Mountaineers Turn The Ball Over Four Times In Brutal Performance
DALLAS – This is one better off forgotten.
West Virginia was at its stagnant, sluggish worst on offense as the Mountaineers managed a season-worst 153 total yards in a lopsided 30-14 defeat to Utah in the Heart of Dallas bowl here Tuesday. Behind former back-up quarterback Chris Chugunov – and without starting back Justin Crawford and a pair of offensive linemen – WVU failed to find any ability to operate and slunk into the offseason with a third straight defeat after the loss of Will Grier.
There wasn’t much more to be taken from a middle-tier bowl game played the day after Christmas. Utah wasn’t fantastic, but was easily the best team at the Cotton Bowl in this one. The Utes used a 58-yard touchdown run on its opening drive, then watched as West Virginia self-destructed on offense. The Mountaineers finished with just 29 rushing yards, failing to help a struggling Chugunov, who routinely misfired on passes in completing 9-of-28 for 129 yards with two interceptions and a late score.
Until WVU’s penultimate possession, that going for 67 yards and a touchdown to Ka’Raun White, the Mountaineers had just five total yards in the second half on six drives. The second half total was 72, which was actually worse than the 81 yards in the opening two periods.
West Virginia’s defense and special teams had both positive and negative moments, but nothing could overcome the timing, execution and mental and physical errors for the Mountaineers, who lost a second straight bowl game and the fourth in its last five appearances since the 2010 Orange Bowl against Clemson. Utah, meanwhile, won for the 11th time in 12 bowl games by taking advantage of the myriad of mistakes and errors by the WVU offense.
The Mountaineers were never truly a threat to the Utes, going just 2-for-14 on third downs and running 51 plays to Utah’s 80. West Virginia had one moment of a spark, that coming when Utah punter Mike Wishnowsky fumbled the ball deep in his own end while attempting his trademark rugby-style punt. Dante Bonamico forced the fumble, the ball falling into the hands of Shane Commodore, who recovered at the nine-yard line. But three plays went for zero yardage as McKoy was stuffed on a Wildcat run before Chugunov threw a pair of incompletions.
Instead of getting to within a single possession, the Mountaineers settled for Evan Staley’s second field goal of the game in as many red zone trips to trim the deficit to 17-6 with 6:43 remaining in the third quarter. The entire series was a microcosm of the contest overall, WVU’s offense unable to gain any yardage despite a solid chance, which then deflated emotions on all three sides of the ball.
Utah then gradually extended the advantage in the third and fourth quarters, managing three scoring drives in the last 15 minutes. One came when West Virginia’s defense was called for offsides, turning a fourth and three into a fourth and eight which Utah turned into a first down and then eventually a touchdown on Tyler Huntley’s two-yard run that pushed the lead to 24-6 and essentially ended the contest with nearly 14 minutes left before Matt Gay added two field goals down the stretch before White’s TD catch for the final margin.
West Virginia trailed 17-3 at the half. The Mountaineers managed just three first downs and 81 yards over the first two quarters. Chugunov hit on just seven of 17 passing, and missed on a handful of deep passes that could have changed the completion slightly.
The defense, meanwhile, allowed Zack Moss’ 58-yard touchdown run on Utah’s opening drive. That capped a quick four-play, 83-yard push that gave the Utes a 7-0 lead less than four minutes into the game. It was the longest rush of the season for Utah, and handed early momentum to the favorites.
The Mountaineers (7-6) adjusted after, however, and began to slow the multiple spread look by forcing four straight punts. The fourth, however, was muffed by Marcus Simms as he attempted to get out off the way of the kick. The ball hit Simms in the shoulder and was recovered at the 13-yard line. Utah took advantage of the miscue, scoring in just three plays, all runs, with the last being Huntley’s two-yard keeper off a fake pitch to the back.
That boosted the Utes lead to 14-3 with 5:46 left in the second quarter, and Utah (7-6) would add on a field goal with just 68 seconds left before the break for the 17-3 edge at the half. West Virginia’s one scoring drive came early in the second quarter, when Chugunov hit Gary Jennings for a key third down conversion in an 11-play, 67-yard drive that ended with Evan Staley’s 28-yard field goal.
Stats are below.