In so many ways, this West Virginia loss mirrored those of the past few weeks, not the lopsided earlier ones to Texas Tech and Kansas State. In those, the Mountaineers never had a chance. In recent weeks, though, they have been competitive, only to be undone by embarrassing failures of the defense.
That's the way this one was. Austin provided an amazing spark to the offense, lining up as a tailback on more than a third of the team's offensive plays. He was given the ball 21 times and gained 344 yards, a school record in his first appearance as a running back since high school.
Combined with his pass catching and returns, Austin smashed the school's single-game all-purpose yardage record with 572 yards, just 6 yards shy of the NCAA record. Garrett Ford had held the old school mark for 47 years, or since gaining 365 in the 1965 Backyard Brawl against Pitt. He also destroyed the Big 12 record, which had been 375 yards.
Bailey had another huge game, too, with 13 catches for 205 yards and four touchdowns. Oklahoma had given up only three passing touchdowns all season. Geno Smith completed 20 of 35 passes for 320 yards.
But no matter what Austin and the offense did, the defense was consistent in giving it away again. After falling behind 10-0 at the start, West Virginia drew even or close time and again. And each time the defense all but surrendered:
Had the defense allowed OU to score quicker, its offense would have had more time to counter. But with only 21 seconds to go after the kickoff, the closest the Mountaineers could get was midfield and a Hail Mary pass toward the end zone was short and incomplete.
"The kids have practiced so well the last three weeks and it showed,'' defensive coordinator Joe DeForest said, referring to a handful of key stops that allowed WVU to remain close. "I know we gave up 50, but in spurts we played well.''
But the spurts were never long enough.
"We just have to come back in high spirits because we still have two more games to play,'' said Austin. "And we still have plenty to pay for.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.