Pass Interference Penalty, Overturned Interception Loom Large In WVU Loss
FORT WORTH, Texas – It’s said the saddest words are what might have been.
The harsh reality for West Virginia is what did occur, namely that an overturned interception by Elijah Battle and a pass interference call on receiver David Sills significantly boosted No. 8 TCU’s chances of winning, and played an integral part of the final five minutes in the 31-24 defeat.
With the game tied and the ball at the WVU 34-yard line, TCU quarterback Kenny Hill launched a deep throw down the sideline toward Jalen Reagor. The wideout drifted the rout inside, though, and the ball came down toward Battle near the front pylon. The corner appeared to come down with control of the ball a split second before his second foot landed out of bounds.
With replay rules stating there must be sure evidence to reverse the call, it appeared the interception would stand. But the officials overturned the call, handing possession back to Texas Christian. Instead of West Virginia set-up inside its own two-yard line in a tie game, the defense came back onto the field. The Horned Frogs scored the game-winner five plays later, when Hill found the end zone on third and goal from the three.
“Up in the booth they said it was too close to overturn,” defensive coordinator Tony Gibson said. “Obviously it wasn’t. I think all three reviews went against us.”
West Virginia had one final chance, just as it did in the opener against Virginia Tech. In a similar set-up, the Mountaineers were down 31-24 with a last possession to tie. It started well, with quarterback Will Grier a pair of passes to Gary Jennings an David Sills for a first down nearing midfield. On the next snap, Grier found Sills again, the receiver making a nifty cut away from the corner for a 25-yard gain that moved the ball to TCU’s 35-yard line.
Sills got tangled with corner Tony James on the play, however, and appeared to push off while his jersey was being held. Only Sills was flagged, however, and the play erased not only a 25 yard gain, but came with a 15 yard infraction. It was, in effect, a 40 yard penalty, and it pushed the Mountaineers from excellent field position with plenty of time remaining to first and 25 from their own 25-yard line.
“There are two minutes left in the game, they are up seven, I think that’s a tough call to make,” Sills said. “It’s the call the ref made and you gotta go with it. Fight the adversity, I guess.”
But was it a legit penalty?
“I don’t personally so, but he made the call and you gotta roll with it,” Sills said. “I think there were a lot of plays that could have been called or not called, but at the end he made the call. If there wasn’t the call we would have been in good position to win the game. We got backed up.”
West Virginia would gain seven yards on a completion from Will Grier to Gary Jennings, but three consecutive incompletions ended the rally, and WVU turned the ball over on downs with 1:13 left. TCU simply ran out the clock from there.
“I don’t know what to say about it other than I watched David get held and come off and make a really good play and we were running up to make the next play and that’s all I’ll say about that,” said Grier, who finished with 366 yards passing and three touchdowns – two to Sills. “It’s hard to play at first and 25 with two minutes left. It’s easy to call a defense in that situation. Hard to call offense. That was a tough call.”
Sills caught seven passes for 116 yards and the two scores, but it was the one that got away which might haunt most.
“We just have to get better,” he said. “We are very close. We are just a couple plays away from being a .500 team and a playoff contender. I think this team has a lot ahead of them and that we can get better and the best is still ahead of us.”