MONDAY MORNING QUARTERBACK: WVU claims a thriller
It not only was the most exciting game of the season so far for WVU football fans, but perhaps the most entertaining game in all of college football this season.
After a 33-yard touchdown pass to Gary Jennings with 16 seconds remaining there was no hesitation by head coach Dana Holgorsen. There would be no kicking an extra point for a tie and playing overtime. Instead after three and a half hours, 150 plays, 81 total points scored, and over a thousand yards of total offense, the game was to be decided on a single two-point conversion attempt.
And just for good measure the Mountaineers converted not just once, but twice. The first appeared to be successful but to the chagrin of excited West Virginia fans the play was ruled dead because of a last second timeout by Texas. But the Mountaineers converted the second attempt as well on a Will Grier run into the end zone for the thrilling 42-41 win. In what had to be great irony, Grier’s dash was to the same exact spot of the field to which he ran last season in the home game against Texas when he broke his finger and the WVU season was derailed.
As in any game decided in the final seconds there were big twists and turns that ultimately helped determine the outcome.
At the end of the first half Texas coach Tom Herman tried to be cute with a last second timeout as West Virginia kicker Evan Staley was attempting a 44-yard field goal. The kick was wide right, but because of the timeout Staley made the most of his reprieve and nailed the next attempt through the uprights. That extra three points made a difference. Thank you, Tom.
On the opening drive of the second half, Texas drove to the Mountaineers’ four-yard line but was stopped on downs after a replay review of the spot. On their next possession, the Longhorns had a second and goal at the WVU 1 and a touchdown appeared inevitable. But the West Virginia defense made a stand and forced a field goal attempt. While the defense yielded a lot of yards and points these two stops in the third quarter while the WVU offense was struggling were key to the win. Twice Texas was inside the Mountaineer five-yard line and came away with only three points.
In the fourth quarter, Texas still had a four-point lead and was faced with a fourth and one at the WVU 21. The Longhorn offense appeared to be in rhythm and if they were able to convert a fourth down attempt and score a touchdown they would have a two score lead. But playing conservatively Texas opted for a field goal to keep it at a seven-point game.
West Virginia fans knew there would be a time this season when quarterback Will Grier would have the ball in his hands late in a game needing a score to win. And Grier came through with not one, but two scoring drives in the last six minutes of the game. After the first of those scores tied the game at 34,
Mountaineer fans were uncomfortable as Texas appeared to be using up the final minutes to end the afternoon on a game-winning field goal, but when the Longhorns scored on a long touchdown pass with 2:34 to go, there was enough time left for the last second heroics.
Texas QB Sam Ehlinger, who indeed played a great game himself, tweeted late Saturday night that the Texas players felt “disrespected” because WVU players twice gave a “horns down” gesture after scores and that it wouldn’t be forgotten. So you just competed in a great college football game and that’s your take? Gee Sam, we apologize. We’re sorry. Really.
THIS SATURDAY: TCU was projected to be in top half of the Big 12, but its season has turned sour in part due to significant injuries. The Horned Frogs stand at 4-5, surviving a 14-13 win over Kansas State Saturday when the Wildcats fumbled the snap on a short field goal attempt and missed a tying extra point.
While they are struggling to put points on the board, the Frogs still play solid defense and are well coached. After a big win there is always concern about a letdown, but the Mountaineers have too much at stake to let that happen. WEST VIRGINIA 34, TCU 17.