WVU beats TCU in overtime
FORT WORTH, Texas - All week long - and for multiple weeks, to be honest - West Virginia's coaches have preached finishing to the Mountaineers.
Saturday they finally did it. Well, eventually that is.
For the third week in a row, West Virginia lost a late second-half lead, this time Saturday against TCU at Amon G. Carter Stadium. But this time the Mountaineers were good enough to only let an opponent tie the game and then WVU finally finished one off in overtime.
Josh Lambert's 34-yard field goal gave West Virginia 30-27 win over the Horned Frogs, snapping a three-game losing streak and keeping the team's bowl hopes alive and in far better shape than when the day began.
"I told our guys this morning, I don't care what the circumstances are, we are going to finish this game,'' defensive coordinator Keith Patterson said. "And finally we did.''
Well, again, the Mountaineers eventually finished it
After blowing a 27-17 lead in the final three minutes, the Mountaineers won in overtime after the defense threw TCU back - Jalen Oberkrom had to try a 62-yad field goal and was just short and wide - and the offense did its job. Even a nullified touchdown run by Charles Sims didn't deter the Mountaineers, who simply went back to work and lined the ball up for the game-winner.
Oh, and by the way, that was a brand new experience for Lambert.
"I've never done that, even in high school or before that,'' the redshirt freshman kicker said. "I've never been in a position to win a game on the last play.''
The win gives the Mountaineers (4-5, 2-4 Big 12) three more games in which to get the two wins needed for a bowl berth. A loss in this one would have forced the unenviable task of winning each of the last three. Next Saturday brings a visit from Texas, which is 5-0 in league play.
TCU suffered the fate the Mountaineers avoided. The Horned Frogs (3-6, 1-5) now must win their last three to earn a bowl berth, including a finale against Baylor.
Sims, in one of his best performances, rushed for 154 yards for West Virginia and scored twice. Clint Trickett passed for 267 yards and two touchdowns.
TCU quarterback Casey Pachall passed for 394 yards and three scores, completing 40 of 58 passes.
Where the Horned Frogs failed big time - and the Mountaineers succeeded - was in turnovers. At one stretch of the late third and early fourth quarters, when WVU was erasing a 17-10 deficit and going ahead 27-17, TCU turned the ball over three times in a span of five plays, two fumbles and an interception.
Oddly enough, that stretch began just when it appeared WVU might be down for the count. Trickett had just thrown an interception to Paul Dawson and the Horned Frogs had the ball at the WVU 3.
"I was in a bad place right there,'' WVU coach Dana Holgorsen said. "I was thinking that the turnover thing was going to get us. We had to get out there and force some turnovers.''
And so the Mountaineers did.
First, TCU coughed up the ball on that first-and-goal play from the 2 when Trevone Boykin, playing as a wildcat quarterback, fumbled the ball away. West Virginia then went 72 yards in nine plays and got a 42-yard Lambert field goal to cut the deficit to 17-13.
TCU kept the ball only one play after that field goal, Pachall throwing an interception to Ishmael Banks near midfield on the next play. The Mountaineers then went 56 yards in nine plays to take a 20-17 lead on a spectacular diving touchdown by tight end Cody Clay. Clay caught the ball just outside the 5-yard line, turned upfield and dove to get the ball inside the pylon for the touchdown and with just under nine minutes to play WVU had the lead.
"I had 55 other plays today that were just blocking,'' the tight end/fullback said. "So yeah, it was nice to do that.''
It wasn't over, though. TCU then had a quick three-and-out and on the third play Will Clarke stripped Pachall in the pocket. Darwin Cook recovered at the TCU 17 and three plays later Trickett hit Sims out of the backfield and he dove inside the same pylon as Clay for a touchdown that made it 27-17 with 7:11 to go.
TCU didn't fade away quietly, though. The Horned Frogs drove methodically down the field for a touchdown on a 3-yard pass from Pachall to David Porter with 3:01 to play that made it 27-24. When the Mountaineers couldn't get more than one first down, they had to punt back to TCU inside the final 90 seconds.
The Frogs got the ball at their own 33 with 1:19 to play and no time outs, at which point Pachall passed them right down the field. When the drive died inside the 30, Jaden Oberkrom's 45-yard field goal with 19 seconds tied the score and sent it to overtime.
For much of the first half TCU just dominated West Virginia. The Mountaineers, though, somehow came up with a handful of difference-making plays that allowed them to trail by just 17-10 at halftime.
TCU dominated the game for the first quarter and a half, jumping out to a 17-3 lead that could have been worse. The Horned Frogs turned the ball over on the game's first play and gave up a field goal, then got cute while apparently driving for a touchdown and had to settle for a field goal after a trick play failed near the goal line.
Only those two plays and three explosive plays in a row by WVU's otherwise-struggling offense prevented a blowout by halftime.
Trailing 17-3 and doing virtually nothing on either side of the ball, all of a sudden West Virginia changed some blocking schemes and showed a bit of life midway through the second quarter. Getting the ball in its worst field position of the game at its own 13, the Mountaineers zipped right down the field in three plays. Sims started it with a 29-yard run, then Mario Alford caught a 27-yard pass from Trickett before Sims ran 31 yards for a touchdown.
Suddenly a game that appeared to be getting out of hand was just a 17-10 TCU lead, which is where it remained until the fourth quarter.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.