In as dramatic a turnaround as we've seen in modern memory, West Virginia rode a dominant defense and resilient Clint Trickett to a 30-21 upset of the 11th ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys. Only seven days after this team was given up for dead by the national media and a significant portion of its own fanbase, they proved that as far as Big 12 play is concerned we've only just begun.
But let's be honest - we knew we had it all along, right?
All of the Big 12 home football openers in Morgantown are belong to us— Smoking Musket (@SmokingMusket) September 28, 2013
The defense was nothing short of spectacular, creating a trio of turnovers (2 int, 1 fumble) that became 13 points for the Mountaineers, including an electric 58 yard interception return for a touchdown by Ishmael Banks that provided a needed energy jolt in the first quarter. The numbers weren't spectacular - Oklahoma State had 433 total yards - but the staunch rushing defense was notable as it only allowed 111 on the ground on 40 attempts for a 2.8 average. Cowboy tailback Jeremy Smith, who entered the game with 176 yards and a 4.8 average per carry was held to 1 yard on 15 carries. Yes, you read that correctly.
D linemen, linebackers and DBs alike made a parade of spectacular plays, from Karl Joseph's leaping pass deflection on 3rd down to Shaq Rowell's stuff on 3rd and short. Both plays stopped a Cowboy offense that could never get traction to run downhill against a Mountaineer D that they torched for 55 points a year ago. For an inexperienced WVU team struggling to find an identity, this might have been the game that showed them their ideal blueprint. An attacking defense that dominates and an offense that does just enough to win the game.
Leading that offense was Clint Trickett making his first start at quarterback. Trickett's numbers won't jump off the page at you - he was 24 of 49 for 310 yards, a touchdown and a pair of interceptions, but his effort and toughness could not be questioned. Time and time again the 6'-2" 180 pound signal caller picked himself up off the turf to lead his team down the field, once having to go all the way to the locker room to receive treatment on his injured throwing arm. Trickett himself was blunt in his personal assessment after the game on WVU's postgame radio coverage: "good enough to win, not good enough to get where I need to be."
He got some help from his receivers who made plays. Kevin White scored his first TD as a Mountaineer with a diving reception in the end zone and Ronald Carswell, despite an up and down day, managed to snag a long 44 yard catch that kept a drive alive. The most exciting thing might have been the plays that weren't there. Getting a win with that much yardage left out on the field provides a glimpse as to how good this team could be.
Special teams were the lone smudge on an otherwise beautiful day in Morgantown. Punt and kick return units will keep alcohol sales up in the Mountain State for the foreseeable future and kick coverage teams showed some holes for the first time this season. Kicker Josh Lambert was 3 of 6 on kicks, one rom 50 yards and the other 34 yards. Fortunately he nailed the ones that mattered, drilling from 27 and 34 in the final 4 minutes to ice the game for the Mountaineers.
There's a lot to discuss and digest from the win, but for now let's bask in the best effort we've seen from WVU in nearly a year. The sun's a little brighter, the birds are chirping and there's cold beer in the fridge.
It's a great day to be a Mountaineer.