The Mountaineers took on the Oklahoma Sooners on a cold Black Friday with everything on the line. A win for either team would earn them a birth to the Big 12 Championship. For West Virginia, it would be their first chance at winning the conference crown. Standing in their way, was a team averaging 49 points a game and a team that WVU hadn’t beaten since they joined the conference. Texas won earlier in the day, sealing their bid to the championship. The stage in Morgantown was set for an epic shootout.
West Virginia won the coin toss and elected to receive. Senior quarterback, Will Grier, led his team down the field connecting with fellow Senior, David Sills, for a touchdown. It was a 75 yard drive that saw the offense convert three third down attempts, including the final play, for a touchdown.
Oklahoma would take the kickoff and respond quickly. The Sooners completed a seven play drive that went 81 yards. The final 55 were covered by Kyler Murray on a long touchdown run.
The first two drives generated the narrative for the rest of the game: explosive offense. The first quarter alone saw 335 yards of offense, while the total at the end would tick over 1,372 yards.
Despite the prolific offense, the Sooners would define the game with two defensive plays. The first came during the second quarter. Oklahoma’s Caleb Kelly beat Colton McKivitz, sacked Grier and simultaneously stripped the ball. Kelly was then able to scoop up the ball and scamper downfield into the end zone. The touchdown gave the Sooners a 35-21 lead.
The Mountaineers needed to make a play to close the gap before halftime. Dominique Maiden made a critical play on a 30 yard reception, to put WVU on the Sooner’s two yard line. Tre Norwood, the defender who was covering Maiden, simultaneously grabbed the ball with the Mountaineer receiver. Rules state that a jointly possessed ball goes to the offense. Two plays later, Kennedy McKoy punched in a touchdown, cutting the lead back to seven.
The start of the second half saw West Virginia seize momentum. Oklahoma returned the opening kickoff to the WVU 47. They marched down the field quickly, making their way to the red zone. The defense stood tall, forcing a third and long. The following play, Kenny Robinson picked off Kyler Murray in the end zone. The offense would strike five plays later, on a 57 yard bomb to Gary Jennings, squaring the game at 35 a piece.
The Sooners and Mountaineers would exchange offensive blows for the next quarter and half. With ten minutes left the fourth, Oklahoma ahead 52-49, their defense made their second game changing play. Kenneth Mann sacked Grier, causing a fumble, that was returned 48 yards for a touchdown by Curtis Bolton. The Sooners had stretched the lead to 59-49.
Grier would take the team down the field once more trying to create another magical moment. Martell Pettaway would punch in a touchdown, bringing the game within three. The Mountaineers nearly converted an onside kick but Oklahoma was able to recover the ball. Murray took over the game from there, converting a fourth down pass to CeeDee Lamb, allowing his squad to run out the clock. Oklahoma had once again proved to be too much for the Mountaineers.
Will Grier finished the day 32 of 49 for 539 yards and four touchdowns. Fellow Seniors, David Sills and Gary Jennings, both had outstanding performances as well. Sills caught eight passes for 131 yards and two touchdowns. Not to be outdone, Jennings caught seven passes for 225 yards and two touchdowns.
Kyler Murray continued his incredible, statistical season. He finished 20 of 27 for 364 yards and three touchdowns. Additionally, he added 114 yards on the ground. Oklahoma’s Bilenetnikoff semi-finalist, Marquise Brown, dominated the WVU secondary, gaining 243 yards while hauling in two touchdowns. On the ground, the Sooners were led by Kennedy Brooks, who had 182 yards and a touchdown.
The Mountaineers stood toe to toe with Oklahoma, but in the end, two defensive plays by the Sooners proved to be the difference. Will Grier traded blows with, questionably, the best offense in the country. This brings a tough ending to the regular season for the Old Gold and Blue. West Virginia will have to wait until after the conference championship games to learn about their bowl bid.