MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia coach Neal Brown knows he’s been beating the same drum all season, but the same mistakes continued to haunt the Mountaineers’ offense Saturday against No. 22 Oklahoma State.
“I think the story of the game came down to the issues that we had all year,” he said. “They are the issues that haunted us today — our lack of ability to run the football, we didn’t score touchdowns in the red zone and we had critical drops. I think we had four drops in the second half. Some of those were competitive catches, but you have to make those to win games and we didn’t do it. As a staff, we have to get better and we have to do a better job in those areas.”
Two of the most glaring drops were on WVU’s last two drives. The first was by senior George Campbell, who’s come on strong toward the end of the season. On a 3rd-and-5 from the WVU 11, quarterback Jarret Doege was able to roll out of a crowded pocket and find an open Campbell, but Campbell flat out dropped it with room to run.
“It was all me — not concentrating,” Campbell said. “I looked up the field before I took the ball in. Drops always suck, but for me, that was a crucial moment. It was a big play for us to make, and I didn’t make it.”
T.J. Simmons had another critical drop, though contested, on WVU’s last stand on its final drive. Facing a 3rd-and-12 at the OSU 19, Simmons’ catch would have made it a manageable 4th down attempt.
In the running game, the Mountaineers averaged just 1.2 yards per carry (22 for 26 yards). The interior of the offensive line — guards Michael Brown and James Gmiter, and center Chase Behrndt — struggled with the Cowboys’ 3-man front.
As for red zone woes, WVU got inside the Oklahoma State 20-yard line three times but didn’t score a touchdown. Two ended in field goals and the final drive of the game was a turnover on downs.
‘His shin was down’
West Virginia receiver Sam James and his teammates certainly thought he scored a touchdown in the second quarter.
The only problem is, none of the officials thought the same.
James caught a Doege pass across the middle, and as James scooted toward the end zone, he was dragged down just before reaching the goal line. Both officials signaled him down at the 1-yard line, but on replay, it appeared James was able to keep his knee elevated off the ground as he rolled into the end zone, but the side of his ankle and his shin scraped the turf.
Following a booth review, though, the ruling on the field stood, but the Mountaineers had it 1st-and-goal from the 1. Disaster struck soon after, as two quarterback steaks with Doege failed, followed by a false start by left guard Michael Brown.
Then at the 6-yard line, Doege was pressured on 3rd down and threw a pass short as it skipped in, which forced the Mountaineers to kick a field goal.
What appeared to be seven points ended up just being three, and Brown wasn’t totally satisfied with the explanation he got from the officiating crew as to why James’ catch wasn’t a touchdown.
“I don’t really understand it,” Brown said. “I thought he was in, I thought the replay showed he was in. Since they called him down, I don’t think if the replay was inconclusive. It was something about they thought his shin was down. I didn’t see it that way. I don’t know. I’ve got to talk to (Big 12 Coordinator of Officials) Greg Burks and get a clear understanding of that.”