Plenty of blame — and poor grades — to go around after Oklahoma State's 30-21 loss to West Virginia. The worst marks go to offense and special teams. The defense was a bright spot.
J.W. WALSH: D
The Cowboy quarterback has to be better for OSU to be a true Big 12 contender. He was 20 of 47 for 322 yards in the passing game, but even though he threw for three touchdowns, he had two costly interceptions. And he missed open receivers repeatedly. To compound matters, Walsh didn't do much in the running game, accounting for only 52 yards on 16 carries, an average of 3.2 yards a carry. Clearly his worst game of the season.
A total disaster. Cowboy punter Kip Smith shanked two punts that went less than 20 yards, setting up short fields for the Mountaineers and putting the defense in bad spots. And Cowboy kicker Ben Grogan missed two field goals, the first from 44 yards, the second from 23. Missing a long one from 40-plus is one thing, but missing a 23-yard chip shot? Unacceptable — even for a freshman in his first college road game. This was the first time this season the Cowboys really missed Quinn Sharp.
KICK COVERAGE: A
As bad as the kickers were, the coverage team was exceptional. The Mountaineers had three punt returns for minus-5 yards while their three kickoff returns went for only 29 yards. The Cowboys will take numbers like that any day.
OFFENSIVE ADJUSTMENTS: F
West Virginia's defense threw a bunch of wrinkles at OSU, and the Cowboys struggled to respond. The Mountaineers disguised coverages and brought pressure, and the Cowboys never seemed to have an answer. For example, even though the run game was getting virtually nothing up the middle, Cowboy offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich kept sending Jeremy Smith up the gut and kept getting the same result.
Even though the West Virginia faithful were a little late arriving, Milan Puskar Stadium eventually filled with fans wearing gold. (It was the “Gold Rush” game.) Late in the game when the Mountaineers needed them, the fans were at full throttle. And after the final horn, no one went anywhere until after a loud-and-proud sing-along to “Country Roads (Take Me Home, West Virginia)”. Only after the Mountaineer fired his musket at midfield was the celebration complete.
OSU FANS: A
The Cowboy faithful numbered about 3,000, which wasn't a ton, but considering Morgantown is more than a thousand miles from Stillwater, the orange wedge of fans in the southeast corner of the stadium was pretty impressive.
The Cowboy defense found itself in tough spots all afternoon. Whether it was because of mistakes by the special teams or miscues by the offense, the defense was stressed. But it held up admirably. It gave up 23 points, and after halftime, it gave up only two field goals. West Virginia averaged only 4.3 yards per play and managed touchdowns on just two of five red-zone possessions.
LATE-GAME POISE: F
Walsh's terrible overthrow of Tracy Moore that resulted in a rally-killing interception was not great. But Cowboy cornerback Justin Gilbert being flagged and ejected for a flagrant personal foul late in the game took the Cowboys' lack of poise to a whole other level. He threw several punches, including a pretty serious upper cut. Totally and completely unacceptable. Regardless of who said or did whatever, you can't be throwing punches on the field. And from a senior leader? Even worse. The Big 12 may look at the play and take action, but even if it doesn't, OSU should think seriously about punishment.
NEW HELMET: A
The Cowboys had a new helmet design — white with an orange-black-orange stripe on the top and what's become called a “Phantom Pistol Pete” on the side. But considering this Pete has orange eyes, it might be better to call him “Evil Pete”. The look was slightly old school, but in a good way.