WVU’s Austin shines in 50-49 loss to Sooners
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Tavon Austin ran all over No. 13 Oklahoma Saturday night. It just didn’t feel very good when it was over.
The speedy wide receiver was inserted as a running back and responded with a school-record 344 rushing yards in West Virginia’s 50-49 loss. Austin also set a Big 12 record with 572 all-purpose yards.
“It was a good thing for me,” Austin said. “But I’m still worrying about the loss.”
West Virginia had been held under 100 rushing yards in each of its previous three games, so coach Dana Holgorsen approached Austin in practice last week about helping out in the backfield.
“They just finally gave me the chance, and I just took advantage of it,” Austin said.
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops called Austin’s performance one of the best he’s seen in the Big 12.
“He’s right up there with anybody,” Stoops said.
Austin broke the school rushing mark of 337 yards set by Kay-Jay Harris against East Carolina in 2004. He also topped the Big 12 all-purpose yards mark of 375 set by Hollis Mitchell of Texas in 2000 against Kansas and the school record of 356 set by Garrett Ford against Pittsburgh in 1965.
Austin wasn’t the only player setting records.
Oklahoma’s Landry Jones tied his own school record with six touchdown passes, including a 5-yarder to Kenny Stills with 24 seconds left for the go-ahead score. Jones finished with 554 yards passing to break his own school record.
Jones needed a terrific game to offset the performances of Austin and West Virginia’s Stedman Bailey, who had 13 catches for 205 yards and four TDs.
“I’m incredibly proud of the team for holding it together as they did and to come back,” Stoops said. “Landry Jones, to lead those drives at the end of the game, such great precision and execution throwing strikes. (The) receivers made tough competitive catches and all of it together was really pleasing to come back and win away from home.”
Heavy-underdog West Virginia (2-5, 5-5) lost its fifth straight game. After starting the season 5-0, the Mountaineers are still searching for an elusive sixth victory to become bowl-eligible.
The losing streak is the Mountaineers’ worst since they lost six straight in 1986. It also was West Virginia’s third loss at home this season. The last time that occurred was 2001.
Oklahoma (6-1, 8-2) also got back in the conference title picture with No. 2 Kansas State’s 52-24 loss at Baylor.
“It proves in this league, you can get beat by anybody on any given day, and every team in this league has the capability of beating you if you don’t come out to play,” Jones said.
The Wildcats (10-1, 7-1) beat the Sooners earlier this season and can still clinch the league’s automatic Bowl Championship Series berth with a win Dec. 1 against No. 18 Texas or with another Oklahoma loss.
Oklahoma has games left against Oklahoma State next Saturday and at TCU on Dec. 1. Any loss also would eliminate the Sooners from consideration for an at-large BCS bowl berth.
Oklahoma improved to 4-0 in road games this season. The Sooners also beat Texas at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.
It marked the first time in 16 tries that Oklahoma overcame a fourth-quarter deficit to win dating to 2007. The win moved Stoops within 10 of Barry Switzer’s school record of 157.
“They ended up making one more play than we did,” Holgorsen said.
The teams combined for 1,440 yards. The 778 yards surrendered by Oklahoma were the most in school history, surpassing the 616 yards allowed in a loss to Baylor last year.
The Bowl Subdivision record for the most yards by a team in a loss is 791 set by Nevada in a 64-45 loss to San Jose State in 2001.
Geno Smith went 20 of 35 for 320 yards and four scores for the Mountaineers. He became the first quarterback to surpass 300 yards against the Sooners this season.
Oklahoma couldn’t hang onto a 31-17 halftime lead. The teams combined for 31 points in the fourth quarter, including four touchdowns over the final seven minutes.
Austin’s 54-yard run, plus a pair of Oklahoma penalties on the play, gave West Virginia the ball at the Oklahoma 8. Smith then lofted a ball that Bailey caught in the left corner of the end zone, and the Mountaineers had their first lead at 43-38 with 7:12 left.
Stills finished with 10 catches for 91 yards and four scores. His 7-yard TD grab with 4:10 left got the lead back to the Sooners, only to have Bailey cap a three-play, 92-yard drive with a 40-yard TD grab with 2:53 left, his third of the quarter.
That was plenty of time for the Sooners, who took over at their 46 after Brennan Clay’s long kickoff return.
Jones hit Justin Brown with a 36-yard pass. A 10-yarder to Brown put the ball at the West Virginia 14. On fourth-and-3 at the 5, Jones changed the play at the line and found Stills on an inside slant for the go-ahead score.
Smith’s desperation pass as time ran out fell incomplete just short of the end zone.