It really doesn’t matter how you win, it only matters that you do.
Oklahoma State seems to have adopted that mantra for the 2015 football season. For the third straight week, OSU reached deep into its magic hat and pulled out a wild win over a Big 12 opponent, this time with a 33-26 overtime win at West Virginia. The Cowboys’ three conference wins have come by a combined 12 points.
But unlike their wins over Texas and Kansas State, this one came as a mild surprise. Entering as an underdog for the first time all season, this had a “by any means necessary” feel to it even prior to kickoff.
This one took all the means.
It was a slow start for both offenses, so OSU’s defense took it upon itself to get things going. West Virginia quarterback Skyler Howard dropped back to pass from his own eight, but couldn’t hang on to it. OSU’s star defensive end, Emmanuel Ogbah, pounced on it in the end zone for a Cowboy touchdown.
WVU coughed it up again late in the first quarter when Ogbah stripped the ball away from Rushel Shell. New starting linebacker Chad Whitener recovered the fumble at the WVU 28 and the Pokes went back to work. Rennie Childs capped a five-play, 28-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown plunge to give the Cowboys a 14-0 lead.
West Virginia got a much-needed boost when Kyle Rose sacked Mason Rudolph in the Cowboy end zone for a safety. The two points would loom large later in the game.
Ben Grogan added a 21-yard field goal and took a 17-2 lead to the locker room, but you just knew that the Mountaineers would wake up.
West Virginia stormed out of the tunnel for a 66-yard touchdown drive. Wendell Smallwood dashed 29 yards to bring the Mountaineers back within eight at 17-9.
Oklahoma State answered back a few drives later with an 86-yard march to the end zone. Backup quarterback J.W. Walsh found Blake Jarwin on third-and-goal from the four, but after another botched extra point, OSU led by just seven. This was the fourth missed extra point of the season for the Cowboys.
WVU instantly responded with a long touchdown drive of its own. The Mountaineers traveled 75 yards on just five plays and got back within seven when Howard found Shelton Gibson for a 48-yard score.
After the two teams exchanged field goals, West Virginia got the ball back with 5:36 to play and one last chance to tie the game. Howard answered the call and drove his team right down the field for six. With 2:44 to play, Howard ran it in for the score and effectively sent the game to overtime.
OSU got it first in OT, and after just a few plays, faced a difficult decision. Facing a fourth-and-one from the WVU two-yard line, coach Mike Gundy elected to go for it with his Walsh package. The senior delivered. Walsh dashed through the line and into the end zone to give OSU a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
WVU looked like it might answer back, but on third-and-goal from the OSU four, Shell tried to do too much and lost seven. That forced a fourth-and-goal from the 11, and Howard’s pass sailed incomplete.
OSU overcame multiple Rudolph interceptions for the second time this season. He threw a pair at Texas, but the Pokes still prevailed. Rudolph did complete 20 of 40 passes for 218 yards. Walsh completed a pair of passes for 10 yards and the one touchdown. He also ran for 17 yards and a score.
The Cowboys’ ground game continued to struggle mightily. Rudolph led the way with 48 yards, while backs Childs and Chris Carson combined for just 55 yards and 24 carries. The offensive line will continue to be a focal point moving forward.
David Glidden hauled in five balls for 50 yards to lead OSU’s deep receiving corps. Twelve Cowboys recorded a catch on Saturday.
Howard threw for 188 yards, one touchdown and one pick for West Virginia. Smallwood ran all over the Pokes for 147 yards, while Shell finished with 48. WVU ran for 255 as a team.
Things don’t get any easier for West Virginia (3-2, 0-2), which now must face No. 3 Baylor and No. 2 TCU on the road in its next two games.
Oklahoma State (6-0, 3-0) is now the fifth FBS program to be eligible for the postseason. The Pokes get next week off before hosting Kansas (0-5, 0-2) on Oct. 23.