Despite scoring 35 first-half points in Saturday’s 70-63 win over Baylor, West Virginia didn’t get its first lead of the game until just 29 seconds before halftime.
For the majority of the first half, West Virginia found itself playing catch-up to the Bears as the two teams traded touchdown after touchdown. However, back-to-back scores from Geno Smith to Stedman Bailey late in the second quarter finally gave West Virginia a 35-28 lead heading into the break.
But in one of the more bizarre plays you’ll witness this season, a defensive collapse on the last play of the half saw Bears quarterback Nick Florence connect with Lanear Sampson for a 67-yard score with time expiring to tie things up at 35.
The play was the perfect example of Saturday’s game as a whole – some wild offensive plays to go along with some head-scratchers defensively.
“That was just unacceptable, just unacceptable,” said defensive coordinator Joe DeForest. “We were in basically a three-deep, five under. We were just going to keep the ball in front of us and make a tackle – we missed the tackle. I mean, what do you do? Right now, ultimately, we have to be better at tackling, playing the ball in the air and executing what’s called.”
Ultimately, though, West Virginia was able to overcome what could have potentially been a complete game-changer for Baylor.
“I challenged them after that, you can’t do that,” said West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen. “We’re lucky we won because of that play. When there are six or seven seconds left, you have to get back and keep guys in front of you – we didn’t do that.
“We have young safeties, two true freshmen are back there. Our backup corners are basically true freshman and they’ve just got to keep playing,” Holgorsen continued. “They were wide-eyed in the first half, made some mistakes, and they’ll get better for it. That performance won’t make us worse defensively. When you put guys in situations like that, they’re going to learn from it.”
And offensively, West Virginia accepted the challenge and did what it had to do to get the win.
“I don’t know if there’s anything you can do about stuff that happens in the past,” said offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson. “You can sit there and dwell on stuff like that, or you can just accept it and say, ‘Look, it’s 0-0 right now. Let’s go out there and play ball in the second half.’ The mentality has to be to play the next play. Whatever happens, you have to forget about it. It happened, you can’t change the past. Everybody makes mistakes.”
It was the first time West Virginia failed to lead at halftime since trailing 17-7 to Pitt last season on Nov. 25.