MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- The third quarterback was the charm for West Virginia.
When redshirt freshman Ford Childress was forced out with a torn pectoral this week after an embarrassing loss last week to Maryland, the Mountaineers turned to junior Clint Trickett, the third quarterback to start for West Virginia in five weeks.
Trickett, with just six snaps on the season before Saturday, battled inexperience and a late shoulder injury to sling 24 completions on 50 passes for 309 yards and a touchdown to topple unbeaten No. 11 Oklahoma State, the Big 12 Conference favorite, in a shocking 30-21 upset at Milan Puskar Stadium.
It was a proper homecoming for Trickett, who grew up in Morgantown and transferred from Florida State this summer. His father, Rick, was a West Virginia assistant coach for a decade and coaches the Seminoles' offensive line.
This time, the final, familiar chorus of "Country Roads" was especially sweet.
"It was a special moment," Trickett said, wearing a grin.
Special, too, because the Mountaineers (3-2, 1-1 Big 12) were shut out a week earlier, yet Trickett managed to defeat Oklahoma State (3-1, 0-1 Big 12) and its top-20 ranked defense.
Trickett displayed an uncanny ability to extend plays and elude defenders in a collapsing pocket, though, "I ain't Pat White, that's for sure," he joked.
There were plenty of hiccups, too. Trickett's two interceptions and communication issues between West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen and his first-time starting quarterback resulted in a few Holgorsen tirades on the sideline and a smashed headset or two.
In the end, though, Trickett made it work -- whatever "it" was.
"There were some things out there that we ran that we didn't even work on all week," offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said, shrugging. "I don't know [what] they were."
Maybe it was home-field advantage, maybe it was a rookie's luck, but after allowing an early 73-yard Cowboys touchdown pass from quarterback J.W. Walsh to receiver Josh Stewart, every snap, bounce and whistle seemed to bounce the Mountaineers' way early.
Eight minutes into the game, Walsh was intercepted by West Virginia cornerback Ishmael Banks. Banks, the coaches' challenge to turn turnovers into points fresh in his mind, darted up the sideline and dived to the pylon for the defense's first return for a touchdown in two years.
"It was a dream come true, really," Banks said. "Doing it on this stage means a lot."
Trickett then engineered an eight-play, 70-yard drive and capped it with a 17-yard touchdown strike to receiver Kevin White, the first career West Virginia score for both players, to take a 14-7 lead.
And then came the good fortune. Linebacker Brandon Golson forced a fumble. Kicker Josh Lambert lined up for a 45-yard try and had it clank off the left upright, but Holgorsen had called a timeout an instant earlier, icing his own kicker. Lambert still drilled the second try.
Then, late in the first half, West Virginia running back Charles Sims answered an Oklahoma State touchdown with a 1-yard run to pull ahead, 23-14. The extra point was blocked and returned the length of the field by the Cowboys, but it was negated by a flag for offsides, and Lambert made his second chance count -- again.
"This is how breaks work: If you play with a tremendous amount of effort and you try really hard, you get breaks because of it," Holgorsen said. "It's not a coincidence."
But the breaks broke the other way once the Mountaineers took the field for the third quarter.
On the opening kickoff, receiver Ronald Carswell fumbled, recovered and was tackled at the 3. Later, receiver Jordan Thompson waved for a fair catch at the 3, too.
Walsh found Jeremy Seaton for a 30-yard touchdown pass three minutes into the half and, just like that, all that was left was a three-point lead against a prolific Oklahoma State offense averaging 45.3 points per game.
Lambert had a 50-yard field goal blocked and shanked a 34-yard try.
Then, Trickett came up limp after a hit, holding his right shoulder. He ran up the tunnel and into the locker room.
When a Cowboys comeback seemed inevitable, the defense sparked a rush of momentum with a goal-line stand and forced a missed field goal to maintain a 24-21 lead.
"[The defense] played well," Holgorsen said. "Golly they played well."
Trickett trotted back out five minutes later, good fortune on his side. He came out firing, leading a 10-play drive into Cowboys territory that ended in a field goal and a 27-21 lead.
Walsh threw an interception to redshirt senior safety Darwin Cook two plays later, and Lambert kicked a 34-yard field goal to seal the victory and start the celebration.
Stephen J. Nesbitt: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-290-2183 and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt. First Published September 28, 2013 4:15 PM