STILLWATER — Chelf was very much needed in the second half with West Virginia seeming to find a groove. The Mountaineers had slowed down the OSU (6-3, 4-2 in Big 12) rushing attack, while their offense began to mount a comeback — cutting OSU’s lead to 38-34 at one point. But the defense, along with the Chelf-led offense, hunkered down and outscored WVU 17-0 in the final 20 minutes.
The biggest drive in the final 20 was orchestrated by Chelf, who went 5 of 7 with 78 yards passing, and found Stewart for another touchdown to give OSU a two-touchdown lead with 12 minutes left in regulation. The Cowboys ran the ball just once in the drive.
“Clint’s going to operate our offense better than the other guys will just because he’s been around it,” OSU offensive coordinator Todd Monken said. “The operational part of it was good, I don’t think that was ever any concern. I think that he’s understanding where we want to go with the ball and I think his confidence raised when he saw Wes (Lunt) be able to throw for some yards and J.W. (Walsh), too.”
While much of the story line behind Saturday’s win surrounded OSU’s third-string quarterback getting to start — and being the third Cowboy quarterback to earn OSU a conference win this season — much has to be said about the Oklahoma State special teams.
With West Virginia (5-4, 2-4) scoring on a fourth-and-13 late in the first quarter to make cut into OSU’s lead, the momentum for the Mountaineers was short-lived as Justin Gilbert returning the ensuing kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown. It was his fifth kickoff return for a touchdown, setting a new program record — previously set by Perrish Cox — and tying the Big 12 Conference record.
The OSU special teams also recovered a misplayed kickoff just before halftime, which turned into a field goal from Quinn Sharp to give OSU a 31-14 edge. The kickoff coverage team for OSU limited West Virginia’s Tavon Austin — who was averaging 33 yards per kickoff return heading into the game — to just 20 return yards on kickoffs and 12 yards on punt returns.
“I think the biggest area of improvement for us is our coverage. Our guys really stepped up and made some good plays,” Gundy said. “... We changed up our kickoff return. The offset worked out for us. ... I thought our special teams was the difference. Their offense made plays and our offense made plays, but special teams gave us the advantage.”