MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — J.W. Walsh trudged across the Mountaineer Field turf looking like he was carrying the weight of the Cowboy Nation on his shoulders.
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy jogged up behind his quarterback, patted him on the back and encouraged him to get into the locker room. With great effort, Walsh started jogging toward the tunnel and off the field.
Leaving with a loss is never easy, but for Walsh and the Cowboy offense, this one was particularly tough to take.
West Virginia 30, OSU 21.
This one was on Walsh and Co.
On a day when there was plenty of Cowboy blame to go around — mistakes were the rule, not the exception — the offense sputtered in just about every way imaginable. The run game was ineffective. The pass game was off. The play calling was suspect.
“There were times when we were functioning and doing fine,” Gundy said, “and then we'd have a drop or two and then a poor throw and then we'd put the ball on the ground.
“Those aren't small mistakes. Those are big mistakes.”
Those issues were evident from the beginning.
On OSU's first possession, the Cowboys had two run plays that went for a grand total of 3 yards, 1 from Jeremy Smith and 2 from Walsh. There was no where to go, no where to run.
While Walsh completed 2 of 3 passes on that first possession, he also took a sack because he held the ball too long. He just didn't look comfortable.
That's how he looked much of the day.
Walsh finished 20 of 47 for 322 yards, and while he had three touchdown passes, he also missed on more passes than he cares to remember. Two of those misses were intercepted.
“I'm going to take those all on me,” Walsh said of the interceptions. “Bad throws.”
The second was particularly horrible. Tracy Moore was wide open, and Walsh flat overthrew him. Worse, it set up West Virginia's game-clinching field goal late in the game.
It wasn't the only time Walsh missed open receivers.
After OSU put together a great drive early in the second quarter — 76 yards on which Walsh ran or passed for every yard, including the drive-capping 27-yard touchdown pass to Moore — the Cowboy defense came up with a momentum-swinging interception from Tyler Patmon. The offense was on the march again when Walsh under threw a wide-open Moore. He had to come back for the ball, and it gave Mountaineer defenders a chance to get there and deflect the pass.
A delay-of-game penalty and another incompletion later, OSU punted.
Five plays later, West Virginia scored and never relinquished control of the game.
“We just always found a way to make a mistake today when we shouldn't have,” Walsh said. “There's a lot of good that happened today, and there's a lot of bad.”
Give some credit to the West Virginia defense. The Mountaineers are better than they were a year ago. Better tackling. Better to the ball. Better scheme. They kept Walsh guessing, disguising coverages and rolling safeties over the top late.