While the game wasn't decided until safety Eain Smith, wedging into a gap in the guts of WVU's line, blocked a last-second Tony Miliano field goal try, the play that set the tone for the game and the table for the rest of the conference season came nearly midway through the second quarter.
The Big East race and a Bowl Championship Series berth will have to be accomplished without Cincinnati senior quarterback Zach Collaros, who will have ankle surgery.
When Collaros made a play a veteran QB should never make - trying to escape a scrum in the shadow of his own goalpost - fortunes took a 180 for both teams, and a few more Big Easters, too.
Instead of taking a safety as he caved into the grips of Mountaineer defensive end Bruce Irvin and linebacker Najee Goode on a third-and-12 from the UC 15, Collaros tried to raise his right arm as he was going down.
His right leg folded under him. It was bad for the Bearcats, worse for Collaros - and momentum-swinging significant for WVU, Pitt, Louisville, Rutgers and Connecticut. (Sorry, non-contenders USF and Syracuse.)
Collaros' fumble was recovered in the end zone by WVU tackle Julian Miller for a touchdown and a 10-point lead. Folded in the pile after Irvin's hit, Collaros was carted off, obviously with a game-ending injury, and he watched the second half on crutches.
"(It mattered) a lot," Holgorsen said of Collaros' absence. "He's one of the better players in this conference; it's a tough break for them. That's tough, it is. They were 7-1, leading the conference, and by not having him, that's a shame for the kid."
Cincinnati (7-2, 3-1) still looks to have a decent shot at running the rest of its schedule - at Rutgers and Syracuse and at Nippert Stadium against UConn.
However, without Collaros, that will be a very iffy proposition in a conference in which five teams only trail the Bearcats by one game in the loss column, only one team (UConn, 4-5) has fewer than five wins overall ... and all eight teams remain possible as bowl eligibles. Collaros will miss the final three regular season games.
Home teams are only 11-8 in conference games this season. Home teams are 2-5 in the last two weekends.
"It's the common theme in the Big East," Holgorsen said. "It really doesn't matter what happened last week or the week before.
"Every game is going to be a challenge, anybody can win it. There's still a lot of football left to be played."
Contact Sports Editor Jack Bogaczyk at ja...@dailymail.com or 304-348-7949.