By John Shinn
Transcript Sports Writer
GLENDALE, Ariz. — If Oklahoma and coach Bob Stoops was irritated by constantly hearing about three straight BCS bowl losses, just wait until next year when they have to hear about four straight.
The third-ranked Sooners laid another bowl stinker and lost second straight in the Fiesta Bowl by way of a 48-28 loss to No. 11 West Virginia at University of Phoenix Stadium. But unlike last season’s thriller against Boise State, Wednesday’s Fiesta Bowl won’t be replayed for an entire year and remembered as one of college football’s greatest games.
This one will be remembered as OU’s worst performance of the 2007 season.
The offense was lethargic. The defense was worse. And undisciplined play (13 penalties for 113 yards) was rampant.
“Absolutely embarrassing,” Stoops said. “No discipline whatsoever. That has to reflect on me. I’m obviously not doing a good enough job of getting our players to understand how to play smart.”
West Virginia (11-2) didn’t need the endless batch of trick plays Boise State unleashed a year ago. It had Pat White and the Mountaineer quarterback was too much to handle.
He rushed for 150 yards. If he had just scorched the Sooners (11-3) with the ball tucked away, they might have had a chance. The 176 yards and two touchdowns he threw for was reminiscent of the way Vince Young led Texas a national title in 2005.
West Virginia likely would be playing for one this season if he hadn’t gotten hurt in both of the Mountaineers’ regular-season losses.
“We knew he was an excellent player,” Stoops said, “and he did a great job of seeing what was there.”
OU’s playmakers didn’t arrive until the second half. By then, it was too little, too late.
Bradford threw for 242 yards and a pair of touchdowns, but struggled to get on track.
He didn’t get much help.
OU’s top deep threat — wide receiver Malcolm Kelly — played only a handful plays due to a leg injury. An offense stocked with playmakers didn’t step up.
Bradford was sacked three times and OU struggled to run the ball against a West Virginia defense that routinely stuffed eight players close to the line of scrimmage.
“I just wasn’t myself, wasn’t going through reads, just forcing things, didn’t hit the throws when I had them,” Bradford said. “I just had to come out better prepared.”
Allen Patrick rushed for 82 yards and Chris Brown added another 50. But OU struggled to get those yards when it really needed them.
OU had three trips into the red zone in the first half and settled for two Garrett Hartley field goals and a Bradford interception. The Sooners got inside the West Virginia 20 six times, but only scored three touchdowns.
The Sooners put up some points in the second half, but the big plays belonged to the Mountaineers.
Most of them came on the ground.
The Mountaineers rushed for 349 yards — the most rushing yards allowed during the Stoops’ era — and four of their six touchdowns came on the ground.
“They came out and outplayed and outhustled us,” OU linebacker Curtis Lofton said.
Noel Devine led the way with touchdown runs of 17 and 65 yards. The last ended a scoring explosion the Mountaineers used to pull away.
In the third quarter and early in the fourth quarter, West Virginia scored four consecutive touchdowns and needed just 13 plays to make them happen.
Stoops took two huge gambles in the game. Neither worked. And the second cost the Sooners dearly.
OU tried to convert a fourth-and-1 from its own 45 with a little over a minute to go in the first half. Chris Brown was stopped short. West Virginia got into field-goal range, but Darien Williams’ blocked Pat McAfee’s 44-yard attempt.
The second blew the game open.
OU had sliced its deficit to 20-15 on Chris Brown’s 1-yard touchdown run with 6:23 left in the third quarter.
But a failed onside kick attempt changed the game.
Devine scored a on a 17-yard run to grab the momentum right back. West Virginia never let go.
“You don’t do those kinds of things when you don’t have momentum,” Stoops said. “I felt we had the momentum, the opportunity was there. We just didn’t execute it.”
Bradford hit Quentin Chaney, who had four catches for 129 yards, for a 19-yard touchdown and added a 15-yard score to Juaquin Iglesias, who led all receivers with eight catches.
But those came during the string when the Mountaineers were scoring at will.
After Devine’s touchdown, Darius Reynaud scored his second touchdown on a 30-yard run. White hit Tito Gonzalez for a 79-yard score to cap a one-play drive and the Mountaineers needed just two plays to make it 48-28 after Devine’s 65-yard sprint put the game away.
“Definitely outcoached us and outplayed us; more physical, more discipline in parts of the game,” Stoops said without being prompted. “They are to be credited and we’re not.”
Much had been made about West Virginia’s psyche entering the game. It blew a chance to play for the national championship with an upset loss to Pittsburgh to end the regular season. To make matters worse, former coach Rich Rodriguez resigned to take the Michigan job soon after.
Any negative effects those two factors had on preparations were hard to find Wednesday night.
Once again in a BCS bowl game, the Sooners were simply whipped.
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