By Bill Nestor
West Virginia’s football team had every opportunity to erase the memory of their heartbreaking loss to Houston this past Saturday. The Mountaineers welcomed Oklahoma State to Milan Puskar Stadium for Homecoming and the plan was for the Cowboys to take a loss and head out of town before sundown.
The visitors did not want to oblige.
Oklahoma State came out with their guns blazing as they opened up with a 10 to nothing lead at the end of the first quarter. Once the crowd, comprised of 51.870 (including Senator Joe Manchin) settled in, the ‘Eers put on a second quarter show, outsourcing the Cowboys 17 to three to hold a 17 to 13 halftime advantage. Head Coach Neal Brown had the Mountaineers in prime position for a win. The third segment was pivotal for WVU. If they could hang on to the lead into the final frame, the momentum garnered from the Homecoming crowd could carry them to a key conference win.
With little time left in the crucial quarter, however, disaster struck. A muffed punt was recovered by State at WVU’s 27 yard line. The Cowboys had the ball with a short field to start the final period. Less than two minutes into the fourth stanza, Oklahoma State would regain the lead.
West Virginia would bounce back and tie the tilt on Michael Hayes’ 27 yard field goal with just over nine minutes left. With bullets blazing, Oklahoma State would strike quickly, finding the endzone just 2:39 later. Down a touchdown, the Mountaineers had a potential game tying drive stall on a fourth down conversion just in enemy territory with 4:25 left. A 46-yard rushing score on the next play from scrimmage, doubled up the deficit. The Mountaineers would score to make it a one possession game with a couple of minutes left, but another long scoring run of 53 yards put the game on ice.
Brown indicated that this loss stung more than the Houston setback. It does because of the doubling effect that now creates a two-game losing streak, dropping the Mounties to four and three overall. The pressure grows with each loss and WVU needs to stop the bleeding. The good news is that there is a “get well” game on the horizon at the University of Central Florida. The Knights are winless (0-4) in Big 12 Conference play. Brown and company cannot afford to overlook this Saturday’s opponent. UCF played Oklahoma tough and is improving coming off the 31 to 29 setback to the Sooners.
Lincoln returned to the gridiron last week and earned a hard-fought victory over Liberty. The Mountaineers have been playing inspired football and this battle went down to the wire.
Playing in Shinnston is no easy task as the Cougars have one of the biggest homefield advantages in North Central West Virginia. Liberty, however, came prepared and cracked the scoreboard first on a four-yard scoring run from Quinten Hilliard. Jenson Dodd would tack on the extra point.
Aiden Rice scored for Lincoln on a five-yard run and a Liam Gallagher point after evened the score. Dodd’s 29-yard field goal (the first of three) gave the lead back to the visitors, Cougar quarterback A. J. Bart would connect with Maddox Perine on a four-yard scoring strike to give the Cougars a 14 to 10 halftime lead. A third quarter touchdown run for David Burdette was all Lincoln needed to claim the triumph.
The Cougars play Philip Barbour this week while the Mountaineers lock-up with Robert C. Byrd.