WACO, Texas — “It counts as one loss,” summarized head damage controller Dana Holgorsen.
And he was correct. It only counts as one yecchy, discommodious, here-we-fold-again, confidence-stripping loss. Just like the Hindenburg only counted as one fire.
With that reassurance in mind, let’s recap West Virginia’s supporting role in Saturday night’s 3-hour and 50-minute prime-time infomercial for the advancement of Baylor athletics:
With Clint Trickett focusing deep on seemingly every throw, this didn’t resemble WVU’s quick-game Air Raid. But Holgorsen and offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson suggested those repeated downfield shots against man coverage targeted the vulnerable points of Baylor’s box-loaded defense.
The way Trickett kept his sore right arm tucked to his side, it’s surprising he had any zip on those deep throws. He made 17 attempts of 20-plus yards downfield (including three that resulted in pass interference flags), all of which added up to an ugly 9-of-28 passing night for 161 yards, one TD and one interception. Baylor defensive backs did him a favor by dropping two more potential interceptions.
Paul Millard—inserted twice in the first half when Holgorsen was perturbed by Trickett’s inability to interpret sideline signals—also played the majority of the fourth period and finished 8-of-13 for 115 yards with two touchdowns.
Asked who the starter was heading into the bye week, Dawson said “It’s Clint.” And he said it with only a momentary pause.
Despite finding few holes, Charles Sims ran for 92 yards on 19 carries. His 39-yard touchdown run in the third quarter came after making two tacklers miss near the line of scrimmage. After catching 13 passes in his previous two games, Sims’ role in the passing game diminished (two receptions for 16 yards) with Trickett looking downfield almost exclusively.
Dreamius Smith had a 19-yard run in the fourth quarter but otherwise managed 7 yards on seven carries. He never had a chance on a first-quarter fourth-and-2 at WVU’s 49, with Baylor overloading the line.
Cody Clay stalled a first-quarter drive with a holding call after he was outmanned by an edge rusher. The big blocking back, who made three first-down grabs against Oklahoma State, was blanketed on a fourth-and-6 target at the Baylor 10.
Working most of the night against man coverage from Baylor’s two senior cornerbacks, Kevin White finished with seven catches for 130 yards and two touchdowns. (In fairness, though, his second score came on a 1-yard fade route against 5-foot-11 freshman Ryan Reid.)
At the opposite outside receiver, Ronald Carswell forced two pass interference flags and deserved a third (somehow Baylor’s Demetri Goodson got away with a blatant first-quarter grab downfield). The highlight for Carswell was the long touchdown catch on a ball Millard winged into double-coverage.
Daikiel Shorts only had two catches for 35 yards but both were leaping, athletic grabs against tight coverage. The freshman continues to impress with concentration and ball-tracking skills.
Ivan McCartney missed the game reportedly with concussion symptoms lingering from the win over OSU.
Unable to contain Baylor’s blitzes, the WVU line surrendered seven quarterback hurries and four sacks (with a fifth negated by a face-mask). West Virginia’s running game didn’t fare much better, netting 3.5 yards per carry.
On a perfectly staged third-and-10 screen play, Quinton Spain was escorting Sims on what looked to be a huge gainer. But safety Ahmad Dixon slipped past Spain and tracked down Sims for only a gain of 8. On the next snap, WVU’s fourth-and-2 run near midfield was ambushed by weakside linebacker Eddie Lackey barreling through unblocked.
Spain had a knockdown block on Sims’ third-quarter touchdown run but left soon after with an undisclosed injury—a scary proposition for a unit that has been uneven all season.
Redshirt freshman tackle Adam Pankey, playing in his second game since returning from offseason knee surgery, was properly flagged for targeting on a peel-back block against defensive lineman Byron Bonds late in the fourth quarter. Pankey must sit out the opening half of WVU’s next game the Texas Tech.
Baylor ran wild for 468 yards—311 more than WVU allowed on average in its first five games—and scored eight rushing touchdowns, doubling what the Mountaineers had allowed all season.
Heisman hopeful Lache Seastrunk, who would be considered lightning-quick if lightning was quicker, gained 172 yards on 15 carries. But even Baylor’s backups posted impressive numbers against a WVU defensive line that was overmatched: See Shock Linwood (14 for 126 yards), Glasco Martin (12 for 63 yards) and Devin Chafin (10 for 56 yards). The
After generating so much penetration in earlier games, the trio of Will Clarke, Shaq Rowell and Dontrill Hyman were pushed around by Baylor’s offensive line. On an all-around deplorable night for West Virginia’s defense, the line’s soft play was the primary reason record speculators starting looking the FBS single-game yardage mark 617 yards at halftime. (Alas, Houston’s 1,021-yard performance from 1989 remains atop the list, as Baylor settled for a Big 12-record 864.)
The unit clearly could have used Nick Kwiatkoski, who missed his second consecutive game with what coaches have labeled a hamstring injury. But neither Kwiatkoski, or Sam Huff for matter, would have made a difference Saturday night.
Jared Barber made a team-high 11 tackles but missed a chance to drop Seastrunk behind the line on what became an 80-yard touchdown run. (Doug Rigg also missed a tackle on the same play before Seastrunk bounced outside.)
Rigg (nine tackles) allowed Jordan Najvar to slip through his purview untouched on an 18-yard catch that bailed Baylor out of a second-and-22 situation.
On the outside, Brandon Golson made six stops and Isaiah Bruce had four, but neither was much of a factor. On a night when Baylor ran 95 plays, pay less attention to the elevated tackle totals and more focus on the 9.1 yards per snap.
From the game’s third play this unit was in trouble, when slot receiver Antwan Goodley enjoyed a clean release off the line of scrimmage and race untouched on a 61-yard touchdown catch. (Cornerback Travis Bell was lined up on Goodly presnap but picked up a man motioning outside without a replacement picking up the slot responsibility.)
On Baylor’s second touchdown drive, Bell surrendered an inside slant to Goodley on third-and-7, despite the receiver lining up only a couple steps from the boundary.
Goodley later used his physicality to beat Bell on a 42-yard catch and finished with 170 yards on seven grabs. Bell’s difficult night ended on a positive note when he intercepted backup quarterback Seth Russell in the final four minutes, then lateraled to Darwin Cook for a 32-yard touchdown return.
Cook also picked off Russell, as WVU managed some success against Baylor’s second-stringers.
Starting quarterback Bryce Petty fared much better, hitting on 17-of-25 passes for 347 yards despite suffering three drops on a first-half drive that ended in a touchdown anyway. He was lifted after Baylor’s first drive of the second half leading 63-21. The junior’s only ill-advised throw was a first-half force that became Daryl Worley first college interception.
Kevin Reese burned Icky Banks on a self-tipped 47-yard touchdown, and Clay Fuller was left uncovered in the slot several times on his way to a four-catch 55-yard night.
Defensive coordinator Keith Patterson on the debacle: “There were a lot of things that are uncharacteristic of what I’ve seen throughout fall camp and the season.”
For once a fumbled punt went went WVU’s way, as Levi Norwood muffed a fair catch that trickled into the end zone where Joseph recovered for a touchdown. (Credit Bruce, Ricky Rumph and John DePalma for being on the spot, and Nick O’Toole for getting ample hang time in the Waco winds.)
O’Toole averaged 43.7 on seven punts, which is seven more than Baylor had. The Bears kicked off plenty, though, and Wendell Smallwood averaged 22 yards per kick return—not dazzling, but a large uptick from WVU’s previous efforts.
Trailing by 31 with 3:01 to play in the game, WVU attempted an onside kick that Shorts recovered.
The past three weeks have produced two outright embarrassments sandwiched around an upset of then-No. 11 Oklahoma State. (Do we dare to guess what frame of mind West Virginia will show when Texas Tech visits Morgantown in two weeks?)
While it’s possible this is an overmatched roster that simply played over its head against Oklahoma and OSU, the inability of WVU to keep the Baylor game competitive for even one quarter reflects foundational cracks Holgorsen and his staff must fix.
The interaction between Holgorsen and Trickett feels far from constructive, and the yo-yoing of quarterbacks mid-series reveals frustrations are boiling over. Trickett’s ailing shoulder clouds the issue somewhat, but clearly there’s doubt as to when or if he’ll become capable of operating the offense to the staff’s liking.