It’s been said that you’ll see everything if you live long enough. And after everything I saw in Thursday night’s Baylor-West Virginia game, I’m beginning to wonder if I’ve already lived so long that Wilford Brimley was one of my high school classmates.
A random, disjointed game deserves random, disjointed thoughts, so here they are.
How did that happen?
I’ve jogged my memory trying to think of another instance in which I saw a team take a delay of game prior to a crucial late field goal with a full complement of timeouts still sitting in its back pocket.
It’s possible I’ve seen it in a decade covering games at the high school level, where most stadiums don’t have a play clock. But even that’s unlikely, because on-field officials at that level usually do a good job of communicating when time is running low.
It would stand to reason that I’ve seen it happen to a team that’s out of timeouts, because how else would you get a delay of game in the fourth quarter? But I can’t think of an example of that, either. Teams who are out of timeouts tend to be hyper-aware of the clock. Especially if they’re on the wrong side of the scoreboard.
So to the best of my memory, West Virginia’s delay of game prior to a potential game-tying 43-yard field goal qualifies as a first. And if I’m somehow forgetting the time I saw such a miscue, I’m confident it didn’t happen right before the kicker was attempting his first career field goal.
For it to happen to a coach who has demonstrated as much attention to detail as Neal Brown does makes it all the more befuddling. Maybe it’s just proof that football is an unpredictable game and anyone is capable of getting lost in the moment.
Brown wasn’t in the mood to give a full breakdown of how such a thing could happen, keeping it simple at “It’s my fault.”
That accountability is a key first step in moving past such a glaring error.
If a grad assistant or anyone else who was supposed to watch the clock dropped the ball in that situation, we’ll never know. Brown is owning it. It’s also a necessary move to prevent losing a locker room that knows it did enough to win. Brown preaches accountability, and now players have proof that he also practices it.
Bad snaps happen, especially in a shotgun-heavy era. Sometimes they can lose you a good 20 yards or so.
But I can also say with complete certainty that I’ve never seen a team lose half a football field solely on poor snapping. The Mountaineers lost 48 yards on two errant snaps, both of which eliminated golden scoring opportunities.
“Neither of them were supposed to be snapped yet,” Brown said. “I can’t explain them, honestly.”
It’s a telling indictment of West Virginia’s depth that it had to keep its center that didn’t know the snap count in the game.
The center who started the season, Josh Sills – who isn’t even a center but had to move there anyway – is out for the year. The center who replaced him, Chase Behrndt, was injured against Baylor and unavailable to move back over from right guard.
The lone remaining body behind Briason Mays was Adam Stilley, a vastly undersized matchup for the nose guards in Baylor’s three-man front.
“It does [tie your hands],” Brown said of West Virginia’s lack of depth. “But here’s the deal. We had a chance to win the game… it is what it is.”
The Wright stuff
This Mountaineer turned on the burners for 95 yards 💨 pic.twitter.com/ESiYLj7AtS
— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) November 1, 2019
It was the football equivalent of a guy hitting a grand slam in his first career plate appearance.
Freshman Winston Wright, sent out to return a kickoff for the first time in his college career, turned on the jets and brought it back for a 95-yard touchdown to tie the game. That’s more like a scene out of “Forrest Gump” than something you see in real life.
But it happened.
“Coach just came up to me on the sideline and told me I was going in,” Wright said. “I was looking forward to it and I just did what we were doing in practice all week. I just wanted to make a play. I wanted to bring a spark to my team.”
He certainly did.
Baylor wins a slugfest?
If you’ve never seen Baylor win a defensive battle, you’re not alone.
Baylor and West Virginia set a certain tone with a 70-63 game the first time they played one another, and the Bears have spent much of the ensuing seven seasons with an identity that starts and ends on the offensive side of the ball.
Thursday night’s game marked the first time Baylor won a game in which it scored fewer than 20 points since Sept. 30, 2006, when it beat Kansas State 17-3. Two weeks later, that same Baylor defense allowed 63 points to Texas.
This year’s Bears played like Hall of Fame linebacker Mike Singletary was still in their lineup, limiting West Virginia to 14 rushing yards on 26 attempts. It was West Virginia’s lowest rushing total since Syracuse held the Mountaineers to minus-10 yards in 1996.
Of course, WVU’s rushing stats are badly skewed by the two errant snaps. With those removed from the picture, the Mountaineers managed a still shoddy but far from historically inept 77 yards on 24 carries.