WVU football: Weird and wonderful win for Mountaineers
FORT WORTH, Texas -- To say this one lacked much artistry would be accurate, but also simple and thus do away with the chance to share the most relevant and telling detail about what happened between West Virginia and TCU here Saturday.
The Horned Frogs lost a 14-point lead in the second quarter and erased a 10-point deficit in the fourth to somehow find themselves in overtime against the Mountaineers, but they also wound up with a fourth-and-30 in that overtime and missed a 62-yard field goal.
That kick, oddly and appropriately enough, was not short of the goal posts, but wide to the left and it gave WVU the possession that ended with Josh Lambert's field goal and an untamed celebration after a 30-27 win before the 41,632 witnesses at Amon G. Carter Stadium.
"These were two teams that needed a win and played hard and tried to get one, but we found a way," WVU Coach Dana Holgorsen said. "Obviously, we needed it and I'm proud of the way the guys didn't quit.
"We were up by 10 points in the fourth quarter and all of a sudden they come back and tie it up. We could have said, 'Here we go again,' but we didn't do that and we found a way to get it done."
The Mountaineers improved to 4-5 overall and 2-4 in the Big 12 and need to win two of their final three games to be eligible for a 12th straight bowl. They play host to Texas (6-2, 5-0) Saturday, travel to woeful Kansas (2-6, 0-5) Nov. 16 and play host lowly Iowa State (1-7, 0-5) Nov. 30.
TCU dropped to 3-6 and 1-5 and must win out to play in a bowl for the ninth consecutive season.
How the Horned Frogs and Mountaineers arrived at that point was truly bizarre. TCU had 30 first downs and 87 plays -- both season-high marks -- in a losing effort, largely because of four turnovers that WVU turned into 20 points. Three were on the first play of a drive, the sixth, seventh and eighth times that's happened to the Horned Frogs this season.
Each of the first-snap turnovers contributed to points for WVU and three turnovers in five TCU snaps in a span bridging the third and fourth quarters contributed to a run of 17 unanswered points and a 27-17 lead for the Mountaineers with 7:11 remaining.
That was virtually unanticipated after WVU fell behind 10-3 in the first quarter to a team that entered the game ranked No. 118 among 123 Football Subdivision teams with 2.4 points per game in the first quarter against FBS opponents.
Then again, WVU was No. 112 in first quarter scoring defense at 9.9 points allowed per first quarter.
The lead grew to 17-3 and Holgorsen was starting to deal with his doubts.
"We were beginning to wonder what touchdowns looked like," he said.
He could have never known that TCU would be merely the first to waste a double-digit lead.
WVU's 10-point advantage in the fourth quarter vanished on equally unforeseen scoring drives on consecutive possession by the Horned Frogs. TCU had only 138 yards of offense on nine possessions between its 17-3 lead and 27-17 deficit, but managed 112 on drives that ended with a touchdown at the 3:01 mark and a field goal with 19 seconds left in regulation.
On the first play of overtime, defensive Kyle Rose dropped TCU running back Waymon James for a six-yard loss. It was his fourth and final carry of the game and gave him a tidy zero yards rushing.
Rose proved a good starter, too, with a tipped pass at the line of scrimmage on the game's first play that linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski intercepted to set up the first of Lambert's three field goals, that from 24 yards.
TCU then took another loss after a second-down pass gained one yard when John Woldridge, who it must be said is an offensive lineman, was penalized 15 yards for a late hit. The Horned Frogs then tried to gain all of the 30 yards they needed on third down, but watched as Casey Pachall's career-high 50th pass in his first start in eight weeks sailed well out of bounds.
"You have to give credit to West Virginia for coming back and doing the things they did, but to be honest with you we gave one away," TCU Coach Gary Patterson. "That is about as simple as I can tell you how it is."
There were more oddities. TCU had a quarterback catch 11 passes and also lose a fumble while running for what would have been a decisive score in the third quarter, but was instead the error that let the Mountaineers back into the game.
Down 17-10 with 24 seconds left in the third quarter, quarterback Clint Trickett didn't see a linebacker drop into the path of a pass to receiver Jordan Thompson, but Paul Dawson read Trickett's eyes and returned the interception 17 yards to his 2-yard line.
"I was in a bad place right there," Holgorsen said.
Trevone Boykin, the team's backup quarterback who plays plenty as a receiver and a running back, took the next snap and ran right, but the ball was stripped loose by linebacker Isaiah Bruce and recovered by linebacker Jared Barber.
WVU turned that into a 42-yard field goal and then intercepted Pachall on the next play to set up Cody Clay's first career touchdown, an 11-yard play action pass with a short throw to Clay and some ambition from the tight end to force his way up the sideline and over the goal line for a 20-17 lead.
TCU managed two whole snaps without a turnover before Pachall was sacked by defensive end Will Clarke and lost the fumble to safety Darwin Cook. Another play action pass, this to running back Charles Sims, was good for 13 yards and another score for a 27-17 lead.
The Mountaineers were weird in their own ways. They threw 41 passes against the team that leads the Big 12 in sacks and interceptions, and somewhat paid in the form of three sacks and two interceptions, but also won the game with the way they ran the ball and how the threat of the run made life easier on Trickett.
Then that very same WVU defense that allowed the game's final 21 points in a 37-27 loss to Texas Tech and the final 28 points in a 35-12 loss to Kansas State in the past two weeks reappeared in the final 7:11.
It first surrendered an 11-play, 73-yard touchdown drive that took 4:01 off the clock and was forced back out on the field just four plays later to defend the final 90 seconds of regulation. TCU had three first downs to start the drive and was at the 32 with 52 seconds left, but settled for a 45-yard field goal.
It was enough to force overtime, but not nearly enough to overcome everything else, including the Mountaineers.
"Fumble on the 2-yard line, personal foul in overtime," Patterson said. "We set ourselves back a couple times and had four turnovers. You're not going to win many ball games doing that. You've got to score points in this league and we didn't start moving the ball until we had to at the end of the game. You have to be able to do it a long time before that."
Sims was the focus of the offense with 155 yards rushing and a touchdown on 24 carries and 35 yards and a touchdown on three receptions. Trickett completed 25 of 41 passes for 267 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Daikiel Shorts caught five passes for 98 yards and Mario Alford added 62 yards on three catches as he started in place of Ronald Carswell, who was suspended for a violation of team rules.
Cook made a career-high 14 tackles to go with his fumble recovery.
Pachall was 40-for-58 for 394 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Boykin caught 11 passes for 100 yards. David Porter, who had nine catches all season, finished with eight for 72 yards and two scores, and Josh Doctson, who came in with 12 receptions all season, had eight for 92 yards and a score.
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at email@example.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.