MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia had but a single dose of resilience in its kit Saturday. Enough to scale out of an early 13-point hole, but none left when the game demanded another stand in the fourth quarter.
Texas Tech, as the conventional wisdom went, ascended to No. 16 in the AP poll through a fusion of fortuitous scheduling, even more fortuitous officiating and Kliff Kingsbury endorphin-rush that would finally peter out against West Virginia.
But Tech’s ubiquitous “Fearless” mantra sure seemed appropriate after Davis Webb, a backup quarterback, and a freshman backup at that, overcame a game-changing goal-line fumble to pass for 462 yards.
You want fearless? Try facing third-and-6, nursing a three-point lead with two minutes left, when Webb lobbed a 27-yard pass through tight coverage to Jordan Davis, a guy who had one catch in the previous five games.
More fearlessness? On that same drive, with 1:11 to go and WVU down to its last timeout, Webb eschewed the play-it-safe, chew-some-clock doctrine and fired into the end zone twice. One was incomplete, but the second was a kill-shot, curled precisely into the All-American mitts of Mountaineers nemesis Jace Amaro behind a helpless linebacker.
As Amaro raced toward the Texas Tech fans segregated in their corner section, Kingsbury met his fearless quarterback at the hashmark for a flying chest bump. WVU still had its timeout, but Tech had its clinching score, 37-27.
“We talk about it all the time—fortune favors the bold,” said Kingsbury, bold enough to become the first coach in Big 12 history to open a career 7-0.
Then again, Texas Tech sure wore the look of a 6-1 team late in the third quarter after Dreamius Smith’s 12-yard touchdown surged WVU ahead 27-16. Mountaineer Field boiled with enthusiasm, a bass-heavy soundtrack pumping the joint into a frenzied scene not unlike the one three weeks ago that claimed No. 11 Oklahoma State.
But all the pomp and pep, both in the stands and on the sideline, evaporated as Webb steered the Red Raiders to touchdown drives of 80, 84 and 69 yards. Yes, the 18-year-old kid with the Napoleon Dynamite grin hit on 16-of-22 passes for 208 yards in the span of 18 game minutes.
“We’re weren’t going to leave it up to anyone else,” Kingsbury said. “We knew it was up to him to make good throws, and today he did that.”
WVU’s answer to Tech’s late-game rally was pathetic. Four punts and a turnover on downs.
“We froze up at the end,” said Mountaineers offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson. “Whenever it got tough, I think we went three-and-out (three out of four times). When things got tough we didn’t have guys that are going to stand up and make plays.”
Dana Holgorsen, his program sorely needing a snap-back victory after being bombed by Baylor, sounded more peeved than ever. Proclaiming this “a game we should’ve won,” he questioned not his team’s physical expenditure but rather its lack of belief that good things would happen. Players moved with velocity, but without volition, turning agnostic when situations demanded assuredness.
“(Texas Tech) had enough fight and will to make enough plays to win the game in the end,” Holgorsen said. “We did not have that.
“The will to win was not there. You could see it on the sidelines in the fourth quarter.”
When Saturday’s game began, few outside of Lubbock believed Texas Tech was as good as its unbeaten record. As the game wound down, few on the WVU side believed they could beat such an overrated team.