TCU didn’t reclaim the lead it had lost in the first half until the final play of the game -- a two-point conversion pass from Trevone Boykin to Josh Boyce that silenced the Milan Puskar Stadium crowd and gave the Horned Frogs a 39-38 win in double overtime on Saturday night.
“I’m one of those who believes when you play someone on the road, you have to go take ball games,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said. “If you just try to play around, you see what happens.”
It was the final salvo in a game in which both teams squandered opportunity after opportunity to secure victory.
The Mountaineers (5-3, 2-3 Big 12) struggled all night on offense, but it didn’t seem to matter when Tavon Austin returned a punt 76 yards for a touchdown, giving WVU a 31-24 lead with 3:19 to go.
Fans erupted, sensing a win was in the cards, as the West Virginia defense -- for the first time all season -- had been a pillar of strength throughout this game.
But the defense picked a poor time to have its worst coverage bust of the day, as Boykin broke contain, kept a play alive and found Boyce behind the secondary. The star receiver outran defenders in desperate pursuit, capping off a 94-yard touchdown that sent the game to overtime and deflated the crowd of 52,322.
Offensive Player of the Game
76-yard punt return
2 total touchdowns
A 55-yard Tyler Bitancurt field goal try late in regulation was no good -- he had made a career-long 52-yarder earlier in the game -- and the game went to overtime.
Again, West Virginia had a chance to win in the extra frame. TCU’s Jaden Oberkrom missed a 37-yard field goal on the first possession of overtime, meaning WVU simply needed points to win. It failed to move the ball much itself -- a recurring theme all night -- and Bitancurt’s 36-yard try to win the game was easily blocked, sending the game to a second overtime period.
The fireworks started quickly from there. On the first play of WVU’s ensuing drive, quarterback Geno Smith found receiver Stedman Bailey for a 25-yard touchdown. Bailey, who again was limited by an ankle injury suffered at Texas Tech, finished with only two catches for 30 yards and the critical score.
But the Horned Frogs (6-3, 3-3) immediately responded. A trick play -- a reverse pass that saw receiver Brandon Carter throw to a wide open Corey Fuller -- worked to perfection and TCU had its own score in only one play. Oberkrom and the field goal unit came on for an extra point, but the Frogs’ Patterson called timeout and instead opted to try for a two-point conversion and the win.
Boykin, who had badly missed receivers all game long, just barely gave Boyce a chance to catch the pass. It was delivered low, but Boyce cradled the ball just before it would have hit the turf. Referees ruled the conversion good, and the call stood after a replay review, deflating WVU’s players.
The loss was West Virginia’s third in a row, its first three-game losing streak since the end of the 2004 season, when WVU lost to Boston College and Pittsburgh to conclude the regular season and fell to Florida State in the Gator Bowl.
It is the Mountaineers’ first three-game conference losing streak since the final three weeks of the 2001 campaign -- Rich Rodriguez’s first as WVU’s coach -- when that team loss to Syracuse, Temple and Pitt to finish a 3-8 season.
Offensive Player of the Game
9 total tackles
1 tackle for loss
1 forced fumble
1 pass break-up
“The season isn’t over,” Mountaineer coach Dana Holgorsen said. “We’ll get back to work tomorrow ... they’ve got approximately 20 hours to digest this game before we move on.”
For once, though, it was hardly the fault of the defense, which forced three turnovers and six three-and-outs. It yielded only 405 total yards despite having to play two overtime periods -- almost 100 yards fewer than its average yardage allowed coming into the game.
Of TCU’s 31 points in regulation, seven came on a botched punt snap returned for a score and another seven came with a short field after a Smith interception set up the Frogs deep in WVU territory.
It came on the heels of a change in the location of the program’s two co-defensive coordinators. Joe DeForest coached from the press box after being on the field for the entire season thus far, while Keith Patterson -- who had been in the box -- moved down to the field.
DeForest, Patterson and Holgorsen emphasized no actual duties changed hands, and that DeForest called defensive plays from the press box.
“They responded to all the criticism and scrutiny they’ve been under,” Holgorsen said. “They practiced hard for two weeks and got better ... our defense created turnovers. They got three-and-outs. They created pressure. They did everything we tried to accomplish over the course of the past two weeks.”
But the offense couldn’t take advantage. It gained only 3.8 yards per play and 338 total yards. Since gaining only 291 yards in its first game under Dana Holgorsen (a 2011 win over Marshall), WVU’s two worst offensive outings in terms of yards have been its last two: 243 yards against Kansas State two weeks ago and 338 yards against TCU on Saturday.
The offense scored only 24 of the team’s 31 points in regulation, as Austin’s punt return accounted for the other seven. The team added a touchdown on a 9-yard “drive” after TCU fumbled a punt and a field goal on an 11-yard “drive” after the Horned Frogs fumbled in Mountaineer territory.
“They tackled a lot better than we blocked,” Holgorsen said. “They whipped us up front. The O-line played bad. The receivers didn’t make many plays. Geno was probably as bad as he’s been since he’s been here.
”We had opportunities to win the game and we failed to do so on all three sides of the ball. The coaches and the players failed.”