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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Comments

  • Indian Boy

    I put the responsibility for this loss on coaching. They just refuse to adjust calls to the personnel they have. If they would do that we would have at least 2 more wins.

  • 1095golf

    Just watched coach press conference,what a jerk.get rid of him..cant stand him..

    • JimJim

      $10,000 a day. Isn't he great! I agree, he needs to go!

  • Had Enough

    Come on guys let's get real, do we really think we belong in a bowl game? Just another chance to get embarrassed on national tv again. Let's write it off and hope for next year!

  • richard

    next year. maybe we can win the last 2 and win a bowl game. this is a better team than the beginning of the year. still, it's hard to take

  • OldSkool

    The team has played much better the past two weeks, but can't take care of the ball. Sorry but Millard is not a D1 QB, not his fault but he just isn't. Still, if the QBs don't turn the ball over 5 times, WV wins. Charles Sims is showing that he is a solid running back that would start for almost any team in the country.

    The defense played probably their best game of the year, but still need improvement against the pass. The next games being must wins will show what this team is made of.

  • Jack

    The team has vastly improved, but needs to finish when the game is on the line. The multiple turnovers near your own end zone is a killer and puts your defense in a bad situation. WVU needs a mobile, strong-armed quarterback with the confidence to lead this team.

  • Rich

    Great 1st half performance by our defense who have been overmatched in every Big 12 game this year. I hate to bash them on a night when they played so inspired but our DBs let us down(again) during the 2nd half. Every time UT needed to convert a 3rd/4th and long; Jaxson Shipley, UT's possession WR and McCoy's favorite target, simply ran down the field (unbumped), turned around and caught the pass for the 1st down. Unbelievable. On UT's OT TD the fullback shuffled stepped to the right, which meant he was either going to block on a run or slip into a flare pattern yet once the QB dropped back to pass no WVU defender went with him. I've said it on here before I don't know who coaches our DBs but how do they keep their jobs? We either have dumb coaches, dumb players or both.

    • Keith J

      Not an excuse, maybe not even relevant, but one of the announcers remarked that WV had been forced to move guys recruited as safeties to corner. Different skill set. Maybe.

  • Tim C

    While Millard played well in spurts,those TO's cost us. Trickett, before he got hurt was completely out of sync and also turned the ball over. If you're going to be a D1 QB then you need to play like it. OL did their usual "average job". Receivers were average at best. RB's did the best they could with the small holes that seemed to close up before they got to the line. The defense played one helluva game for most of the night but again our secondary struggled against the pass. We seemed to back off on defense late in the game and that helped Texas March down the field. We should've won this game and that's a fact. This one is going to sting for a while.

  • WVU_93

    Even in defeat I saw a lot of improvement in this team. The offense would be a different story if the backs, receivers, and qbs had all been there for spring practice because they're coming together in November instead of September. Two more wins means critical practices that could make all the difference for next year.

    • wvtd

      we will need the extra practices to get ready for Alabama.

  • JHT

    Dang it. So close but still a loss. I finally seen a competitive WVU team. They just got to learn to finish the game. Could have won that game. The turnovers need to stop. We need a more mobile QB. Maybe the William Crest kid from Baltimore will do well. A mobile QB in the Big 12 would have some success against Big 12 defenses. On to Kansas. Must put last night behind them. They win out and get a bowl.

  • Big brother to Larry

    WVU needs a quarterback who has happy feet... When you have a quarterback to move around it's like having 12 people on offense.... For example Johnny football if he could not move around he wouldn't be no more then a average quarterback... I understand it is what it is...you play with what you have ... WVU played well enough to win the game.... I'm not getting on the back of anybody, I'm not trying to be a Monday morning quarterback but it was obvious West Virginia has a soft spot on their offense and it is quarterbacking... I feel if they had a true top-notch quarterback it would make up for a lot of other mistakes on the offense.... Hopeful they have one coming in next year....because they're not going to win very many games with the quarterbacks they have now .... It is what it is........I except it .... I love the Mountaineers

    • Todd Armstrong

      You maybe right about the QB's but i think we need a more athletic line, a better line and the QB play would be better

    • Doug

      William Crest from Baltimore is a highly rated dual threat QB who already commited to WVU. I bet he starts next year.

      • William

        What's his rap sheet look like?

        • Big Dave

          Not bad, or he'd be at Marshall

          • Jason

            Come on. As with most college programs there are idiot players, but don't act like WVU' hands are clean either. Just in recent memory: Korey Harris, Garvin, Cook, Busick, D'Vante Henry, and those are just recent players. All teams roll the dice on players with questionable character, some pan out, some don't.

        • Kevin

          In case anybody is too naive to know, those comments were aimed directly at Sir Cut n Paste William

    • leroy j gibbs

      Offensive line especially the tackle position could have prevented some turnovers

  • Josh

    I keep hearing that wvu needs to win out to become bowl eligible- I thought you could only count one win against an FCS opponent per year when it comes to bowl eligibility. Could someone let me know if I'm reading the requirements wrong (entirely possible, I haven't had my coffee yet.)

    • Josh

      D'oh. My bad. I didn't realize Ga State wasn't a 1A program.

      • Josh

        D'oh. My bad. I didn't realize Ga State was a 1A program.

  • Keith J

    I think this is a much better team than the one that got whipped by Maryland and Baylor. We looked good for most of the game especially on defense considering the fumbles inside our ten yard line. A lot of winning is having confidence that you can do it. Unfortunately, our opponents have confidence that they can come back against us late in the game. Is it a talent issue or simply lack of depth? I hope we can win out. I am optimistic about this team's future.

    • Big Larry

      We have come to the place that when the defense gives up 47 points, The Fans say..."We looked good on defense...the defense played great and they are awesome."

      That is called "Being used to Mediocrity" and not even realizing it.

      • PB and J

        Winner winner chicken dinner!

      • 1095golf

        Really..

      • Mac

        Giving up 47 points, in OT, when you turn the ball over 6 times is not that bad.

        • PB and J

          It's not enough for a win either......just saying

    • Keith J

      The word was "better" as in showing progress toward good, not "good". They do deserve credit for those field goals instead of touchdowns when Texas was gifted with WV fumbles inside the WV 10 yard line. They do deserve credit for shutting down the running game.

  • Magic Mike

    Need to learn how to finish the game.

    • Jason

      Need to learn blocking and tackling.

    • Matt

      Need to teach Millard the object is to keep the ball, not to turn it over.

      • Jason

        Well...next Kansas has 2 wins and Iowa state has 1 win...WVU should be favored in those 2 games and get the 6 wins for a bowl...maybe.

    • Mac

      You can't turn the ball over, repeatedly, inside your own 20 and expect to win. WVU was the better team, except in turnover margin. And most days that's all it takes.

  • Bobby M

    Trickett is an average BIG EAST level QB! After Millard shook off rust he DID Better but still made many mistakes! But the offensive LINE - WOWL they are terrible!!! Give us average offensive line (like MAC team) and we win that game BY 3 touchdowns!!!!