MORGANTOWN - Special teams may not be the most popular unit on the field, but it's the one that made the biggest difference in West Virginia's 30-21 upset victory against No. 11 Oklahoma State.
First, the punting.
There, WVU's Nick O'toole had three punts of 50 or more yards, making it six times the redshirt sophomore has booted it that far this season. He also pinned the Cowboys inside their 20 twice and finished with an average of nearly 45 yards a punt.
On the other side, Oklahoma State punter Kip Smith had only one punt of 50 or more yards in addition to 13- and 16-yard punts. Following each of those, the Mountaineers ended their drives in the end zone.
Field-goal wise, the Cowboys missed both of their attempts, while West Virginia's Josh Lambert converted on 3 of 5.
''We were poor in the kicking games,'' Cowboys coach Mike Gundy said. ''We had some really good punts then some poor punts and our field goals weren't great. It's really not detail that you can go into, it's cut and dry.''
The return game is the only special teams area where Oklahoma State outdid the Mountaineers.
Ronald Carswell and Jordan Thompson combined for negative-5 return yards, while Josh Stewart, Oklahoma State's return man, totaled 36 on three returns.
In three home games, three different quarterbacks have led the West Virginia offense onto Mountaineer Field.
Saturday, it was Clint Trickett's turn. The redshirt junior, though, said he had an inkling he would get the chance to play against Oklahoma State.
''I room with Ford (Childress), we live together,'' Trickett said. ''He said (his injury) was bothering him, so I had an idea it would be my turn.''
According to Trickett, however, he had a hard time waiting around until the fifth game of the season to get his chance.
''It was tough,'' the Tallahassee, Fl. native said. ''The media's and the fan's perception was I was going to come in and do it. I thought I had chances to do it, but I didn't step up during camp. It was tough dealing with it.''
While Trickett's stat line may not have been the most impressive - 24 of 50 for 309 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions - compared to Paul Millard's and Childress' first starts, respectively, he finished with the same results. A victory.
''There's a lot of room for improvement,'' Trickett said of the offense. ''We're never going to be exactly where we need to be. We have a long way to go, but we can. That's what's so exciting. We just beat the No 11-ranked team in the country and we didn't play our best game at all.''
Back in Time
To hear Darwin Cook explain it, the 57, 280 fans in Milan Puskar Stadium made it feel like the Mountaineers went back in time.
''The crowd felt so good,'' the redshirt senior safety said. ''It felt like 2010 when they were chanting defense. You know, the last time they said that. It just felt so good. Mountaineer fans were really great (Saturday).
''When I heard defense, it just reminded me of the good old days of how it used to be here with everybody screaming defense. If you have a good defense then you have a good fan base.''
The fans aren't the only ones who enjoyed West Virginia getting back to its roots.
''The thing that makes me the most proud is the effort and intensity and physical nature,'' defensive coordinator Keith Patterson said. ''That's West Virginia defense. It's what made West Virginia great for over 100 years. Studying West Virginia back 10 to 15 years ago, it seems they always come up with a key turnover at the right time of the game. I think that's what our kids have stepped up and done.''
Tony Viola can be reached via email at email@example.com