By Cam Huffman
At a community service event in Summersville this summer, West Virginia University safety Darwin Cook promised something different from the Mountaineer defense in 2013.
“Ooh City,” he said. “There are going to be a lot of oohs in the crowd this year.”
On Saturday, Cook’s promise came to fruition.
A major underdog against No. 11 Oklahoma State a week after being shut out 37-0 on the road at Maryland, the WVU defense — ranked near the bottom of the country in every major category a year ago — forced three OSU turnovers, including a critical Cook interception in the closing minutes to shut the door in a 30-21 upset that caught everybody but the WVU staff and players by surprise.
“It was just what we’re supposed to do,” said Cook. “It felt like 2010 again when the crowd was yelling, ‘defense, defense.’ We got a couple of oohs.”
Against an OSU offense that was averaging 45.3 points and 487.7 yards per game coming into Morgantown, WVU (3-2, 1-1 Big 12) allowed only 21 points, all on passes of at least 20 yards. The Cowboys managed 433 yards of offense, but WVU held them to a 6-of-20 mark on third downs, getting off the field when it mattered most.
The game-defining stand came with the clock under 10 minutes in the fourth quarter and OSU trailing 24-21. The Cowboys had the ball at the WVU 1-yard line with a second-and-goal, but were turned away on back-to-back plays before Ben Grogan missed a 23-yard field goal, leaving the lead in WVU’s favor.
OSU really never threatened again.
“I knew something good was going to happen for us, and today was the day,” said WVU defensive coordinator Keith Patterson. “I was pleased with the pressure we were able to get. I think it speaks to the character of our kids. All the credit goes to those young men.”
Takeaways were what helped the Mountaineer cause most. Down 7-0 early, after the Cowboys (3-1, 0-1 Big 12) set the tone with a 73-yard touchdown pass from J.W. Walsh to Josh Stewart, junior cornerback Ishmael Banks came up with the play of the game — and perhaps the season — when he picked a Walsh pass and then returned it through a sea of OSU defenders 58 yards for a touchdown.
“It was a dream come true,” said Banks of his first collegiate interception. “Doing it on this stage meant a lot.
“I was looking for room to run. (The coaches) always tell us to get up the sideline (after an interception), so when I got to the middle of the field I thought, ‘If I don’t score, I’m going to get cussed out.’ So I had to get into the end zone.”
WVU followed that momentum-changing play with a 17-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Clint Trickett, earning his first Mountaineer start, to Kevin White — the first Mountaineer touchdown for both of them — and Josh Lambert added a 45-yard field goal to put the home team ahead 17-7.
OSU closed to within three on a 27-yard pass from Walsh to Tracy Moore, but Charles Sims stretched the lead back to 10 when he capped off a five-play, 43-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown plunge. WVU entered the half with a 24-14 advantage.
The Mountaineers scored only six more points the rest of the way on a pair of Lambert field goals, but the defense was more than up to the task. A 30-yard third-quarter pass from Walsh to Jeremy Seaton was all the Cowboys could muster after the break as Patterson’s unit played with confidence and energy.
“It’s a disappointing loss for us,” said OSU head coach Mike Gundy, who hired WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen as his offensive coordinator in 2010, one season before athletic director Oliver Luck hired Holgorsen to come to Morgantown. “The only thing to do now is to rally.”
WVU’s offense, which had scored only seven points in two games against “power conference” opponents coming into Saturday’s contest, didn’t suddenly look like the group that put up 70 in a win over Baylor at this time last year. But it did enough to win.
Trickett completed 24 of 50 passes for 309 yards and a touchdown, working around a pair of interceptions. Sims rushed for 60 yards on 18 carries and caught five passes for 82 yards.
Ronald Carswell also had five grabs for 76 yards, as the WVU offense ended the afternoon with 388 yards on 90 plays.
“It was apparent during the first four games that we weren’t really having fun on offense,” said Trickett. “So I said, ‘Let’s just have fun, throw some deep balls and get it going.’ I think we did that.
“You get shut out 37-0 against Maryland, and that’s tough. To be so mentally tough that you come back and beat the No. 11 team on your field the very next week (is special). It was a rough week. A lot of people were talking a lot of things. We just ignored it, kept grinding and believed in what Coach (Holgorsen) said. We took care of it, and I’m proud of our guys.”
OSU was led by Stewart, who caught seven passes for 127 yards and the touchdown. Walsh finished 20 of 47 for 322 yards and three touchdowns, but he threw a pair of costly interceptions.
WVU will face another difficult test on Saturday when it hits the road for a game at Baylor, the nation’s top statistical offense. But the Mountaineers will take something with them they haven’t had before this season — confidence.
“We’ve got a chance to win every game,” said senior nose tackle Shaq Rowell. “We just have to believe.”
OSU will be looking for its first conference win Saturday at home against Kansas State.
— E-mail: chuffman@
register-herald.com and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.
OkSt 7 7 7 0 — 21
WVU 14 10 0 6 — 30
OkSt—Stewart 73 pass from Walsh (Grogan kick), 8:32.
WVU—Banks 58 interception return (Lambert kick), 6:53.
WVU—K.White 17 pass from Trickett (Lambert kick), 1:26.
WVU—FG Lambert 45, 10:43.
OkSt—T.Moore 27 pass from Walsh (Grogan kick), 8:15.
WVU—Sims 1 run (Lambert kick), 2:41.
OkSt—Seaton 30 pass from Walsh (Grogan kick), 11:35.
WVU—FG Lambert 27, 3:54.
WVU—FG Lambert 34, 1:28.
First downs 18 21
Rushes-yards 40-111 39-68
Passing 322 320
Comp-Att-Int 20-47-2 25-51-2
Return Yards 36 65
Punts-Avg. 10-37.9 8-44.6
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 2-0
Penalties-Yards 10-96 6-39
Time of Possession 26:59 33:01
RUSHING—Oklahoma St., Walsh 16-52, Roland 7-46, Stewart 2-12, J.Smith 15-1. West Virginia, Sims 18-60, Trickett 7-5, D.Smith 10-5, Smallwood 1-1, Team 3-(minus 3).
PASSING—Oklahoma St., Walsh 20-47-2-322. West Virginia, Trickett 24-50-2-309, Millard 1-1-0-11.
RECEIVING—Oklahoma St., Stewart 7-127, T.Moore 5-89, Seales 4-40, Seaton 1-30, C.Moore 1-25, Ateman 1-6, Glidden 1-5. West Virginia, Sims 5-82, Carswell 5-76, Shorts 5-32, Thompson 3-30, Clay 3-27, Alford 2-43, K.White 1-17, McCartney 1-13.