Ben Queen/MetroNews photo
Texas coach Mack Brown sought out Paul Millard after Texas beat WVU 47-40 in overtime.
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Charting the dividends and write-offs from West Virginia’s 47-40 overtime loss to Texas, a 4-hour, 7-minute study in concussed QBs, torn Achilles and wild momentum swings:
Clint Trickett’s night lasted 13 plays, during which time he suffered four sacks, two fumbles and apparently one concussion. Yet somehow, through that flurry of mishaps, West Virginia led 9-0.
Enter Paul Millard, who led the offense to 31 points in three-plus quarters but fumbled four times (losing two) and tossed two interceptions—one on the game’s final play. His lack of ball security in the pocket was especially curious, considering he’s the smoothest operator of WVU’s quarterbacks. On one strip, he held the ball for more than five seconds.
“The fumbles, those turnovers are not good,” Millard said. “Mistakes of not taking care of the ball, they hurt. You can’t do that.”
His 16-of-32 passing night accounted for 259 yards and one touchdown, though he continues to throw the occasional skip-pass to open receivers. Ironically, it was an overthrow that represented his most notable misfire—after Charles Sims slipped out of the backfield uncovered against an eight-man Texas blitz. No stretch to imagine that play going for 75 yards if completed in rhythm.
Ben Queen/MetroNews photo
Charles Sims ran for three touchdowns and 93 yards on 24 carries against Texas.
After running for 154 yards against TCU (statistically the best run defense in the Big 12), Sims had the same 24 carries for only 93 yards against Texas (the third-worst run defense in the league). Still, the guy never disappoints and churns his feet for every available yard. He displayed power on touchdown runs from the 1, 3 and the 6, and showed burst on a 33-yard run that sparked WVU’s 91-yard drive in the third quarter.
As usual, Sims was a factor in the passing game (five catches for 42 yards), and could have had a 75-yarder on the pass Millard overthrew.
Wendell Smallwood (four carries for 18 yards, two catches for 37 yards) could be next year’s Sims. He slipped several tacklers while taking a screen pass 29 yards.
Among his seven carries for 24 yards, Dreamius Smith bounced outside for an 8-yard touchdown run when he had an open inside lane. He might take some ribbing in the film room on that one.
Fullback Cody Clay, a folk hero even before catching his first career touchdown last week, was used primarily in max-protect schemes against the overwhelming Texas pass rush. On the final two plays of overtime, however, his goal-line curl route brought linebacker Steve Edmund into position to break up slant passes intended for wide receivers. Offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said Clay should have pivoted those routes toward the flat in order to pull the underneath coverage outside.
Fullback Garrett Hope, inserted in a twin tight end set on third-and-1 late in regulation, missed his block on Carrington Byndom allowing the UT cornerback to trip up Smith for a loss.
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West Virginia’s Kevin White makes a 31-yard catch against Texas—one of his five catches Saturday night.
With WVU’s passers rarely afforded time to make throws downfield, the quick game became a necessity. Against an eight-man blitz in the fourth quarter, Mario Alford caught an inside slant in front of cornerback Duke Thomas and raced 72 yards for his first career touchdown. Alford made four catches against UT and now has 158 receiving yards the past two weeks after having 93 in the season’s first eight games.
Alford, who showed stark improvement in his blocking, ran 20 yards with an end around in OT, setting up WVU’s futile last series.
The big-bodied Kevin White caught a 31-yarder over Byndom but twice failed to pull in contested deep sideline throws. He finished with five catches for 89 yards on nine targets.
Devonte Mathis made a 19-yard grab, his first since Week 4 against Georgia State, but Daikiel Shorts—the team’s reception leader coming in—was held without a catch on three targets.
From the first snap, when Jackson Jeffcoat pushed past right tackle Curtis Feigt to drop Sims on a stretch play, it was apparent Texas was loading up to stop the run. Using seven- and eight-man fronts, Longhorns defensive coordinator Greg Robinson was intent on outmanning WVU’s run game and gambling that his pass rushers could bring pressure quickly enough to minimize the back-end risks.
Jeffcoat was in the backfield frequently, though his lone sack came against left tackle Adam Pankey and resulted in a Millard fumble. Texas wound up with six sacks, getting pressure inside from opposite end Cedric Reed and backup tackle Desmond Jackson, the latter subbing for Chris Whaley who left with a season-ending knee injury in the first quarter.
West Virginia’s line couldn’t like the sack-diminished 2.3-yards per carry, particularly against a UT defense that came in allowing more than 4.6 per rush. But again, there were many occasions when the defense was plus-one or plus-two in the box, making it tough to create holes. That was the case on the back-to-back short-yardage stops that gave Texas the ball back inside the final three minutes with a chance to rally.
“It’s tough to take,” said Dana Holgorsen. “We called two consecutive run plays and we didn’t get a yard. It’s tough to take. I didn’t know what else to call.”
There was a developing second-half story involving center Pat Eger, whose two off-target snaps got Holgorsen hot. In the third quarter, Eger also allowed nose tackle Malcom Brown to come unblocked on what became a tipped interception, and the senior was gone on the next series, replaced by Tyler Orlosky who promptly delivered a block that sprang Sims on a 33-yard run.
“Snaps were awful,” Holgorsen said. “He’s a team captain and it means more to him than probably anybody on the team. That being said, if the snaps are bad and he’s not doing what we need him to do, then we’re going to put somebody else in there.”
The arrow would be pointing up if the stock grade was based solely on UT’s first 12 possessions, but we’ve heard it’s a 60-minute game and WVU’s second-half woes resurfaced. Yes, the Mountaineers held the vaunted Texas running game to 3.7 yards per carry, but that average climbed to 5.4 after intermission. And Texas got rolling even after top tailback Johnathan Gray left with a season-ending Achilles injury.
Will Clarke (five tackles) made West Virginia’s lone sack, a disappointment considering all the blitzes Keith Patterson dialed up. Nose tackle Shaq Rowell was in on seven stops as UT ran it 41 times, and Kyle Rose made three stops and recovered a fumble.
WVU didn’t get much out of Dontrill Hyman, back after missing two games, or Noble Nwachukwu, the redshirt freshman who enjoyed a breakthrough game at TCU.
West Virginia linebacker Jared Barber made 14 tackles against Texas before suffering a right knee injury in overtime.
Jared Barber made a game-high 14 stops and is tied with safety Darwin Cook for the overall team lead at 71. But either Barber or Cook busted an assignment by not following fullback Alex De La Torre into the flat on UT’s decisive touchdown in overtime. It was a bunched-up, third-and-goal play from the 2 and obviously WVU was hyped to clog the running lanes. Hey, that’s why they call it play-action.
Worse for Barber, his right knee gave way on a cut block by the running back, and the junior had to be helped from the field.
Buck linebacker Brandon Golson had only one stop and one hurry, not nearly the impact needed with Case McCoy dropping back 50 times.
Isaiah Bruce was back in the starting lineup at Spur—with Patterson opening in the 3-4—and made six stops and had one TFL. Late in regulation, when WVU went to a six-DB, two-linebacker look, Bruce was manning the middle and got caught in traffic on Malcolm Brown’s 27-yard run to the 11.
For the second straight week, Nick Kwiatkoski caught a tipped interception. He also made nine stops.
Pregame storylines don’t necessarily hold true to form, and such was the case Saturday. West Virginia feared the Texas running game, but it was McCoy who put the game on his shoulders.
He completed 27-of-49 passes for 283 yards and threw for a career-high three touchdowns, zipping passes a step ahead of the blitzes. That was the deal on a fourth-and-7 connection to Jaxon Shipley as UT drove to force overtime (with an assist to Travis Bell’s soft coverage).
McCoy’s lone interception hit a receiver between the numbers only to be dislodged by K.J. Dillon into the hands of Kwiatkoski.
About Dillon: He made three stops, including a TFL, and was featured numerous times as an edge blitzer. The sophomore broke up two passes, including a potential touchdown throw to Shipley. On one play in which Shipley got the better of him, Dillon grabbed on and was flagged for holding—a flag that erased a Cook interception.
Cook made six tops and 1.5 TFLs but was late covering Marcus Johnson on a 14-yard third-down catch that led to Texas’ OT touchdown.
Daryl Worley, considered WVU’s best cover corner as a true freshman, had a pass breakup and a few other solid moments in coverage but was beaten badly on a 49-yard score by Mike Davis.
The coverage struggles of heavy-hitting safety Karl Joseph (six tackles) have been noted, but he made McCoy drop in a perfect pass on Shipley’s first touchdown catch of the season.
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West Virginia’s Jewone Snow blocks a Texas punt leading to a first-quarter safety.
Several WVU highlights with no egregious breakdowns. On UT’s opening series, Jewone Snow split twin protectors and blocked a punt for a safety, and Alford enjoyed kick returns of 32 and 43 yards.
The specialists were solid: Josh Lambert ran his string of made field goals to 10 with a 30-yarder, and Nick O’Tool averaged 46.7 yards on seven punts. However, O’Tool’s final effort was a subpar 30-yard chunk that allowed UT to begin its game-tying drive at its 36.
Despite a fast start and a roaring near-capacity crowd, another winnable game escaped West Virginia, which dropped to 3-5 at home in Big 12 games. In four of those losses, WVU held second-half leads.
Whether you attribute those late-game fades to depth issues or a defeatist mindset, it’s ultimately up to Holgorsen’s staff to find a remedy. Remember, Texas was crushed at BYU and divinely blessed to win at Iowa State—this is hardly one of Mack Brown’s best teams. But it was gutsy enough to keep its poise and confidence even when trailing by double-digits at Mountaineer Field.
Some may criticize WVU’s play-calling for ending the game with three straight incompletions from the 4, and not giving Sims a chance at the equalizer. But the second-down play actually was a run call that Millard correctly checked into a pass—a throw foiled by the QB’s inability to throw around a blitzing corner. The final two throws were good looks foiled by WVU’s own execution failures.
Blame execution failures on what you will.