And so they did. In addition to the two interceptions, Brandon Golson forced a fumble that Isaiah Bruce recovered. It came a play after quarterback J.W. Walsh had hit Josh Stewart on a 17-yard pass to get the Cowboys going. Six times, OSU had the ball down by just 24-21. Five of those possessions ended with punts after the Cowboys gained 0, 17, 0, 24 and minus-3 yards on the possessions.
But the sixth was the critical one. Oklahoma State drove to the West Virginia 13 early in the fourth quarter, three plays produced just 6 yards and on third down Walsh threw incomplete into the end zone.
But Banks was flagged for a facemask call, giving the Cowboys first-and-goal at the 3. When Jeremy Smith ran to the 1 on first down, it seemed a foregone conclusion OSU would take the lead.
But on second down, Walsh threw a fade into the end zone that was incomplete. On third down, Dontrill Hyman got to Smith in the backfield, dropped him for a 5-yard loss and nearly got the ball (the play was reviewed and Smith's knee was down, barely). And then on fourth down, kicking from the right hash at close range, Ben Grogan's chip-shot field goal hit the upright and bounced back.
West Virginia had dodged a bullet and kept the lead. Thanks in great part to its defense.
"I think it just shows you the character of our players,'' defensive coordinator Keith Patterson said. "They spilled their guts out.''
But then Thompson made a fair catch on a punt inside his own 5 and returned two others for negative yards. Sims ran back a kickoff and only made it to the 15. And Josh Lambert missed two field goals.
And all of that happened in just the third quarter.
"We have issues that we need to get sorted out,'' said Holgorsen.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.