminating West Virginia (8-2, 6-2 Big 12) from College Football Playoff contention. A West Virginia win would have set up a win-and-you’re-in showdown with No. 6 Oklahoma in Morgantown on Friday, but the Mountaineers’ loss opens the door for No. 15 Texas and No. 16 Iowa State, who play in Austin on Saturday night.
After waiting four years in the program to start and playing in his final home game, Cornelius overcame last week’s near-miss in Bedlam a week ago to out-play Grier down the stretch, throwing for 338 yards and five touchdowns while rushing for 106 yards and another score.
But before Cornelius could save the game, he and his teammates first had to nearly give it away.
The first Cowboy turnover came with West Virginia already leading 14-7 late in the first quarter. Cornelius hit Wallace for a 13-yard gain to the Oklahoma State 40, but Wallace fumbled the ball over to the Mountaineers. Taking over in opponent territory, West Virginia quickly capitalized as Grier hit David Sills V for a 22-yard touchdown pass to put WVU up 21-7.
Oklahoma State quickly answered by knifing 60 yards in five plays, scoring on a 20-yard touchdown pass from Cornelius to Logan Carter. The Cowboy defense forced a West Virginia punt on the ensuing possession, allowing Oklahoma State to take over with a chance to tie the game, but Cornelius was intercepted, as Toyous Avery, Jr., punished him for forcing a 3rd-and-9 throw to Wallace.
Taking over inside Oklahoma State territory for the second time in the first half, West Virginia drove to the OSU 5-yard line but Grier was stuffed on a 4th-and-1 keeper.
Though West Virginia did not immediately score off the turnover, it did successfully allow WVU to play the game on Oklahoma State’s side of the field. After the teams traded three-and-outs over their next three chances, West Virginia pushed its lead to two touchdowns on a 3-play, 51-yard drive that was covered entirely by McKoy’s legs, racing for runs of seven, 14 and then 30 yards, the last of which crossed the goal line with 1:17 left in the first half.
Dashing to pull back within one score before the break, Oklahoma State crossed midfield into WVU territory, but Cornelius was again intercepted — while again looking for Wallace.
Taking over inside their own territory this time, West Virginia moved 39 yards in five plays and 61 seconds, setting up a 43-yard Evan Staley field goal on the final play of the first half.
On the whole, Wallace finished the half with three catches for 34 yards and a touchdown — and a total of three turnovers, either by him or to him.
Oklahoma State accepted the ball to open the second half and rolled 69 yards in eight plays, scoring on a 1-yard toss from Cornelius to Chuba Hubbard, reminiscent of the 2-point pass Cornelius missed to Wallace a week ago.
West Virginia threatened to push its lead back to 17 when the Cowboys forced WVU’s only turnover, a sack of Grier at the OSU 17 that turned into a sack upon review. Trailing 31-21 now, Oklahoma State again rushed up the field, but Hubbard was stuffed for a loss of a yard on a 3rd-and-goal from the 2, forcing a 20-yard Matt Ammendola field goal.
Continuing the theme of the third quarter, Oklahoma State forced a WVU three-and-out, setting the Cowboys up to receive the ball trailing 31-24… until Dillon Stoner fumbled the punt at his own 18, surrendering Oklahoma State’s fourth turnover of the game and third inside its own territory.
The Cowboy defense stiffened, forcing a 34-yard Staley field goal that pushed the score to 34-24 to open the fourth quarter. After a pair of punts, Cornelius pulled Oklahoma State within 34-31 with a 6-yard pass to Tyron Johnson in the back of the end zone.
After watching his lead dwindle from 31-14 to 34-31, Dana Holgorsen rolled the dice — twice. He went for a 4th-and-5 at the OSU 20 with 9:09 to play, which converted by way of a pass interference penalty in the end zone. Facing another 4th-and-medium, a 4th-and-goal from the 6, he again went for it, as Grier called his own number on an identical play to his 2-point conversion to beat No. 15 Texas two weeks ago, handing West Virginia a 41-31 lead with 7:37 remaining.
Oklahoma State answered, ripping off a 10-play, 78-yard touchdown drive in less than three minutes, scoring on a 9-yard Cornelius run with 4:47 to play.
Needing another touchdown to put the game away, West Virginia instead punted. Holgorsen actually elected to go for a 4th-and-6 from his own 49 with 2:45 left, but Sills started running his route before the rest of his teammates and forced Holgorsen’s hand, handing Oklahoma State the ball at its own 25 with a three-point deficit and 2:38 with which to work.
Oklahoma State gained 64 yards on six combined runs by Cornelius and Hubbard, throwing only once — an 11-yard scoring strike to Wallace, who carried his defender for the final five yards, putting Oklahoma State up four with 42 ticks remaining.
With the clock rolling inside of 20 seconds, Grier fired a bullet to Gary Jennings for a 33-yard gain, pushing WVU to the OSU 28. Grier then hit Sills at the 14 with two seconds remaining, setting up a do-or-die final play. After two WVU timeouts and with their College Football Playoff hopes on the line, Grier’s pass to Sills was broken up in the end zone, completing the Cowboy comeback.