Quick Trio of WVU Touchdowns Drops TCU
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – With 7:35 left to play in the second quarter, West Virginia quarterback Will Grier threw a pass that deflected off receiver T.J. Simmons’ hands and into the arms of TCU safety Ridwan Issahaku, who made an acrobatic, diving catch.
The score was tied 3-3 and neither team seemed to be able muster much of an offensive rhythm. That statistics were nearly identical to that point and the number of plays run by each team was close, too. It looked like the Mountaineers, who were favored by two touchdowns, might be in for a down-to-the-wire battle, or at least a game that might be uncomfortable for longer than most would have expected.
But rather than gain the upper hand after the pick, the Horned Frogs were quickly slapped down. After TCU turned the ball back on a punt, WVU scored touchdowns on each of its last three possessions to take a 24-3 lead into intermission.
Witnessing his team lose its grip on a close game is nothing new for TCU coach Gary Patterson this year, who said the Horned Frogs have been playing about 30 minutes of winning football per game. Saturday’s scene was all too familiar.
“It’s been that way for us all the way back to the Ohio State game,” Patterson said. “We had them in the third quarter, (and) about five minutes was the difference of about 20 points. Right now, we can’t make up for our mistakes yet.”
The Horned Frogs’ first mistake was possibly its biggest.
WVU running back Kennedy McKoy scored on a 33-yard run to give WVU a 10-3 lead, and Taye Barber fumbled the ensuing kickoff back to the Mountaineers, reserve linebacker Exree Loe making the recovery. Five plays later, Martell Pettaway scored on a 1-yard run, putting the Mountaineers up 17-3.
One three-and-out later – thanks to a Horned Frogs’ dropped pass on third down — and WVU was on the march again with 2:13 left in the half.
Pettaway grabbed a Grier pass for 15 yards and then ran for 17 more. After an incomplete pass, Grier found a wide-open Trevon Wesco on a wheel route for another score. The play covered 32 yards and the blown coverage helped WVU’s lead balloon to 24-3.
“We have about enough energy to play a half,” Patterson said of his injury-riddled team. “We didn’t play a half today. In essence, (the game) turned after it was 3-3 with about five minutes left to go in the second quarter, as we got our butt kicked.”
TCU safety Markel Simmons wasn’t sure how to explain the quick turnaround.
“There were a lot of errors on our part, missed tackles, little things,” he said. “I don’t know what happened. The game got crazy.”
By the end of the half, the Mountaineers started looking more like themselves: they outgained the Frogs 269-114 and held them to 13 yards rushing on 17 attempts.
Things got worse for TCU before they got better.
TCU’s Emari Demercado muffed the second-half kickoff, pinning his team back at its own four-yard line. On third down, quarterback Mike Collins was pressured by WVU linebacker JoVanni Stewart and forced to throw the ball away. Because Collins was not outside the pocket and had no receiver in the area, Stewart was credited with the sack and a safety. WVU added a touchdown on its fourth straight possession as McKoy scored on a 1-yard run.
The Horned Frogs finally stopped the bleeding on a 28-yard touchdown pass from Collins to Jalen Reagor to cut the WVU lead to 33-10 but, by then, the Mountaineers had found their rhythm.
Grier added touchdown passes to Gary Jennings and David Sills to close out the scoring.
“They really pushed us around in the fourth quarter,” Patterson said. “It could have been worse. (WVU coach Dana Holgorsen) took it easy on us.”
WVU finished with 535 yards of total offense – 343 from the arm of Grier — while holding TCU to minus-7 yards rushing. It was the first time the Mountaineers have forced an opponent to finish with negative rushing yards since Sept. 18, 2010 against Maryland.
“We can’t get into a rhythm right now,” Reagor said. “There’s no specific reason and no specific person. We just can’t get into a rhythm.”