TEXAS 47:40 WVU (OT)
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- It's not an easy one to explain away. West Virginia had no reason to be in that game -- numbers-wise, situation-wise, common sense-wise -- much be in the driver's seat in the final minute. But that's exactly where the Mountaineers were. When Paul Millard found Mario Alford for a 72-yard touchdown pass with seven and a half minutes left, it was the game's seventh lead change and the fourth in eight minutes. When WVU's defense held on the ensuing Texas drive, it seemed the 'Eers could really, truly, actually pull this one out despite shooting themselves in the foot on offense time and time again, what with six QB fumbles, four turnovers (to that point) and a backup quarterback impressing absolutely no one in emergency action.
West Virginia took over with 6:25 on the clock and the ball at the WVU 15. And that brings us to our first bullet.
• That penultimate drive: Everyone knew that with six minutes to burn, West Virginia would simply send a heavy dose of RB Charles Sims. He ran for 6 yards, then lost 2, the rushed for 7 and a first down. Time ticking away. He rushed for 9 yards and West Virginia called a timeout. And here it was, the final, definitive turning point in a game that had many, many turning points. Facing a 2nd-and-1 at the WVU 35, Sims was stuffed. On third down, RB Dreamius Smith lost a yard. WVU had to punt, leaving 2:25 on the clock. If WVU could have punched through one of those runs for a single yard, this ballgame was all but over. Texas had timeouts but not much time, and its defense was on its heels against Sims. That inability to convert on 2nd-and-1 or on 3rd-and-1 turned the game around and precipitated the overtime loss.
• Charles Sims is the truth: It's nice to know we weren't silly for thinking West Virginia simply wasn't giving Sims the ball enough. He had 20+ carries and 100+ yards just twice in nine weeks -- the opener and last week. WVU finally decided to use him (and here's the key) regardless of the defense's approach. Let's make this simple: Sims is twice, nay, three times the treat either of WVU's QBs is. Defenses would be foolish to do anything other than stack the box against the 'Eers in hopes of stopping the running game. It makes sense. Beat you with the pass, they dare. And WVU rarely can -- when it does, credit goes to the RBs for bringing the safeties up and opening up the downfield game. Sims had 24 carries (perfect), 93 yards (mmhm), three touchdowns (checkmate), and an additional five catches for 42 yards against Texas. If WVU wants to beat Kansas and Iowa State the next two week, and the 'Eers need to win both, it's going to be with Sims as the engine of the offense.
• Quarterback quandary: Nothing has come easily this season. WVU started three QBs for two games each before Trickett finally took the job by the horns (or before Ford Childress got injured), and now, right when it seems the WVU offense might just be able to tick alright with Trickett as a halfway competent signal caller and Sims as the focal point of the system, Trickett was knocked out -- quite literally -- by the Longhorns. Now, he hadn't exactly been killing it, either: 2-4 passing for 31 yards and two fumbles. But his job isn't to win the game, it's to keep WVU in the game. Millard came in and went 16-32 for 259 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. They each fumbled three times, losing two, leading OC Shannon Dawson to comment, "Overall at the quarterback position we still put the ball on the ground way too much and put our defense in bad situations for no apparent reasons. It’s inexcusable." Now, granted, the offensive line did them few favors. The QBs were sacked eight times. As HC Dana Holgorsen mentioned, C Pat Eger's snaps were "awful," which is why the team captain was yanked and replaced late in the game. The QB question also bring up this terrifying curiosity: if Trickett has a concussion, there's no way he'll be ready next week, so Millard starts, right? Well, who's his backup if he's sacked, say, eight times and is knocked out of the game? TE Logan Moore, a former Fairmont State QB, or walk-on freshman QB Gregory McPherson, who wasn't even dressed on Saturday?
It's nearly 1 a.m. and I've got to make the drive back to Pittsburgh, so I'll leave it at this: It was a game WVU never should have been in yet absolutely should have won. Thoughts? Comments? Put 'em below or on Twitter @stephenjnesbitt and @mountaineerspg.