Dana Holgorsen's much anticipated return to Stillwater packed much of the offensive excitement that was expected but it was Joe DeForest's old special teams unit that sent ripples through Boone Pickens Stadium.
Oklahoma State has struggled on special teams – save for Quinn Sharp – but on Saturday it got back to its play-making ways last seen when DeForest was roaming the OSU sidelines.
The Cowboys' special teams recovered two muffed Mountaineer returns, Justin Gilbert broke a school record with his fifth career kick return for a touchdown and Sharp was his usual, reliable self with two field goals as OSU smacked West Virginia 55-34.
The special teams were indeed special for the Pokes but that was far from the only area of note for the Pokes on a Saturday afternoon ripe with storylines.
Clint Chelf was calm and efficient in his first-career start at quarterback for the Cowboys, passing for 292 yards and four touchdowns with one interception.
The defense gave up 34 points but came up with key stops and big plays to hold the Mountaineers at bay.
Joseph Randle ran for 81 yards to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark for the second consecutive season.
But the most notable individual performance on the day came from sophomore receiver Josh Stewart.
The Denton, Texas, native tied his own personal best with 13 receptions and set a new career high with 172 receiving yards. When the Cowboys needed a big play, Stewart answered the call.
He scored the game's opening touchdown on a 46-yard run on a reverse to give the Cowboys' an early 7-0 lead. Then he gave OSU a 14-0 advantage when he snagged a bullet from Chelf on a post route for a 21-yard score.
And, again, with the Pokes leading by just seven points in the fourth quarter, it was Stewart who snuffed out West Virginia's hopes of a comeback. Stewart caught a pass from Chelf and turned it up field, tiptoeing down the sideline before diving from the 4-yard line to get the ball across the pylon before being forced out of bounds. His third and final touchdown gave the Cowboys a 48-34 lead with 12 minutes remaining.
WVU's defense, guided by DeForest who is in his first season in Morgantown after serving as an assistant at OSU under both Les Miles and Mike Gundy until this season, has been a major area of concern for the Mountaineers this season.
Stewart and the rest of the Cowboy offense made the most of WVU's struggling unit to pour on the 21st 50-plus point performance for the Cowboys under Mike Gundy.
Joining Stewart in the end zone were Cowboy receivers Blake Jackson and Charlie Moore. Jackson snagged a 48-yard touchdown reception on a seam route that was nearly undefended up the center of the field in the second quarter. Moore caught a touchdown reception for the fifth-consecutive game when he hauled in a five-yard fade in the third quarter to give OSU a 38-24 lead.
OSU didn't get the ground game going as much as anticipated but it was hardly an issue. Backup running back Jeremy Smith put a fitting exclamation point on the victory with a bruising 21-yard touchdown with nine minutes remaining for the game's final score.
Overall, West Virginia outgained the Cowboys 479-443 in total yards but that wasn't necessarily an accurate indicator with two short scoring drives for the Pokes off WVU turnovers and Gilbert's kick return cutting into the potential yardage total.
WVU quarterback Geno Smith, once the Heisman frontrunner, had an up-and-down outing with 364 yards and two touchdowns on 36-of-54 passing but he missed several open receivers thanks to a solid pass rushing effort by the Cowboy defense.
OSU is back in action on Nov. 17 when it hosts No. 22 Texas Tech for senior night in the cowboys final home game. The game is set for a 2:30 p.m. kick.
With OSU's win on Saturday, the Cowboys became bowl eligible for the seventh consecutive season and have now gone bowling 10 of the past 11 years.