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November 3, 2012

WVU drops overtime thriller 39-38

It has been a difficult three weeks for the West Virginia Mountaineers.

After dropping two straight games in uninspired performances to Texas Tech and Kansas State, the Mountaineers entered into a bye week looking for answers to both offensive and defensive flaws before welcoming TCU into Morgantown.

But even though the Mountaineers appeared to have answers for many defensive questions, the final result was unsuccessful.

The Mountaineers would drop its matchup with TCU in a 39-38, in a double-overtime thriller, thanks to a gutsy two point conversion call by the Horned Frogs to end the game.

West Virginia received the ball to start the contest, but failed to create any early momentum on offense. The Mountaineers gained a quick first down off an Andrew Buie reception, but quickly floundered, punting the ball away to TCU at their own 35 yard line.

After a month of being beaten into the ground, the West Virginia defense silenced their critics on TCU's first series of the game, holding the Horned Frogs to a clutch three-and-out on third and two. In response, the crowd at Mountaineer Field showed their approval, letting out a thunderous roar as the defense stopped the TCU runner short of the marker.

After a quick defensive stop for the Horned Frogs, TCU's offense went to work, attacking West Virginia's defense effectively on the way to a two yard touchdown run by running back Matthew Tucker. The West Virginia defense did, however, give a more valiant effort than in previous weeks on this series, slowing the Horned Frogs offense at many points in the drive before the first score of the game off the 13 play, 6:49 drive.

The Mountaineer faithful got a surprise when the offense returned to the field for the next series, when running back Shawne Alston made his first appearance since Maryland earlier this season. The senior's presence was not enough to light a spark into the West Virginia offense, however, as the Mountaineers drive died quickly from a three and out.

The crowd got back in the game on the following drive, when the West Virginia defense successfully stopped the TCU offense on a short drive. The Mountaineers played with a bit more emotion in this instance than in previous weeks, seen primarily through the ecstatic reactions of coaches Dana Holgorsen, Eric Slaughter and Keith Patterson during the team's successful third down stop.

The Mountaineers followed this up on offense with success of their own. With an up-tempo attack, the Mountaineers drove the ball 67 yards in seven plays, ending with a sensational 22 yard touchdown pass to J.D. Woods. The drive was highlighted in its closing play when Geno Smith, while getting hit by multiple TCU defenders, completed a pass in tight coverage to Woods for six.

Thriving off the momentum of the touchdown, the West Virginia defense continued their impressive play today by stopping the Horned Frogs in another three-and-out. The stop was the Mountaineers' third three-and-out after four drives to start the game.

The good vibrations were short lived, however, when Geno Smith under threw a pass intended for Stedman Bailey. The throw was intercepted by TCU defender Jason Verrett on their 40 and returned to the WVU 31.

It did not take long for the Horned Frogs to take advantage of the opportunity when quarterback Trevone Boykin heaved a 31 yard strike to receiver Josh Boyce for the touchdown, putting TCU up 14-7.

West Virginia would not be down for long, answering the Horned Frogs' touchdown quickly with a 6 play, 66 yard drive, ending with a43 yard touchdown "pass" to Tavon Austin. The scoring playing was prompted by a very impressive scamper from Austin off the "touch pass" from Smith, evening the score at 14.

After another successful West Virginia defensive stop, the Mountaineers' offense regained control of the ball on their own 39 yard line. The drive, however, would be halted there, as the squad would punt the ball away.

On the proceeding punt, the Mountaineers would find some success, recovering a muffed TCU punt at the nine yard line. It would take the Mountaineers all four plays of the drive to punch the ball in the endzone thanks to an Alston one yard run, putting the Mountaineers up 21-14.

Not to be outdone, the West Virginia defense pressed the Horned Frog's offensive attack on the following drive, forcing a fumble for a seven yard loss before stopping the drive on another three-and-out.

With a little over one minute left in the first half, the Mountaineers regained control of the ball. The series was highlighted by a number of unique plays from the Mountaineers; most notably an apparently quick-kick attempt from Smith that went array. The quarterback would elude pressure from a rushing TCU defender and carry the ball for a West Virginia first down.

The effort, however, was ultimately for naught, as Tyler Bitancurt would push a 50 yard kick right as time expires. The Mountaineers would enter the locker room with their first halftime lead since Baylor in September.

The story of the half, however, was the West Virginia defense. After being crushed by the fans and media alike throughout the season, the unit only gave up 128 yards of total offense in the first half.

And it did not stop there.

The West Virginia defense came out of the half fired up, thanks in part to a fumble, forced by Karl Joseph, his second of the day.

However, on the ensuing offense drive the Mountaineers would fail to fully capitalize on the opportunity. The Horned Frogs defense held West Virginia on a six play drive to three points, as Bitancurt would redeem himself from a first half miss with a 42-yard strike to extend the lead 24-14.

The two squads would swap a pair of three-and-outs, before a TCU score would swing momentum wide open towards the Horned Frogs.

On the West Virginia punt, a low snap to Bitancurt would be picked up by TCU defender Dominic Merka and taken in for six. The score would tighten the gap for the Horned Frogs, 24-21.

The Mountaineers would attempt to thwart an attempted TCU surge on the ensuing drive, as the offense drove 39 down the field to the TCU 26 yard line, before being stopped on a third down attempt. A Bitancurt missed field goal would stall the Mountaineers' drive, putting the ball back in TCU's hands with a little over six minutes remaining in the quarter.

The Horned Frogs would attempt to jump on West Virginia's missed opportunities, driving the ball efficiently 69 yards deep into West Virginia territory. The surge was thwarted, however, thanks to a key interception by Isaiah Bruce on TCU's goal line.

West Virginia's offense was unable to make anything of the turnover, however, putting the ball back into TCU's hands just inside their own territory.

The Horned Frogs would, yet again, put together a strong offensive performance on the following drive, taking the ball 43 yards into the shadow of West Virginia's goal line. West Virginia's defense would once again show resiliency in the red zone, holding TCU to a 26 Jaden Oberkrom field goal, tying the game at 24.

Despite the efforts of the defense, the West Virginia offense yet again was unable to put together a successful drive. The Mountaineers got one first down on a short six play drive before punting the ball back to TCU with just under 10 minutes left in the game.

The teams would exchange failed offensive drives, before West Virginia broke the game wide open thanks to a Tavon Austin touchdown. The senior from Maryland broke loose on a 76 yard punt return for touchdown, putting West Virginia up 31-24 with just over three minutes remaining. The punt return was Austin's first of his career.
The return proved to be crucial for the Mountaineers as the defense held TCU to another three-and-out, its sixth of the game. The Mountaineers, however would fail to convert on offense, punting the ball back to TCU on its own 15-yard line with a little over two minutes remaining.

And it would not take long for TCU to answer the call. Following a monster sack by Josh Francis, TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin would hit a wide open Josh Boyce on a rollout pass for a 94 yard touchdown to tie the game at 31 with 1:28 remaining.

The touchdown proved most crucial, as the Mountaineers were unable to answer. A short Bitancurt field goal attempt near the end of regulation would send the two teams into overtime.

West Virginia would win the toss and elect to start overtime on defense. TCU would choose the south end zone as the venue for action.

As with much of the evening, the West Virginia defense performed when necessary, holding the TCU defense to a field goal attempt on their possession. The Horned Frogs, however, would not convert the attempt, placing the game into West Virginia's hands.

The Mountaineers, however, were unable to answer thanks to a blocked field goal attempt by TCU's Jason Verrett, sending the game into a second overtime.

It would take West Virginia only one play in the second overtime to get the bad taste of the block out of their mouths. Smith would target Stedman Bailey for a 25 yard touchdown strike, his first of the day, giving the Mountaineers a seven point advantage.

Likewise, the Horned Frogs were not fazed by a quick strike. The Horned Frogs would connect on a trick play for a quick touchdown pass from Brandon Cater to Corey Fuller for the score.

In typical Horned Frogs fashion, the team would go for two, and the win, following the score, which they would complete to Boyce for the conversion and the win.

Final score: TCU 39, WVU 38.

The Mountaineers travel to Stillwater, OK next Saturday for a matchup against Oklahoma State. Kick time is TBA.

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