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Monday Morning Quarterback: WVU hurt by lack of key plays

The Texas Longhorns are considered the flagship university of the Big 12 Conference and West Virginia was reminded of that designation in an excruciating 17-13 loss in Austin Saturday.

WVU played a solid competitive game and controlled most of the second half but came up short by not being able to make the key plays when needed or overcome three clearly questionable calls by the officials in the second half.

In the third quarter a well thrown pass into the end zone from quarterback Jarret Doege hit the hands of receiver Winston Wright. Wright failed to catch the ball cleanly—the kind of play that has to be made when playing as an underdog on the road. Instead, Wright bobbled the ball but retrieved possession as he fell to the ground. The replay official reversed the on field call of a touchdown, forcing West Virginia to kick a field goal.

In the fourth quarter a lateral pass by Texas was not caught cleanly and the loose ball was recovered by the Mountaineers in Longhorn territory. But the replay official again reversed the call, ruling it was an incomplete forward pass which, frankly, no one could reasonably conclude from watching the replay. The rule in college football is that a call on the field is not reversed unless there is conclusive evidence that it was in error. Unfortunately, as we have observed many times in college games a replay official instead tries to ascertain with some infinite detail what he thought the call should have been. That is not the standard to be applied. Neither play on review was clearly in error and should not have been reversed.

So when the officials on the field then failed to flag an obvious interference on Texas in the end zone on a fourth down pass with less than five minutes to play yours truly, like many of you, was not pleased. Overcoming that Texas pedigree is indeed a challenge.

On each of its last two possessions WVU drove 60 yards but failed twice on fourth down attempts at the Texas 19 and 8 yard lines in an effort to score a touchdown to go ahead. In retrospect one might argue that Coach Neal Brown should have considered kicking a field goal on the initial try to bring the Mountaineers within a single point, thus enabling them to take a lead with another field goal on the next possession.

But there is no way to assure that the game would have played out the same way.

Coach Brown twice rolled the dice to try and take the lead. Had he succeeded we would have been lauding him for his aggressive approach.

The defense played well, holding the Big 12 highest scoring team to just 17 points, but the complete absence of any running game hampered the WVU offense.

West Virginia could not control the line of scrimmage and was further limited by an injury to Leddie Brown.

THIS SATURDAY: The Mountaineers have played exceptionally well at home with three lopsided victories. But the TCU squad that comes to Morgantown Saturday with a 3-3 record was able to beat the same Texas team on the road earlier this season. The Mountaineer defense will need to focus on the running of Horned Frog quarterback Max Duggan, who gained 154 rushing yards in the 34-18 win over Texas Tech. WEST VIRGINIA 23 TCU 17.

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