MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Making a bunch of mistakes coming off a bye week was hard to stomach for Oklahoma State.
Turnovers, penalties and poor special teams play haunted the 11th-ranked Cowboys in a 30-21 loss at West Virginia on Saturday.
“We always found a way to make a mistake today when we shouldn’t have,” quarterback J.W. Walsh said. “There was a lot of good that happened today – and there was a lot of bad.”
It marked the second straight season the Cowboys lost their Big 12 opener. Instead of moving into position for their first Top 10 ranking since the end of the 2011 season, Oklahoma State now has some work to do to live up to its billing as the conference’s preseason favorite.
Oklahoma State’s three turnovers were more than the Cowboys (3-1, 0-1 Big 12) had in their first three games combined. They were penalized 10 times for 96 yards.
“Being successful on the road is about avoiding turnovers, being consistent in the kicking game and not giving up big plays on defense,” said Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy. “And in two of those three areas, we were poor. We were poor in the kicking game and we turned the ball over. It’s really very simple, you play right into the crowd.”
For all the mistakes West Virginia made in a 37-0 loss at Maryland last week, the Mountaineers (3-2, 1-1) seemed to get most of the breaks Saturday.
“They has been a bunch of emotions over the past week, embarrassment and disappointment,” Holgorsen said. “But they kept working. It was the best week of practice that we have had all year. We felt like we could win, so we went out there and wanted it pretty bad.”
The Mountaineers rallied behind Clint Trickett, who threw a touchdown pass in his first start at West Virginia and engineered two late scoring drives.
The Florida State transfer was named West Virginia’s third starting quarterback of the season after Ford Childress was injured last week. Trickett was chosen to start over Paul Millard, who started the first two games but lost the job after a 16-7 loss at Oklahoma.
Trickett finished 24 of 50 for 309 yards in his first start since subbing for EJ Manuel for the Seminoles in October 2011.
“When you’re the starter, and you know you’ve got everyone behind you and they’re confident in you, that’s so big for me,” Trickett said.
Trickett said it was tough being passed over as the starter in West Virginia’s first four games. He played two series in a backup role and couldn’t move the offense in the season opener against William & Mary. He didn’t play again until Saturday.
After taking a 24-14 halftime lead, West Virginia was held out of the end zone in the second half and relied on its defense to slow down Walsh, who couldn’t bring the Cowboys back from their first halftime deficit of the season.
Walsh threw three touchdown passes but was intercepted twice. He finished 20 of 47 for 322 yards.
Holgorsen came out on top against Gundy, whose offense Holgorsen installed when he was the Cowboys’ offensive coordinator in 2010. The teams combined for 177 offensive plays.
Yet Holgorsen was proud of one of his team’s better defensive efforts.
“Golly, they played well,” he said. “They created turnovers. They stuck people. They made plays in key situations. They set up scores.”
Cornerback Ishmael Banks’ 58-yard interception return for a touchdown in the first quarter was part of 13 points the Mountaineers scored off turnovers.
Oklahoma State got the only second-half touchdown on Walsh’s 30-yard scoring pass to fullback Jeremy Seaton in blown coverage early in the third quarter.
The Cowboys had the chance to tie it midway through the fourth, but Ben Grogan’s 23-yard field goal try hit the right upright.
It marked the first time in 16 tries this season that Oklahoma State didn’t score a touchdown when it advanced inside the opponents’ 20.
West Virginia had poor field position for much of the second half and needed a spark to keep its lead. Trickett left the field for one play after taking a hit to his throwing shoulder early in the fourth quarter, but he returned on the next series.
Trickett eventually threw a pair of 17-yard passes to Ronald Carswell and Jordan Thompson to set up Josh Lambert’s 27-yard field goal with 3:55 left.
Walsh then was intercepted by Darwin Cook and West Virginia took over at the Oklahoma State 36. A personal foul penalty on cornerback Justin Gilbert put the ball at the 7, and Lambert closed the scoring with a 34-yard field goal with 1:28 remaining to close the scoring. Lambert also had a field goal in the first quarter.