It was midway through the fourth quarter and West Virginia had just come from behind to take an unexpected 27-17 lead over TCU at Fort Worth. But as the Horned Frogs answered with a touchdown and regained possession with 1:17 remaining, Mountaineer fans were sensing the worst.
The previous two weeks WVU had relinquished second half leads and we were asking ourselves-could this happen again? Indeed, West Virginia couldn't hold on as TCU tied the game with seconds left. But this time the Mountaineers survived with a much-needed 30-27 exciting overtime win.
The turning point of the game came as the third quarter was winding down with TCU leading 17-10 and at the WVU 2 yard line following an interception. With the West Virginia offense struggling, another score by the Horned Frogs likely would have put the game on ice. But the much-maligned Mountaineer defense forced a fumble to keep the game in doubt, and the offense responded by driving 72 yards and kicking a field goal to close the gap to 17-13.
This time it was a West Virginia opponent that made the mistakes that spell the difference between victory and defeat. Following the fumble, TCU committed two more turnovers in its next four plays, both leading to Mountaineer touchdowns. In less than five minutes of playing time, WVU suddenly had struck for 17 points.
The Horned Frogs compounded their turnover woes by committing crucial penalties on defense, three times giving the Mountaineers first downs when backed up deep in their own territory. TCU then made its most crucial error with a foolish personal foul dead ball penalty in the first overtime, which moved the Frogs out of even field goal range, as a desperate 62-yard attempt failed.
Taking over possession needing only a field goal to win, WVU fans recalled the exact same scenario between these teams last season in Morgantown. On that occasion, a relatively short game- winning field goal in the first overtime was blocked, and TCU won in the second overtime on a two-point conversion. This time, however, Josh Lambert nailed the 34- yard kick and West Virginia escaped with a much needed victory.
As easy as these placekicks sometime look, they still require proper execution by the snapper and holder, whose exploits are seldom noticed until they make a mistake. So kudos go out to Parkersburg South's Michael Molinari, who has been reliable all season as a holder, and also has performed well in his kickoff duties.
This Saturday: Early in the season after losses to BYU and Mississippi, there were whispers down Texas way that maybe it was time for veteran head coach Mack Brown to go. But something happened on the way to the retirement party, as the Longhorns thumped Oklahoma and now sit in a tie atop the Big 12 Conference with a 5-0 league record.
The good news is that Texas does have a tendency to lay an egg on occasion and perhaps could be looking ahead to its key game against Oklahoma State the following week.
So while the Mountaineers will be an underdog, WVU already has won two games in that role and has a chance at home if the defense can again create turnovers. But the Longhorns are clearly the most talented team here and surely haven't forgotten the WVU 48-45 win over them in Austin last season. Texas 34, West Virginia 23.