Nothing Special About WVU in Loss - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Nothing Special About WVU in Loss

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STILLWATER, Okla. -

West Virginia football appeared to be auditioning for a carnival attraction of some sort Saturday in Stillwater.

Come see the amazing Mountaineer Special Teams, you never know where the ball may bounce.

The display on that third side of the ball, one that is so often underappreciated in the game, led directly to 55-34 outcome in Oklahoma State's favor with players misjudging bounces, missing tackles and flat out refusing to collect a kickoff.

"Can't make very, very, very simple mistakes, junior high mistakes and beat a good football team," WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen said to open his press conference after his team dropped its fourth straight decision.

"The base fundamentals of the defense or the offense or the special teams have to take over no matter what happens," said Mountaineer defensive coordinator Joe DeForest. "We made some elementary mistakes today, which were hard to live with."

There were plays involving effort and athleticism, such as a 96-yard kickoff return from OSU's Justin Gilbert that put momentum right back on the side of the home team after WVU had pulled within one score.

Then there were the variety of plays in which mental mistakes led to Oklahoma State getting the ball when it should have been in West Virginia's hands.

The first example of this happened on a second quarter kickoff just after WVU had fallen behind by a score of 28-14.

OSU's Quinn Sharp kicked a hard line drive, the ball took multiple bounces and ultimately glanced off running back Andrew Buie before the Cowboys came up with it.

In the final stat book, the play is listed as an "on-side kick." It wasn't.

Even Austin, typically one of few sparks in a Mountaineer uniform of late, made plays that ranged from questionable to bone-headed. 

Take, for example, his third quarter punt return that never was. Austin waited for the ball at his own 10-yard-line and as it ranged over his head, he called off his blockers to steer clear of the punt. Rather than clear himself from its path, though, he stayed to watch it bounce. And it bounced right into him. 

Sure, this probably could have happened to anyone who didn't just decide to sprint in the opposite direction, but after all of the gaffes on special teams this afternoon, chances like that could not be taken. Excuses would not be made. 

"I waved it off, so I should have just run away," Austin admitted after the game. "The way it was kicked, it looked like it was going out of bounds, but it bounced back my way and it hit me and they had a good play on it."

Austin stood up after the play with his arms raised in a "What the heck just happened?" fashion. These were the miscues that should never happen at this level of football, not to mention the fact that they are occurring nine games into the schedule.

"I don't know how to coach that," Holgorsen deadpanned. "The ball comes to you, you get it. The ball hits the ground, everybody in the country starting in junior high does ‘Peter, Peter, Peter, Peter' and then get away from the ball. I can't explain that. I have no answers for that. Special teams, obviously, we just flat out gave them 17 points, which that in itself is probably the biggest difference in the game."

The Mountaineers do not only employ back-ups and next-in-lines on their special teams. Starters from both offense and defense take the field for many of those units and they pride themselves on their play not only in their primary group, but also on punt or kickoff or the return teams.

"I'm a person that at all times of the game, I want to do whatever I can to help my team win, no matter if I'm on the defense, offense, special teams, wherever I am," junior receiver Stedman Bailey said. "If I'm on the field, I'm going to try to do my best to make a play and help the team win."

Did the offense and defense do enough to win? No, likely not. But there is hardly enough evidence to support either side of that potential debate when considering the situation in which many of the special teams' issues occurred. 

As Holgorsen points out, three mental and physical lapses handed 17 points to the home team. In a game decided by 21, with a halftime lead of 14, there is no denying the impact those plays had on the outcome.

"It's a shame that it happens in a game when we make those mistakes because we've been doing well in practice," said senior specialist Tyler Bitancurt. "At the same time, we need to make sure that we do better mentally."

West Virginia has proven just how much of a team game this sport truly is lately as a new unit continues to find ways to push the losing streak to another low.

The blame in game four can be placed solely on the visiting team, which whether playing at an elementary or junior high level was simply not sound enough to turn things around.

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