Cowboys duel WVU in Dust Bowl reversal

The state of Oklahoma was not a place to be during the years of The Great Depression. The Sooner State was the face of the Dust Bowl. Blowing top soil smothered the people who hadn’t the money nor the job to plant crops after the New York stock market crashed in 1929.

Here in 2012, a reversal of sorts just might take place when the gray helmets and gray pants of WVU move into Stillwater to see the Oklahoma State Cowboys.

It could be the losing-streak Mountaineers bringing their version of The Great Depression to the flat plains. No dust rolling in from Morgantown. Just three straight Big 12 losses in rapid-fire order to Texas Tech, Kansas State, and Texas Christian.

After a 5-0 beginning to 2012, three consecutive losses have made some alarmists leaf through the remaining schedule looking for a sixth win that would qualify the Mountaineers for a bowl game — any bowl game.

Oklahoma State hasn’t been letter perfect or untroubled itself.

The record is 5-3, the same as West Virginia’s. The Cowboy wins were against Savannah State, Louisiana, Kansas, Iowa State, and Texas Christian. The losses were inflicted by Arizona, Texas, and Kansas State.

Injuries have dogged the Cowboys.

Starting quarterback Wes Lunt went down and was replaced in the third game by J. W. Walsh. Then it was Walsh who was injured badly enough that his season was ended. And then Lunt was hurt again in last week’s loss to Kansas State. That brought on Clint Chelf, the third quarterback in eight games.

Cowboy coach Mike Gundy expects both Chelf and Lunt to split time in practice this week before he decides what he’ll do against the Mountaineers.

Gundy could just rely on running back Joseph Randle to sting West Virginia. Randle has carried 175 times for 934 yards and nine touchdowns so far. He averages 116 ground yards per game. Josh Stewart has 56 catches for 666 yards and specialist Quinn Sharp has made 18-of-23 field goal attempts and all 40 of his extra point tries.

What has West Virginia and coach Dana Holgorsen got in mind for the Cowboys and for the Mountaineer season that has now found winning without a ground attack, useful defense, and points-ceding kicking game more than a little difficult?

First, Texas Tech wins by 35. Then Kansas State wins by 41. And last week, Texas Christian gets a gift-wrapped touchdown provided by punter Tyler Bitancurt’s fumble and another by a confused defensive secondary that allows a 94-yard touchdown pass-run. The Horned Frogs win by a point in two overtimes.

Even the magical moments of quarterback Geno Smith have mostly disappeared. And without Smith whirling about and solving enemy defenses for touchdown after touchdown with the considerable help of Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, when does the next win come back to Morgantown?

The Mountaineers did win on the road at Texas.

But lately there hasn’t been the frenetic pace with 80 or more offensive plays Smith and company need. The Cowboys are like most Big 12 teams; they like to hurry-it-up. But they also score like an expert pinball wizard blasting away at the machine’s point-total record.

The Great Depression in reverse? Or the end of the dust-covered three-game losing streak and a now-coveted sixth win that brings some bowl game?

Ride ‘em, Geno. Ride ‘em, cowboy.

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