FORT WORTH, Texas — Our weekly unit-by-unit analysis on West Virginia football after the Mountaineers beat TCU 30-27 in overtime:
Erratic enough to have lost Saturday’s game, Clint Trickett instead found a way to win it. He threw two interceptions, had a pick-six erased by a fortuitous defensive holding call and saw a potential fourth interception dropped by TCU safety Sam Carter. Those mistakes aside, Trickett threw for 267 yards on 25-of-41 passing, mixing in a couple downfield throws with a hefty dose of short passes.
“I’ve got to take care of the ball better, but we did some things really well,” said Trickett, who tossed short touchdown passes to Charles Sims and Cody Clay in the fourth quarter, when WVU scored 17 points in 5:10 to go up 27-17.
With WVU running the ball effectively, Trickett did some of his best work off play-action. Offensive tempo also seemed better, indicating Trickett has progressed enough with pre-snap communication to appease Dana Holgorsen until the pair can spend an offseason digging into the details.
In the crucial fourth quarter, Trickett hit on 11-of-14 passes for 123 yards.
“We preached all week about pocket presence,” said offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson. “We didn’t do a great job of it last week (at K-State), when we got a little crazy in the pocket and it cost us a couple times. This week he did a good job of sitting in the pocket and going through his reads.”
TCU had allowed one 100-yard rusher this season—Oklahoma’s Brennan Clay had 111 on Oct. 5—but Charles Sims piled up 154 yards on a season-high 24 carries. His 31-yard touchdown started WVU’s rally from down 17-3, his 13-yard TD pass put the Mountaineers up 27-17, and his 12-yard run in OT would’ve been the clinching score save for a holding flag behind the play.
“He can handle about anything and obviously we’re glad he’s here,” said Holgorsen. “Charles is a special player. There’s no other backs in the country that do as much as he does.”
TCU contained Dreamius Smith and Wendell Smallwood to a combined 18 yards rushing on nine carries, though the pair assisted in the sscreen game with five catches for 21 yards.
West Virginia’s top two deep threats were non-factors. Ronald Carswell was suspended for a violation of team rules and Kevin White held to one catch for 5 yards by one of the nation’s top cornerbacks, Jason Verrett.
Enter Daikiel Shorts with 98 yards on six receptions, which is one more catch than he had in his first four college road games combined. The freshman made back-to-back grabs of 17 and 38 yards on a fourth-period drive when WVU moved from its own 2 into field-goal range. Alas, his only demerit was for a drop on third-and-17 when he had gotten behind zone coverage.
In place of Carswell, Mario Alford contributed three catches for 62 yards. His day was highlighted in the second quarter by a 27-yarder in the middle of a three-play 87-yard touchdown drive, though he continues to be a blocking liability on the edge. He certainly did enough to warrant starting against Texas if Carswell’s suspension lingers.
With five catches for 34 yards, slot receiver Jordan Thompson continues to improve. If only he could continue to grow, considering Trickett has overthrown the 5-foot-7 sophomore in two straight games.
Tight end Cody Clay offered the feel-good moment of the day, scoring his first college touchdown on an 11-yard catch and run that stood up to review.
But the unit’s point of pride was its run-blocking, where West Virginia ran for 148 yards and averaged 4.1 per carry. (TCU entered the game second in the league allowing 124 yards and 3.2 per rush)
Left guard Quinton Spain pulled and pancaked Anderson on Sims’ 29-yard run in the second quarter. Two plays later when WVU ran the same power play to the opposite side, right guard Mark Glowinski pulled and sealed off Anderson to spring Sims for a 31-yard score. (Spain and Glowinski shared offensive champion honors announced by coaches.)
The group committed two holding penalties, though Spain’s infraction in overtime looked more emphatic because he used his 150-pound advantage to bodyslam safety Geoff Hooker.
“We didn’t think they could run the ball on us,” defensive coordinator Keith Patterson said. “I thought we could basically whip ‘em up front.”
Kyle Rose certainly whipped right guard Eric Tausch on TCU’s first snap of overtime, blowing through the A-gap to drop Waymon James for a 6-yard loss. That started a disastrous series in which the Frogs incurred a late-hit flag and wound up facing fourth-and-30, leading to a 62-yard missed field goal.
Along with making seven tackles at defensive end, Rose tipped Casey Pachall’s first pass of the game leading to Nick Kwiatkoski’s interception. The coaches named Rose defensive champion.
Will Clarke made one of WVU’s three sacks and had another knock on Pachall, but a bigger surprise was backup Noble Nwachukwu becoming a pass-rushing force with a sack and two quarterback hits. That was a particularly huge contribution in light of Dontrill Hyman (ankle) missing the game.
After starting 17 of the last 20 games, Spur linebacker Isaiah Bruce was relegated to a backup role as WVU stuck with a nickel package throughout the day. Outside of special teams, he played only handful of snaps, but forced a crucial turnover at the WVU 3 by punching the ball loose from Trevone Boykin (bailing out Trickett from an interception on the previous play).
After his opening-play interception, Kwiatkoski made seven tackles, including two on third-down stops in the second half. He and Jared Barber manned the middle but struggled against play-action, allowing Pachall to make
Barber had six tackles and dove into the goal-line scrum to recover the fumble Bruce forced. With TCU rallying from down 27-17 late in regulation, he barely deflected a third-down pass that still found David Porter for a touchdown.
Buck linebacker Brandon Golson (three tackles) sacked Pachall and popped the QB to force an incompletion. His backup, freshman Marvin Gross, was in on a sack credited to Clarke that led to a Pachall fumble.
Whereas Texas held Pachall to 13-of-34 passing a week earlier, the big senior hit on 40-of-58 against West Virginia, finding his best success against cornerback Travis Bell and Karl Joseph.
Safety Darwin Cook made 14 tackles, many of them downfield as TCU turned pass-happy, and he also was utilized several times as a second-level blitzer once Patterson decided zone. Though Cook dropped what should have been his fifth interception of the season, he recovered a fourth-period Pachall fumble that WVU converted into a touchdown.
K.J. Dillon made sic tackles and batted away a third-down pass, while freshman Daryl Worley returned from missing the K-State game to post an eight-tackle day.
Cornerback Icky Banks’ first half was marked by a questionable pass interference penalty and being out-maneuvered by Josh Doctson on a 37-yard one-handed catch. But Banks also picked off Pachall in the midst of WVU’s early fourth-quarter surge.
Josh Lambert made all three field-goal tries, including a 42-yarder in the fourth quarter preceding his game-winning 34-yarder in overtime. The redshirt freshman’s string of nine straight conversions leaves him 13-of-17 overall this season and 12-of-13 inside 50 yards.
Nick O’Toole averaged 42.4 yards despite his seventh and final punt resembling a 27-yard shotput, which set up TCU at its 33 with 1:19 left in regulation trailing by 3. He pinned TCU inside the 20 three times but also had a 41-yarder trickle into the end zone, cutting the net in half.
Jarrod Harper, Justin Arndt and Terrell Chestnut were the punt- and kick-coverage standouts. And between fair-catches and touchbacks, WVU’s return units didn’t see many opportunities.
The return of Pachall from a broken left arm made TCU far more dangerous, but yielding 454 yards and 30 first downs? How good might the Frogs’ passing game have been if second-leading receiver Brandon Carter hadn’t taken a personal absence before the game? That means WVU’s defense remains in a slump, and the win can only mask so much.
Holgorsen might be happy with the 30 points WVU scored—matching the most TCU has allowed in conference play this season—but he also saw too many passes thrown into coverage. Beating the Horned Frogs puts WVU in shape to earn a bowl bid, though several projections have WVU returning to Pinstripe Bowl.