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MONDAY MORNING QUARTERBACK: Missed chances cost WVU

Few West Virginia football fans thought the Mountaineers would be competitive in their trip to play undefeated Baylor last Thursday night. So maybe we should be happy to have battled the Bears to the end only to narrowly lose 17-14.

We all know that’s not how it works. While not suffering an expected blowout loss was certainly a positive sign, this was a game WVU had a chance to win and failing to take advantage of the opportunity was a disappointment.

The defense had its best game of the season. Although Baylor gained 453 total yards, eight sacks by the Mountaineers prevented the Bears from being able to maintain consistency on many of its offensive possessions. And late in the second quarter with Baylor about to take a two touchdown lead the WVU defense rose up and stuffed three running plays from the 1-yard line in a great goal line stand.

The special teams pitched in with a Winston Wright 95-yard kickoff return in the third quarter to tie the game for the second time at 14, and were able to convert a turnover on a fumbled punt late in the fourth quarter to give WVU the ball at the Baylor 34 with less than five minutes remaining. But the West Virginia offense was unable to take advantage of the opportunity to take the lead, and the ensuing field goal attempt to tie the game was blocked. Kicker Casey Legg, a newcomer to the squad after regular placekicker Evan Staley was injured, at first drilled a 43-yard attempt through the uprights but the Mountaineers were called for delay of game, nullifying the successful kick.

When playing in the Big 12 if a defense holds an opponent to 17 points and the special teams returns a kickoff for a touchdown that’s one we should be able to chalk up as a win. But the West Virginia offense continued its failures, thus preventing the victory. The ineptitude was never more evident when the Mountaineers not once, but twice airmailed bad snaps resulting in aggregate losses of 50 yards. The plays came when WVU was at the Baylor 29 and 10 yard lines.

Thus overall three possessions inside the opponent’s 30 resulted in zero points. The Mountaineers did have one outstanding play on an 83-yard touchdown pass to George Campbell but otherwise the offense was nowhere to be found.

Austin Kendall’s struggles at the quarterback position continue. That is not to suggest that the failures of the offense are entirely his fault, as the offensive line has been totally ineffective and the receiving corps has been inconsistent. But one has to wonder whether it is time to give quarterback Jarret Doege an opportunity. Doege transferred to West Virginia but WVU did not want to use up a year of his eligibility in 2019. However, under NCAA rules a player can compete in up to four games and still maintain his redshirt status. Doege started 17 games over two seasons at Bowling Green.

While the Mid-American Conference isn’t the Big 12, Doege did throw 27 touchdown passes in 2018, so at least he knows what the end zone looks like.

THIS SATURDAY: It may surprise some WVU fans that the Mountaineers have defeated Texas Tech five consecutive years. These two teams have played four common opponents in 2019 and the game results have been comparable. In a tough year for both squads this could be the battle for 8th place in the Big 12. But hey, if we are going to #Trust the Climb we have to start somewhere. WEST VIRGINIA 27, TEXAS TECH 24.

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