MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — As the unthinkable unfolded—TCU flinging an uncontested 94-yard tying touchdown in the final 1:44—West Virginia cornerback Icky Banks felt certain he was following instructions.
“I thought it was Cover 2,” he said.
That meant Banks thought he had help over the top from safety Cecil Level. But with 52,000 fans blaring at Mountaineer Field, and with TCU desperately hurrying to line up on second-and-19 from its own 6, what Banks didn’t see or hear was Level relaying a new pre-snap call to the corners: man coverage.
“My safety tried to give me a check, but I didn’t hear it—the crowd was real loud,” Banks recalled Tuesday night, not a moment of hesitation in his memory. (He even recounted the previous play, and how a Josh Francis sack had pinned TCU into a seemingly hopeless second-and-forever.)
So it was that Banks chucked TCU’s Josh Boyce toward the sideline, presumably funneling the receiver into Level’s deep zone. And Level, presuming Banks was sticking with Boyce, split focus between an underneath receiver and the potential scrambling of quarterback Trevone Boykin.
“He was playing one coverage and I was playing another,” Banks said. “We just broke down and gave up a play.”
Perhaps THE play of 2012, at least the one that came to exemplify WVU’s defensive culpability.
As Boykin skirted the pass rush and spotted Boyce completely alone 30 yards downfield, TCU seized its game-saving gift. Boyce outran Level and fellow safety Karl Joseph the final 60 yards to knot the score at 31. End zone to end zone in 16 seconds.
The roar that shrouded the secondary’s pre-snap call swooned to a buzz of disbelief, the busted coverage. TCU subsequently won 39-38 in overtime, with Boyce of all players catching the decisive two-point conversion. Banks, then a sophomore new to the starting lineup, blamed himself for the miscommunication that extended the game.
“You don’t ever want to make a mistake like that again,” he said. “Every time you play, either good or bad, you have to take it as a learning experience.”
With Banks once again starting at cornerback as the Mountaineers prepare to visit TCU this week, he continued to own up to last season’s mistake. The guy doesn’t trade in excuses–he just hopes for a chance to make amends.
But even a year later, the defensive communication bugaboos haven’t been cleaned up. Witness K-State’s Tyler Lockett beating Banks for two touchdown catches last Saturday. On a 35-yard first-quarter bomb, Banks was supposed to have bracketing help from Joseph, but the safety busted a coverage by flying upfield. On a third-quarter 9-yard touchdown, Banks was again expecting inside help from Joseph, who this time was momentarily lured away when linebacker Isaiah Bruce failed to latch on to a running back in the flat.
“We’ve been struggling the last couple weeks, still having some miscommunications,” said Banks, who nonetheless sounded excited about the program’s first excursion to Fort Worth.
“It will be good to get a W back on the team that stole one from us last year.”