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West Virginia’s fateful 42 seconds

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Taylor Cornelius shreds West Virginia's defense. — OKLAHOMA STATE PHOTO

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Forty-two seconds likely seemed like an eternity for West Virginia and Oklahoma State.

It was like it was Texas all over again. Will Grier and West Virginia needed one drive to take down a quality opponent on the road, and Grier began to catch fire. Only the outcome wasn’t the same as it was against the Longhorns.

No, this time around, West Virginia would be the one stuck tending to its wounds, staring at the numbers 45 and 41 on the scoreboard in favor of Oklahoma State when it was all said and done in Stillwater on Saturday.

Forty-two seconds. That’s all West Virginia had. But, really, they didn't need much more. The final drive sequence looked like this: Grier, 3-yard rush; Grier, 11-yard pass to Gary Jennings; Grier 33-yard pass to Jennings; Grier, incomplete pass to Jennings; Grier 14-yard pass to David Sills.

And that took West Virginia to the Oklahoma State 14 with just 2 seconds left. After back-to-back timeouts, surely Grier and West Virginia had dialed up another perfect game-winning play like they did against the Longhorns.

But Oklahoma State blitzed, Grier scrambled and he couldn't complete a pass to his favorite target Sills in single coverage in the back of the end zone.

West Virginia led all but the final 42 seconds against the Cowboys. Forty-two seconds was all Oklahoma State needed to win it. Forty-two seconds wasn’t enough for West Virginia to convert a final-second victory.

“It’s disappointing that we couldn’t close them out. We had them on the ropes but didn’t close them out,” Dana Holgorsen said following the loss, which all but eliminates the Mountaineers from the College Football Playoff. “Great teams close people out. We didn’t do it. We’re going to have to regroup and go out next week and see what we’re made of.”

West Virginia led the game by 17 points at halftime. Then, as they’ve seemingly done all season, the Mountaineers strayed from what was working in the first half. Rather than continuing to hand the ball off to Kennedy McKoy, who had two scores and over 100 yards in the first two quarters, West Virginia opted for quick-hit passes.

The result of the playcalling on the day was a 5-for-18 mark on third down — most of which were short-yardage opportunities.

Holgorsen was displeased, to say the least, especially with one play in particular.

“If you can’t convert third- and fourth-and-an-inch, you’re going to get beat,” Holgorsen said. “The quarterback run game with third-and-(one) in the red zone was stupid.”

Grier fumbled on the play. It was West Virginia’s lone turnover.

It didn’t help that the Mountaineers’ defense gave up 604 yards, including 266 on the ground to a team that didn’t even use its starting running back.

Taylor Cornelius did a ton of damage to West Virginia despite throwing two interceptions. He completed 30-of-46 passes for 338 yards and five touchdowns while gaining another 106 yards on the ground on just 13 carries, scoring once.

“We knew that they were going to score a lot of points. That’s who they are,” Holgorsen said. “Their average Big 12 game is 40-39. They’ve been in all kinds of these games. We haven’t. But we knew we were going to have to score a lot of points. It was disappointing that we were down there as much as we were, had a lot of good field position and we couldn’t close out with points.”

“They spread us out, and we had too many guys blow assignments and miss tackles,” defensive coordinator Tony Gibson added. “It was an ugly second half. I thought the first half we came out and played well, created turnovers and created momentum. We certainly didn’t do any of that in the second half.”

Forty-two seconds is all West Virginia needed to put itself into scoring position before one failed pass attempt ended the game at the expense of the Mountaineers. And forty-two seconds was all Oklahoma State needed to beat the Holgorsen-led Mountaineers for the fifth time out of seven meetings.

Forty-two seconds is all it took to put West Virginia into a win-or-go-home-without-a-Big-12-championship situation against the Sooners this Friday.

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