NORMAN, Okla. - It was almost like Saturday was cleaved in half for West Virginia's football program.There were two distinct parts to the day.Let's go in reverse order.At night, the Mountaineers opened the Big 12 season in a nail-biting, bizarre and, I'm sure for WVU fans, frustrating fashion against the Oklahoma Sooners before a crowd of 84,692.
West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen stuck with starting quarterback Paul Millard. And he stuck with starting quarterback Paul Millard. And he stuck with starting quarterback Paul Millard.He was not rewarded. In a game that screamed for a spark, the Mountaineer coach kept striking the same wet match. Florida State transfer Clint Trickett never saw the field.Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, meanwhile, went to a different quarterback - even though his team had a lead. Blake Bell provided that necessary spark and the host Sooners won by 16-7.WVU's much-maligned defense from last season fared well, even though it allowed 435 yards. The effort came against the nation's No. 16 team holding a huge home advantage on a sweltering day.It simply didn't get much help from the Mountaineer offense. It didn't get help from the special teams.WVU's defense finally tired. It allowed breakaway runs toward the end. But give new defensive coordinator Keith Patterson kudos. His men made blindside hits, stripped balls from Sooners and made interceptions.
Reserve kudos, though, from Holgorsen. He didn't reach into his bag of Trick and try to provide that spark. His game management was awful, as he burned timeouts apparently arguing for replays that never went his way. At game's end, WVU was going for a first down on fourth-and-2 - when the Mountaineer offense was called for a delay of game. On fourth-and-7, a ball sailed away from Cody Clay.Even at the game's very end, handed an untimed play, Holgorsen called a run up the middle.Holgorsen, though, didn't have the horrid day of his associate head coach. Not by a long shot.Which is where we hit the first part of Saturday.As mentioned, it was sweltering at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. In fact, it was 95 degrees in town at kickoff, and hotter on the field.
No one, however, was feeling the heat like Joe DeForest. He stood on the 22-yard line before the game. And, little did he know, but he was the focus of almost all in the press box and anyone in the stands with Twitter accounts.The reason stems from the leaked allegations forthcoming in a Sports Illustrated expose centering on Oklahoma State. Reports say DeForest is a central figure in the articles, which allege improprieties during his 11 years at OSU.The series apparently lays out payments to players, a bonus program, academic impropriety and more, including hostesses providing sex to recruits.Holgorsen will feel some of that heat as well. He was at OSU for 2010. He brought DeForest to West Virginia.But DeForest is seriously under the magnifying glass. Before the game, WVU athletic director Oliver Luck was moved to issue a statement saying the school notified the NCAA and started an internal review.Which has to be absolutely maddening for Luck. Remember, NCAA football probation was tossed on his desk when he first took over in Morgantown. That just expired in early July.
The NCAA accepted WVU's self-imposed sanctions for major rules violations under ex-football coaches Rich Rodriguez and the late Bill Stewart. There were failure-to-monitor violations involving out-of-season coaching, as well as the use of non-coaching staff to work with players. It was a two-year probation with two less scholarships for the 2010-11 season and one less for 2011-12. Practice hours were reduced by 23 percent. Two graduate assistant positions were eliminated.Now the heat is back on. WVU says DeForest has denied the charges. Sports Illustrated, though, does not usually mess around.The task for Luck is to not only determine if the SI charges are legitimate, but, if so, whether DeForest committed violations in Morgantown. The associate head coach is already on thin ice after spearheading last season's awful defensive play. He's chided for being a $500,000-a-year special teams coach. And on Saturday night, his special teams cost WVU a shot at an upset.A roughing the kicker call on freshman Daryl Worley gave OU a first down at its 43 after what would have been a 3-and-out. It cost the Mountaineers a Sooner field goal. Punt returner Mario Alford muffed a punt and OU's Trey Franks recovered at the WVU 32. It cost the Mountaineers a touchdown. Later, Alford made a fair catch - at his team's 5-yard line.In sum, it was a day of two distinct halves for WVU's Mountaineers. And both featured serious heat.Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.