MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The stadium was nearly full, but not quite.

Texas and its unblemished Big 12 record appeared cooked, but not quite.

And West Virginia could sense an upset in its clutch, but not quite.

Such is the agonizing summary of WVU football, this season and last. The 2012 Mountaineers won seven games and were called underachievers. The 2013 Mountaineers, who must win out to even reach seven, feel more like overachievers.

Yet both teams are linked by an inability to leverage key moments, and the late-game malfunctions against Texas kept that trend intact.

Leading by three points in the final 6:34, West Virginia began munching clock, picking up a first down and approaching another. Facing second-and-1 at its 35, WVU could see the finish line, perhaps as close as one more surge away. One more yard from a fresh set of downs that would, at the very least, force Texas to expend its timeouts. One more yard from demoralizing the Horns completely.

But twice Texas stopped WVU cold. First Sims for no gain, and then Dreamius Smith for minus-1—each time by a defensive back squirting into the backfield.

“That cost us,” said offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson. “You make a first down there, you probably run the clock out and the defense doesn’t have to come on the field.”

Said head boss Dana Holgorsen of the stop that gave Texas life: “We called two consecutive run plays and we didn’t get a yard. It’s tough to take.”

It was made even tougher by Nick O’Toole duffing a 30-yard punt with 2:35 left. The kid with the normally-nuclear leg shanked a punt at TCU the previous week in a similar scenario. Just as the Frogs marched into field-goal range then, so did Texas this time.

But the Horns needed another gift to force OT, one that arrived on fourth-and-7 at midfield, when West Virginia’s blitz pressured Case McCoy into a quick throw. He went to Jaxon Shipley on a slant, a route that should have been stamped out by cornerback Travis Bell playing tight man coverage. But Bell played too soft and Shipley picked up 9 yards uncontested.

“We get them to fourth down, game on the line, got the exact call we want,” said defensive coordinator Keith Patterson. “We’re about to hit the quarterback, when we back up, sit there and let him catch it right at the sticks.”

Once Anthony Fera’s 24-yard kick forced overtime, McCoy made two more passes his big brother must have loved: A third-down 14-yarder to Marcus Johnson at the 5, followed by a third-down play-action touchdown to Alex De La Torre for the lead. Neither one of those guys made a catch in regulation.

How did West Virginia counter? By flipping an end-around reverse to emerging playmaker Mario Alford, who scooted 20 yards to the 5. The same 5-yard line from where Texas punched in the go-ahead score previously. Texas needed three cracks to get it done, WVU took four and couldn’t.

The Mountaineers trudged off the field still two wins shy of bowl-eligibility, filing into a locker room that receiver Kevin White characterized as “depressed.”

“This should have been another win under our belt, but obviously it’s not,” he said.

Instead it became a reminder of how this team lost a second-half lead for the third time in four games. Even the night-hyped atmosphere at Mountaineer Field couldn’t reverse the trend.

“It would have been a good win for us,” said Holgorsen, whose team fell to 6-10 in Big 12 games. “We just weren’t able to make the play when it counted.”

West Virginia has yet to win back-to-back games this season, something it must do against Kansas and Iowa State in order to be one of those so-so 6-6 teams that plays football during the holidays. While WVU must use pride as an incentive, Texas continues playing for a Big 12 title, one the Mountaineers seemed capable of snatching away at times Saturday.

“To leave everything out there on the field and still come up short, that hurts a lot,” said Sims, who didn’t put much stock in his three touchdowns and 93 yards rushing. “It just wasn’t enough.”

Not quite.

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  • Country Roads

    Holgerson's demeanor in his presser is absolutely unacceptable. I mean I just don't hear any sincerity in his words and definitely don't read any in his body language. He comes off as arrogant, cocky, and aloof......and why? He sure as hell hasn't accomplished much here. And the better Geno and Tavon continue to do on Sunday's, the worse he looks as a coach based on last year. When you roll up some Hugs stats and tenure, you can act arrogant in a press conference, until then I would suggest a little humility.

  • derek

    Why can we not recruit a QB. The talent is all over the east coast. Should be our priority. Holgs has not for some reason made this a priority. This game should have been locked down in the first half when mo was on our side. Get a QB.

  • pghmountaineer

    If you look at the Texas recruiting classes over the last several years they have always been in the top 20. I think that Mack Brown is an average coach. He wins games in spite of himself because he does have talented players. Texas has underachieved the last several years. That said, our talent level is no up to speed. Last year I think we had top 10 talent and this coaching staff made it look average.
    Oliver Luck is in a bad spot. I think he thought he was going to be the next AD at Texas long before the story broke and that's why he gave Holgerson & Huggins their overpaid contracts. He didn't think he was going to be here to have to deal with this mess, but now he is and he doesn't know what to do. Look for him to invisible for sometime. He doesn't want to face the music for both of our major sports programs going backwards under his watch.

    • derek

      Huggs has done well in this class next yrs looks good. Cmon one yr out of the last twenty since a losing season for Huggs. At least he is loyal remember all those subpar yrs with Catlett. We are in great shape. This class is looking good.

  • Ethan S.

    Just Fire Holgerson

  • don

    Some of you (Lulu for instance) are beginning to sound like obama; blame everything on your predecessor. This is holg's 3rd year, he should be showing progress by now. I do, however, sympathise with him. You can't win big 12 football with div 2 talent.

  • don

    I am seriously beginning to think the O-line simply wants to see Trickett out of there. And, they may have finally accomplished that as he could have a serious concussion now. How else could they give up 6 sacks in less than one half. Most teams don't give up that many in a season. Not that Trickett is a great gtrback, but he's about all we've got. Sad!

  • Dale

    Bottom line, 4th and 7, less than a min. Everybody in the stadium knows pass to Shipley!!

    • Rich

      Yet he simply ran down the field, turned around and caught the pass for the 1st down. The players have to execute on the field but they don't seem to be well coached.

  • don

    Get serious; vastly improved? A one legged receiver could score on this secondary. When every body in the audience knew shipley was going to get the call on 3rd down plays he was continually left wide open. It has gotten to be hilarious except I.hate to see our great state continue to be humiliated on national tv. I heartily agree with hD enough, please don't accept a bid (although I doubt they will get one) to some toilet bowl to be further disgracef by some other bottom dweller.

  • Charles

    Just watched the highlights (or lowlights) of the Texas game. What I see are DB's who knockdown 1 pass and act as if they've done something great. When it really counts and the game is on the line, they're not close to the receivers. 4th and 7-play of the game-the DB lets the receiver catch the pass. Overtime-total breakdown in pass coverage. Why do the defensive players strut around and pose when they make one decent play? get back to the huddle and do it again and again. I don't see Alabama's defense strut and pose. Act like you've done it before-oh, excuse me-you haven't-at least not very often-and not when it counts. We can't compete in the Big 12 with the caliber of players we're recruiting now. 2-star players aren't going to cut it. We're being out-coached and out-hustled by our opponents. Our special teams aren't very special. O'Toole shanks punts 2 weeks in a row when the game hangs in the balance. Our punt returners catch punts on the 5 yard line. Mental mistake after mental mistake. Running out-of-bounds when trying to kill the clock. We should have at least two more wins, but we're not tough enough or smart enough.

  • Low Rider

    It all comes back to the offensive line. You can't have 41 carries for 109 yards, and give up 6 sacks and win a football game. In a nutshell the play of the O Line was pathetic.

  • Ross Ballard

    Well, there is some good news... Marshall won...again. Workin' it up for a bowl game this year. However, it does beg the question, that at 6-6 would WVU really want to go to the Fox Den Pizza Bowl in East Muncie, Indiana? At least you Holgorsen groupies are a certainly entertaining. You know squat about football or coaching, (or grammar for that matter.) but you do know your comedy routines. Yuk it up. There's always next season.

    • Low Rider

      Actually, Conference USA gets to go to the Fox Den Pizza Bowl in East Muncie, Indiana against a member of the Sun Belt. Nice conference you are in Ross.

  • Deb

    While praying for the team, please pray for the drunkin foul mouth obnicous fans my family along with many others including children had to tolerate at last nights game. If I wanted to watch the game under those conditions we would go to a bar! After three quarters, we had enough and left. No more season tickets here Mr. Luck. Thanks and Good Luck Mountaineers! By the way our visiting Texas fans were not impressed.

  • Protechcpa

    I have good news and bad news for fellow WVU fans. The good news is that we do not have to accept becoming another Big 12 doormat year after year. These teams are beatable. The only game this year that was completely out of reach was the Baylor game. The bad news is, it will not happen under this coaching staff. Not unless we are willing to invest another 10 years of losing in order to complete Holgorsen's education. He is not fully baked, not as a head coach. He does not even speak well. He sounds like a 15 year old asking out a first prom date. No confidence, no inspiration, no experience. We have a head coach not ready for this level, a terrible offensive line and apparently find ourselves without a quarterback that can operate within the basic fundamentals of the game. When those issues are corrected, Big 12 wins will come. Not before. BTW, considering the impossible situations our offense put us in, the defense played above and beyond for almost the entire game.

  • lulu

    I think Holgeeson is doing the best he can in a bad situation ...Again...where arethe upperclassmen to lead this team? Thank Bill Stewart for leaving 20+ scholarships unfilled(so I've heard). Never seen a D1 coach have to go with so many jr college transfers just fill a team!!
    Thank you Joe Manchin and Ed Pastilong for such a knee-jerk decision after a night of partying after the Fiesta Bowl...

    • JaneM

      @LuLu.....You are correct when Dana took over from( William ) Bill Stewart The Cupboard was left's it's very difficult to play mostly freshmen and sophomores against schools who have players that has been on the team as long as five years.. Playing 18 and 19 year olds against players who 22 and 23 ... Those three years can make a big difference.... And you see it every game....

  • Neil

    Let's pray for this team!!!

    • 1095golf