West Virginia loses thriller to Oklahoma
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Tavon Austin was electrifying Saturday night, reeling off 572 all-purpose yards and nearly leading his team to a season-changing win.
A master in cleats, West Virginia's No. 1 -- a 5-foot-9, 171-pound force -- rushed for 344 yards, had 82 receiving yards and another 146 return yards and scored two touchdowns.
But it wasn't enough.
West Virginia's bid to snap what is now a five-game losing streak came up short against No. 13 Oklahoma in a 50-49 loss in a game the Sooners always retaliated no matter how close the Mountaineers got.
Quarterback Landry Jones threw six touchdowns, including the back-breaking sixth with 24 seconds to play -- a 5-yard pass to Kenny Stills.
"They made one more play than we did. ... How many more losses like that do we have to go through?" coach Dana Holgorsen. "I don't know. Tough loss. Gotta regroup."
West Virginia rushed for a season-high 458 yards -- the Mountaineers' highest total since Nov. 24, 2007 -- but has lost five games in a row for the first time since '86.
The Mountaineers are 5-5 overall, 2-5 in the Big 12 Conference.
"I felt like I was back at Dunbar [High School in Maryland]," said Austin, whose all-purpose yards set a Division I-A record this season.
His rushing yards set a West Virginia record.
"Everything came back."
Quarterback Geno Smith found Stedman Bailey for what appeared to be a winning, 40-yard touchdown pass with 2:53 to play in the fourth quarter.
The 2-point conversion attempt failed, but the Mountaineers led, 49-44, until Oklahoma scored another touchdown, that is.
Austin opened the second half with a 74-yard rushing touchdown, finding that extra gear to blaze down the left sideline to cut the deficit to 31-24.
The Mountaineers trailed again by two scores before he rushed for another touchdown, this time from the 4, twice cutting back to juke defenders at the goal line.
Tyler Bitancurt missed the extra point, and West Virginia trailed, 38-30. The point proved to be critical.
West Virginia closed within two points when defensive back Brodrick Jenkins intercepted a Landry Jones pass at the West Virginia 3, and the offense went 97 yards to score on a drive that finished with a 4-yard touchdown pass from Smith to Bailey that made it 38-36.
The 2-point conversion pass attempt fell incomplete.
The Mountaineers, however, took the lead on their next possession, when Austin reeled off a 54-yard run to get his team within striking distance. Smith found Bailey on an 8-yard fade, and it was 43-38.
In all, the Sooners collected 662 yards of offense and were 9 for 15 on third down.
West Virginia had 778 yards of offense and were 8 of 14 on third down, two of three on fourth.
The Sooners scored on the game's opening drive and put up 31 points in a first half in which they had seven plays that covered 15 yards or more.
West Virginia closed within a score with 3:38 to play before halftime, but Damien Williams ran for a 48-yard touchdown to give the Sooners a 31-17 halftime lead.
The Mountaineers were fairly resilient early, tying the score, 10-10, before Oklahoma scored 18 seconds later when Jones found Jalen Saunders for a 76-yard touchdown pass that slowed the momentum.
Smith threw two first-half interceptions, one of which resulted in a 32-yard field goal, but he also misfired on 10 of 20 passing attempts. Austin, lining up in the backfield, was responsible for 259 all-purpose yards in the first half, including 80 rushing on 11 carries.
Andrew Buie had a 1-yard touchdown run, Bailey collected a 33-yard touchdown pass and Bitancurt kicked a 19-yard field goal for West Virginia's 17 first-half points. The field goal capped a drive that included three key rushes by Austin.
NOTE -- Several former players were on the sideline for West Virginia Saturday night including Bruce Irvin, Pat White, Julian Miller and Chris Neild.
First Published November 18, 2012 1:04 am