WVU football: Mountaineers lose again, this time in double OT
MORGANTOWN -- No. 22 West Virginia has its first three-game losing streak since 2004 after TCU avoided its first since 1998 with a 39-38 victory in double overtime Saturday before a crowd of 52,322 at Mountaineer Field.
"We had opportunities to win the game and we failed to do so on all three sides of the ball," Mountaineers Coach Dana Holgorsen said. "The coaches and the players failed."
Stedman Bailey's second reception of the game was a 25-yard touchdown on the first play of the second overtime, but the Horned Frogs responded with a touchdown on their first play. Receiver Brandon Carter took a handoff on a reverse and threw to Corey Fuller for a 25-yard score.
"Trick plays are trick plays," said defensive coordinator Joe DeForest, who called the game from the coaching box above the field and let co-coordinator Keith Patterson coach from the field. "What can you say? They tricked us. We were in a coverage where we were fine and what happened happened. It's a trick play. It's like magic."
TCU (6-3, 3-3 Big 12) called timeout and decided to go for a game-winning two-point conversion, which worked when Trevone Boykin threw to Josh Boyce on the right side and in front of WVU cornerback Pat Miller. The play survived a replay review and the Mountaineers (5-3, 2-3) fell to 5-5 all-time in overtime games.
"I'm one of those people who believes when you play someone on the road, you have to go take ball games," said TCU Coach Gary Patterson, who was won 29 of his past 32 road games.
TCU's Jaden Oberkrom missed a 37-yard field goal on the first possession of overtime. He was 15-for-19 before his miss. WVU looked to win it moments later, but Tyler Bitancurt's 36-yard field goal was blocked by Jason Verrett.
That was merely WVU's final occasion to blow the game. WVU's defense, which had arguably its best performance of the season, was devastated by a defensive disaster on a 94-yard touchdown with 1:28 remaining to tie the score 31-31.
"We busted a coverage," DeForest said. "One guy was playing one coverage and another guy was playing another coverage. It was a lack of communication."
Only moments early, WVU appeared to have the game under control. Tavon Austin's punt 76-yard punt return touchdown with 3:19 remaining made it a 31-24 game and then TCU punted to give WVU the ball with 2:31 to go.
The Mountaineers punted 24 seconds later, but Boykin was sacked at his 6-yard line by Josh Francis for a nine-yard loss on first down. Boykin moved around on second down and found Boyce all alone and well behind the defense for the longest passing or rushing touchdown by an opponent in Mountaineer Field history.
The entire second half was filled with drama for the Mountaineers, who were outscored 104-28 the previous two games and hadn't lost three in a row since the end of the 2004 season. TCU had the ball in WVU's red zone twice, but Boykin was intercepted at the goal line by Isaiah Bruce on the first possession and then settled for an Oberkrom field goal on the second.
The Mountaineers had to punt and the Horned Frogs took over at their 24 with 9:56 remaining. Boykin missed badly on a first down pass that would have been a big gain, and perhaps a touchdown, and a false start set up second-and-15, but Boykin scrambled for 15 yards on third-and-10.
TCU had missed on eight straight third downs.
On third-and-9, Boykin scrambled again to his right and had a good look at the yardage he needed, but ended up throwing to the middle of the field and behind running back Aundre Dean. The punt set WVU up at its 15 with 6:34 to go, but a third-down pass to Andrew Buie, who was one-one-one with a defender, was a little too long and fell incomplete.
TCU returned the punt to its 46, but a block in the back moved the ball to the 36 and the drive stalled to set up a punt to Austin, who had lost eight yards on his first two returns. The third settled into his arms in the middle of the field and between the blocking. He sped through the middle and outraced TCU to the sideline for the first punt return touchdown of his career and a 31-24 lead.
"We were playing great defense," Patterson said. "They had 224 yards, but we're not doing anything. All of the sudden, he returns the punt or a touchdown and you think the game is over."
Austin added 10 receptions for 101 yards and a touchdown. WVU finished with 338 yards of offense with just 78 coming on 35 rushes. Quarterback Geno Smith was 32-for-55 for 260 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
"They whipped us up front," Holgorsen said. "I thought the offensive line played bad. The receivers didn't make plays. Geno was as bad as he's been since he's been here. It falls on me. I have to look at what we have to do better offensively. What we've done the last three (games) is totally unacceptable."
The defense, which entered ranked last in the nation in pass defense and a spot better at No. 119 in pass efficiency rating, allowed 279 yards through the air - but just 154 before the touchdown to Boyce -- and 126 on the ground.
"Other than the one play," Holgorsen said, "I thought the defense played well."
The Mountaineers forced three turnovers and the offense turned those into 10 points. WVU hadn't scored off the last four turnovers the past three games.
WVU was haunted by errors on special teams, too, including two missed field goals before the block in overtime, an average of 39.5 yards on eight punts and a pair of bad punt snaps. The second was fumbled by Bitancurt and returned for a touchdown.
"Other than a couple snaps and kicks, I thought we played well on special teams," Holgorsen said.
The Mountaineers, who haven't won since beating Texas Oct. 6, succeeded in the first half by doing things they hadn't done very well or very often lately -- namely playing defense and building a lead. TCU's offense managed just 128 yards and was 3-for-8 on third down with the three conversions coming on its first touchdown drive. The Horned Frogs drove 78 yards in 13 plays and converted on third downs when they needed 2, 7 and 11 yards.
A 2-yard run by Matthew Tucker put TCU up 7-0 and the Mountaineers found themselves in the familiar position of trailing a Big 12 opponent. WVU tied the score early in the second quarter on the first of a series of fortunate breaks.
Smith was hit as he threw to J.D. Woods in the back of the end zone and the fluttering pass was headed toward TCU's Elisha Olabode. Safety Chris Harris was in front of Woods and Olabode in the end zone and jumped to tip the pass, but also obscured Olabode's view. Woods managed to find the ball and catch it for a touchdown.
It was WVU's third pass play of 20 yards or mote the past three games.
The Mountaineers forced a punt and Smith tried to go deep again, but his throw missed badly and sailed right and came up short. Jason Verrett intercepted the pass and returned it to WVU's 31. Boykin threw a touchdown on the next snap to Boyce, who finished with six receptions for 180 yards and two scores.
WVU answered quickly, though, and Smith's touch pass to Austin as Austin motioned right to left ended up going for a 43-yard touchdown down the right side. The Mountaineers forced a punt, but so did the Horned Frogs. Bitancurt's 46-yard punt hit TCU's Skye Dawson in the hands, but Dawson fumbled when he was hit by safety Cecil Level.
WVU's Nana Kyeremeh recovered at the TCU 9 and the Mountaineers scored on Shawne Alston's 1-yard run on fourth-and-goal. Alston, who had missed the past four games and most of a fifth before that, hadn't scored since the JMU game Sept. 15.
WVU led 21-14 and was up for the first time in 145 game minutes and 28 calendar days. The last lead came at the end of the 48-45 win at Texas Oct. 6.
The Horned Frogs had to punt again and Smith was sacked on first down. WVU picked up a first down on third-and-12, but Smith was sacked again and fumbled. He recovered, though, and ended up picking up a yard.
The Mountaineers were content to punt on a quick kick by Smith on fourth-and-1 at the TCU 49, but Smith bobbled the snap and then slipped from the grasp of a defender and gained eight yards.
The Mountaineers ended up missing a 50-yard field goal as the first half expired, but had their first halftime lead in a Big 12 game.
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at email@example.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.