We'd been here before. A huge momentum-swinging Mountaineer touchdown, an ignited crowd and the feel of an upset in the air. All that remained was to kick the ball away and get the defense on the field to make a play.
Following Rushel Shell's 5 yard touchdown run with 1:20 remaining in the first half the WVU kick coverage gremlins reared their ugly heads for roughly the 45th straight time and the Sooner's Alex Ross too the ensuing kick 100 yards to the house with way less effort than a play of that magnitude should take. The 'eers limped into the locker room tied instead of up 7 and never recovered as the Sooners went on a 21-3 run in the 3rd and 4th quarters to put the game away.
Had the Oklahoma Sooners been kind enough to send the Mountaineers out back to select their own switch for the impending whoopin', the gold and blue almost certainly could have picked anything less punishing than OU tailback Samaje Perine, who ran for an opponent record 242 yards on 34 carries and 4 scores. He proved the perfect weapon to bludgeon a staggering Mountaineer squad in the second half as he ripped off ever growing chunks of yardage that served to deflate what had been a spirited effort and raucous crowd.
Amazingly the numbers don't look horrible for WVU. They astoundingly outgained the Sooners 513 to 510 yards and Clint Trickett was a respectable 25/41 for 376 and a pair of scores and a pair of interceptions. The run game never quite got traction (6 players combined for 158 yards) but Mario Alford caught 7 passes for 101 yards and a score. Kevin White was his normal unstoppable self with 10 catches for 173 yards including a showstopping 68 yard score that seemed to signal a shocker was on-deck in Morgantown. It was not to be, however as an OU pass rush that didn't impact things much in the first half overwhelmed the Mountaineer line in the 2nd. Clint Trickett was affected by the Sooners in a way we never saw him affected by the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Having said all that, this game was certainly not one WVU expected to win. It represented a great opportunity to make a splash on the national stage and start whispers of competing for a conference championship, but really it was a measuring stick. Well, we learned was that Oklahoma is very, very, very good and WVU just isn't quite there yet and has to play near flawless ball to compete at that level.
What really matters, though is what happens next. WVU has a much-needed off week before welcoming the Kansas Jayhawks to town and then taking a trip to Lubbock, Texas for an immensely important road game. It is here that we'll begin to see where the 2014 West Virginia Mountaineers really measure up. We know they're not as good as Alabama or Oklahoma, but what we really need to find out is how they match up against Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Texas and TCU......perhaps even Baylor.
The Big 12 has a clear upper echelon (Oklahoma and Baylor) a clear basement (Kansas and Iowa State) and 5 teams lumped together in the middle. How the Mountaineers navigate the meat of this conference schedule will determine where they fall in that pecking order and how this team is finally judged.
But tonight was a setback for sure, albeit a slight one. As it's done so many times this team will need to pick itself up and prepare for the next challenge. There are plenty left to meet and opportunity awaits.