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Sun Bowl : Thomas Leads Oklahoma State, 35-33

From Times Wire Services

Thurman Thomas rushed for 157 yards in 33 carries and scored 4 touchdowns and Shawn Mackey stopped a two-point conversion try with 1:13 left to give No. 11 Oklahoma State a 35-33 victory over West Virginia in a snow-bound Sun Bowl Friday.

Thomas set a record for rushing attempts and touchdowns, and was named the game’s most valuable player.

His counterpart, Anthony Brown of West Virginia, had 167 yards rushing, 107 of which came in the first quarter, in 32 carries. He also had two first-half touchdowns.

Oklahoma State won its 10th game of the season against two losses, to No. 1 Oklahoma and No. 5 Nebraska. West Virginia finished 6-6, with five of its losses by five points or less.

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“It was the same old story for us,” said West Virginia Coach Don Nehlen, whose team lost by one point to undefeated Syracuse, by three to Pitt and four points each to Penn State and Maryland. “We couldn’t put the opposition away. We played a solid game but weren’t consistent.”

Thomas’ 33 carries broke the Sun Bowl record of 31 set by LSU’s Charles Alexander against Stanford in 1977. Alexander still holds the Sun Bowl yardage mark with 197 yards.

The precipitation and high winds wreaked havoc with Oklahoma State much more than it did West Virginia. After a half-inch of sleet and snow dropped on the field in the first quarter, the Mountaineers established a running game and took control of the first half.

Quarterback Mike Gundy, who set an Oklahoma State record for passing yards in a season, completed his first seven passes and helped Oklahoma State to a 14-7 first-quarter lead. But his game went downhill as much as the weather conditions did.

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West Virginia, having scored 17 points in 11 plays in the second quarter, built a 24-14 lead at halftime, before Thomas led a second-half surge. He had all the carries on a 6-play, 56-yard drive at the start of the third quarter, scoring from the four-yard line, and carried 9 times on a 13-play, 74-yard drive in the fourth quarter.

His 4-yard touchdown run with 5:13 left in the game gave Oklahoma State a 35-27 lead, but West Virginia drove 58 yards in 4 minutes and scored on Craig Taylor’s 6-yard run up the middle that set up an attempt by the Mountaineers to tie the game.

After consecutive timeouts by both teams, freshman quarterback Major Harris completed a pass to Keith Winn over the middle at the three, but Mackey spun Winn down a half-yard shy of the goal line.

“We made just enough big plays at crucial times to allow us to win,” Oklahoma State Coach Pat Jones said.

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