West Virginia has its first Big 12 title within its sights.
The Mountaineers took a step toward winning the Big 12 during their third season in the conference with a 34-10 win over Oklahoma State at Boone Pickens Stadium on Saturday. With a favorable schedule on its side, Dana Holgorsen's squad has become legit contenders for a Big 12 ring.
Here's how it happened:
How the game was won: Defense. No, seriously, WVU won a tough Big 12 road contest largely on the shoulders of a defense that was outstanding on third down as OSU didn’t convert for a first down until the fourth quarter (0-for-8 in the first 50 minutes). The offense gave the defense a two-touchdown cushion early in the game and the defense took care of the rest by harassing Daxx Garman and the Cowboys' offense in key moments and consistently winning the third-down battle. It was all capped off by a 52-yard interception return for a touchdown by WVU freshman safety Dravon Henry late in the fourth quarter.
Game ball goes to: WVU running back Wendell Smallwood. The sophomore stepped up with 23 carries for 132 yards, averaging 5.7 yards per carry while helping the Mountaineers to be balanced, win the field position battle and run down the clock in the second half. The entire WVU offensive line deserves at least half a game ball as the Mountaineers finished with 44 carries for 210 yards (4.8 ypc).
What it means: The road to a Big 12 title could go through Morgantown, West Virginia. Already boasting a win over Baylor, the Mountaineers host TCU and Kansas State in their final four games, meaning WVU should be able to decide its own Big 12 title destiny instead of hoping for help from others.
Playoff implication: Things would have to come together perfectly for a two-loss West Virginia squad to get a College Football Playoff look. But the Mountaineers continue to win, earning their fourth straight victory on Saturday.
Best play: This is what people think of when they think of a Dana Holgorsen offense. Explosive plays, plenty of speed and quarterback-receiver duos that make it look easy. Clint Trickett’s 79-yard touchdown pass to Mario Alford had all those components. Watch and enjoy.
What's next: The Mountaineers' win sets up a big-time game next week as they host TCU in a game that could decide the Big 12 champion. … Meanwhile, Oklahoma State travels to Kansas State with a little bit of hope, thanks to an improved running game, but major questions about how to get things turned around heading into November.