Column by MICKEY FURFARI
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
West Virginia certainly showed improvement offensively in Saturday night’s heartbreaking 50-49 Big 12 football shootout at Mountaineer Field/Milan Puskar Stadium.
The Mountaineers (5-5, 2-5 Big 12) came oh-so-close to upsetting the Sooners (8-2, 6-1).
Oklahoma, ranked No. 12 nationally, avenged a 48-28 loss to WVU in the 2008 Fiesta Bowl. The Sooners were 11-point favorites Saturday night.
But this was one for the books. If you like offense — not defense, or a lack thereof — you had to enjoy it.
Several records were shattered by both teams. But the Mountaineers couldn’t quite tip the scales and avert their fith straight setback.
Their five-game losing streak is the longest since 1986. This year’s stuggling defense now has given up 423 points, the most in school football history for a season.
And West Virginia still has two games to play in the regular season.
The MVP of this contest would be WVU senior Tavon Austin. He was rewarded for a record 572 all-purpose yards.
He got 344 yards and two touchdowns as a member of the backfield. Austin also had big plays as a receiver, kick returner and punt returner.
Junior Stedman Bailey scored three times on pass receptions.
West Virginia (788) and Oklahoma (662) combined for a two-team record of 1,440 yards in total offense. Each team had 82 plays.
WVU had a 32-30 edge in first downs.
The breakdown: rushing, WVU 47-458 yards, OU only 31-108 yards; and passing yards, WVU 320 and OU 554.
“We haven’t been able to run the ball, so we had to do something,” WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen said of moving Austin from inside receiver to running back. “Obviously, when he gets 344 yards (on 21 carries) … we should have done it years ago.
“He’s a tremendous football player. He was the best player on the field.
“In hindsight, we should have done it earlier.”
Holgorsen expressed hope that his team won’t have to go through any more tough losses like this one.
The Mountaineers would love to win these last two games.
After overcoming two 14-point deficits, WVU grabbed a late 49-44 lead. But the Sooners battled back to win by scoring a touchdown with 24 seconds left in the game.
It’s an old, sad story for the hard-luck Mountaineers.
West Virginia visits Iowa State for its final Big 12 road game on Friday, then winds up the campaign against Kansas on Saturday, Dec. 1, at home.