MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -West Virginia's football team found unique new ways to recharge a flailing offense Saturday night. The Mountaineers also seemed to shore up most of their special teams issues, as well.
The defense? Well, 10 games into the season that's apparently a lost cause. As a result, WVU's losing streak has now neatly come to mirror its season-opening win streak.
Yes, it was exceptionally dramatic the way it all played out. West Virginia rallied from game-long deficits to take two leads over Oklahoma late in the game relying on the rushing - yes, rushing - of Tavon Austin and the pass catching of Stedman Bailey.
But giving up big plays almost on cue as Oklahoma needed them, the Mountaineers gave away every one of those advantages and lost 50-49 to the Sooners in front of a student-light but nonetheless noisy crowd of 50,238 at Mountaineer Field.
The difference on the scoreboard was Landry Jones' 5-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Stills with just 24 seconds to play. But the real difference was West Virginia's inability again to stop any opponent's offense. Jones - one of the top five passers in NCAA history already - broke his own career high with 554 yards. He completed 38 of 51 passes and threw for six touchdowns.
"They made one more play than we did,'' West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said.
The loss was the fifth in a row for WVU (5-5, 2-5 Big 12), which had opened the season 5-0 and climbed into the top five of the national rankings. It is West Virginia's first five-game losing streak since Don Nehlen's 1986 team lost six straight and finished 4-7.
The Mountaineers still need to win one of their final two games in order to become bowl eligible. They have a road game at Iowa State Friday and then finish at home against Kansas on Dec. 1.
Despite the loss, several bowls still seem very interested, including the Dec. 27 Holiday Bowl in San Diego.
"The kids played hard. How many losses like this do we have to go through,'' asked Holgorsen. "I don't know. We've got two games left. Hopefully we can get back out there and get to work and try to come up with a couple of wins. It's a tough loss, but we have to regroup.''
Oklahoma (8-2, 6-1) continued its march toward a potential BCS bowl berth. The Sooners' only losses this season are to Kansas State and Notre Dame, and K-State's loss to Baylor Saturday night opened the door for a potential Big 12 title for the Sooners. OU is in position to earn an at-large berth no matter what happens, but if the Sooners win out and Kansas State loses to Texas OU would get the league's automatic berth.
How ineffective was West Virginias's defense? Well, try this on for size. West Virginia, with Austin running wild, piled up a staggering 778 yards of total offense, the most ever surrendered by the Sooners and 13 yards away from the NCAA record for yards gained by a losing team (791 by Nevada against San Jose State iin 2001). Yet the Mountaineers couldn't win because the defense couldn't get stops when it mattered. Oklahoma had 662 total yards.