STILLWATER, Okla. - There's a sign when you enter the home of Oklahoma State.It says, "Where Oklahoma begins."It is also where West Virginia University's football season ended for all intents and purposes.As the Mountaineers fell 55-34 to OSU, they did so in a way that left the 57,799 at Boone Pickens Stadium in stitches.
Yes, WVU proved game, rallying at points and closing to within four at one point in the third quarter. But by falling to 5-4, again not securing a bowl berth, and losing by 21 to a middle-of-the-pack Big 12 team, West Virginia sealed its label as the season's biggest national second-half flop.It's one thing to fall off the table, though. It's another to do so in embarrassing fashion. And Dana Holgorsen's team was being laughed at Saturday.Literally.Especially in the area of special teams. Simply put, the late Dick Clark would have had an easy time putting together one of his bloopers shows.At first, the crowd was simply electrified when OSU's Justin Gilbert returned his fifth kickoff in his career for a score. Went 96 yards.Then came the comic relief.On a kickoff to WVU, the ball bounced off Andrew Buie's helmet and another Mountaineer. Nico Ornelas recovered for the home team at the Mountaineer 14.Next was a Tavon Austin gaffe. He waved off his teammates on a rolling punt - then tried to grab it himself. He didn't and OSU's Teddy Johnson recovered, giving OSU possession at the WVU 12.
The laughs just kept on coming.On a punt to Oklahoma State, WVU's Nana Kyermeh was in perfect position to catch and down the ball at the 1-yard line. He allowed the ball to bounce - into the end zone.If WVU's special-teams performance were a sitcom, no laugh track would have been needed. The crowd in attendance provided the giggles.
But it wasn't just the special teams. There was Mountaineer quarterback Geno Smith spying a soft OSU defensive box and trying to hand off to Buie, his tailback, on the first series - and bobbling it. There was Smith knocking down Buie. At the end, Smith tried to get a pass 2 yards to Buie as protection broke down. It was knocked down by a Cowboys lineman.WVU tried squib kicks - and couldn't even execute those correctly.It was as if the Mountaineers were trying to get an early jump on the holidays by passing out gifts. Gifts that made the fans here happy and, certainly, their fans in the Mountain State blush.
"I told my coaches in [the locker room] that some of the mistakes were like junior high mistakes," Holgorsen said.They were.What's amazing is WVU's offense looked as good as it has in a month. It had more total yards than the Cowboys (479-443). Smith was 28 of 37 for 313 yards after three quarters.
Yet Oklahoma State won 55-34.It was another embarrassing loss for the Mountaineers."There's a lot of embarrassment," said linebacker Isaiah Bruce. "I don't know anybody in that [WVU] locker room that's had three losses in their life, let alone four."This time, the opposing quarterback was, basically, the third-team guy. Redshirt freshman, third-team guy ... doesn't matter.By falling like this, Holgorsen not only lost the game - and season - but also faith.In the fourth quarter, the Mountaineers quit on the final Cowboy touchdown, a 21-yard Jeremy Smith burst. Just quit.And check out this quote from Bruce. "Something has to change," he said. "We have to play for fun. We're not having any fun anymore."Remember, Holgorsen is a man who preached the importance of body language prior to the season. On Saturday, though, the Mountaineers showed the body language of beaten men. After some of the gaffes, they looked as unsure of themselves as gawky freshmen at proms.Holgorsen himself looked on the sidelines like Kobe Bryant after the Lakers fell to 1-4.Afterward, the coach did take "full responsibility" for what happened over the last few weeks offensively.But the game has three sides. The head coach, especially a very highly paid one in a small state like West Virginia, has to take charge and seriously examine all three sides - as well as his players and assistants.No joke.Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.