WVU game all down to just one play

It isn’t often when a competitive game is decided on a first-quarter play, but to the dismay of West Virginia fans that is what occurred on Saturday.

Late in the first quarter in a scoreless game quarterback Will Grier dove for the end zone on what was first ruled a touchdown. After replay, not only was the touchdown taken off the board, but it was ruled Grier lost control of the ball before it hit the pylon. No score and a lost possession, but even worse was Grier broke a finger on his throwing hand.

This was a worst case scenario and the Mountaineers played the remainder of the first half like a team whose bubble had burst. The defense allowed Texas to drive the length of the field on two scoring drives giving the Longhorns a 14-0 halftime lead.

A spark was lit in the third quarter, however, when freshmen defensive back Kenny Robinson intercepted a pass and returned it 94 yards for a touchdown. Suddenly, West Virginia was back in the game and after the teams traded scores still was down by just seven in the fourth quarter when the Mountaineers made a curious decision to try for an onside kick.

At that point WVU had momentum. Time was not a factor as eight minutes remained. The offense had just put together a scoring drive and backup quarterback Chris Chugunov had made a couple of nice plays, including a touchdown pass on fourth down. An onside kick generally has but about a ten percent chance of success and observing the Texas frontline players before the try it was apparent they were not going to be surprised. The ten percent chance became zero when the kick did not even go the necessary 10 yards.

Fortunately the defense forced the Longhorns to punt but the Mountaineers were then pinned back at their own 3-yard line facing a 97-yard field to tie the game with a backup quarterback. Five plays later Chugunov lost a fumble on a sack and Texas needed to go only five yards for the clinching score.

We all knew trailing 21-14 that it was still an uphill climb, but the failed onside kick attempt took the away momentum the Mountaineers had just gained and made the comeback attempt a bridge too far. Giving up 30 yards of field position in a competitive game made little sense. It was, in my view, an unwise coaching decision and poorly executed.

As we have noted here before, the Mountaineers again were unable to control the line of scrimmage against a good team. Texas, with the return of an NFL caliber left tackle who had been injured most of the season, pounded the WVU defense with 233 rushing yards. Meanwhile, West Virginia was unable to run the ball with any efficiency. And with Grier on the sidelines, how important he was to this team was clearly apparent. He will require surgery and is lost for the season.

THIS SATURDAY: Oklahoma has already clinched a berth in the Big 12 Championship game but has higher aspirations. The Sooners are ranked No. 4 and with two wins will be a participant in the College Football Playoff. Quarterback Baker Mayfield appears to be the leader for the Heisman Trophy. With these stakes and playing their last game at home there is no chance of the Sooners looking past the Mountaineers. What would have been a huge hill to climb at best with Will Grier now looks like Mount Everest without him. OKLAHOMA 48, WEST VIRGINIA 17.