MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Everyone has taken a turn for Oklahoma in terms of game day non-delivery.
The defense had its warts. Offensively, it hasn’t always clicked. But something a little different happened in the most disappointing loss of the season.
When you combine the discipline issues on the field and the questionable decisions in some marquee games, it was a tough afternoon for the OU coaching staff in a 23-20 loss to West Virginia. Saturday afternoon.
WVU kicked a field goal to earn its first victory over Oklahoma since entering the Big 12.
You can start with the third try, but you must include the fourth try. Especially in the Big 12 conference. The game, more than ever, is a four-for-three play-and-go deal in this conference.
The Sooners feel like they are still adjusting to it. OU was a miserable 1-for-11 on third down and failed in both of its fourth-down opportunities. WVU, conversely, was 7-for-19 on third down, but a 4-for-5 statement on fourth down.
“We weren’t very good at the bad times,” said head coach Brent Venables, who is now 5-5 overall in his first season in charge of the OU show. “Really disappointed for our guys. Seniors. The mistakes we made today are things that – again – this game will punish you for. It comes down to small things.
Little things that lead to big things like missing two field goals. Like having six penalties and some at the worst possible time. Like Brayden Willis catching the ball a yard from the line of scrimmage, resulting in an offensive pass interference penalty and erasing Willis’ touchdown.
And big things, like Marvin Mims dropping a wide open touchdown pass in the first half. You can fight your way through one or two, but OU tends to do it all in one play, even when you win the turnover battle 2-0, it doesn’t matter.
Things seemed set for OU. From 3-3 to 5-3 there was reason to hope, to believe that the team had figured it out and were ready for a memorable finish.
Now, with Bedlam vs. Oklahoma State looming, your guess is as good as anyone else on what’s left in the tank for the Venables guys.
“Whether it’s the coaches or the other team leaders, you have to be practical, you have to be honest and you have to be responsible,” Venables said. “We’ve been talking about finishing the right way for a long time. We will continue to emphasize these things.
“The course is difficult. It’s difficult. Through disappointment there is an opportunity to grow and improve. That’s what we’re going to try to do in the last two games.
A journey that only got tougher after the most confusing loss of the season to keep OU out of bowl eligibility for another week.
To go or not to go
There will be plenty of decisions for OU fans to wonder what the rational was, but nothing will eat at them more than the decision to have Zach Schmit kick a field goal with more than six minutes left.
OU faced a fourth-and-three at the WVU 29-yard line, and Venables had no hesitation in making that call.
Schmit hit the upright. The Mountaineers took over with 6:24 to go, and OU never saw the ball again.
“Zach – he’s been outstanding,” Venables said. “Since the spring ball. And as you saw there, he had plenty of legs. Conditions weren’t that bad on the pitch.
“And, again, based on how we’ve been, the lack of execution all day, I didn’t think we were going to miraculously come up with this big conversion on fourth down offensively.”
WVU went for 65 yards in 15 plays, forced OU to use all three timeouts and kicked a 25-yard field goal as the clock hit zero.
Broiles injury shakes foundation
OU was already without defensive backs Jaden Davis and Key Lawrence before the game, but the Sooners lost a crucial first-half element when Justin Broiles went down.
“Really emotional. He’s kind of the heartbeat of this team,” linebacker DaShaun White said. “To see him fall, I took a long time to get out of it. He’s the heartbeat of this team. Everyone loves him. Seeing him fall was a bit hard. Hoping for the best.”
Broiles appeared to descend from a non-contact injury. He was still trying to get the team started and his teammates surrounded him as Broiles was helped off the field.
“It was tough. It was tough,” safety Billy Bowman said. “He’s one of our best leaders. He’s one of my best friends on the team. So that was We just wanted to go out there and win for him, but unfortunately we couldn’t.
Spectacular gray again
There’s not much more, again, that running back Eric Gray can do. With the offense inconsistent in the passing game, he had to be the guy.
And again, he delivered. Gray finished with 211 yards on 25 carries and two touchdowns.
“That’s probably what I hate the most is that Eric still played the way he played and he’s not taking advantage of it,” offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby said. “For the second week in a row, it’s a short story for other reasons – situational football today.”
Gray scored the only two OU touchdowns of the game. Dillon Gabriel threw for 190 yards but did not return the ball.
Gray surpassed the 1,000 yard mark for the season during the game.
RSJ and Bowman combine for two points
West Virginia scored with 33 seconds left in the first half to make OU 10-6. Hit the extra point and make it a goal difference at halftime?
WVU missed the snap and Robert Spears-Jennings made a terrific shot to release the ball. Billy Bowman picked up the fumble and ran it all the way for two runs.
“I just came out of the line of scrimmage,” Bowman said. “I’m the sure player, make sure there’s no fakes. And they fumbled the snap and RJ hit the kicker and the ball came off and I just picked it up and I ran with it.
“It felt good. But you can probably say, this splint, I’m sick of this splint. It’s time to take it off. It limits me a bit. But it feels good to have the ball between my hands.
Bowman had seven tackles and Spears-Jennings had four tackles in the game.
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