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November 2, 2013

WVU breaks skid, defeats TCU 30-27 in OT

With bowl hopes potentially on the line, the West Virginia Mountaineers stepped up to the plate in perhaps the most crucial time of the season. Aided by a strong performance from Charles Sims, the Mountaineers snapped a three-game skid, defeating the TCU Horned Frogs in overtime 30-27 Saturday in Fort Worth.

West Virginia won the coin toss against and deferred to the second half, but it really would not matter much once the game got underway. Making only his third start of the season, TCU quarterback Casey Pachall threw a low-flying pass on the first play of the game. Intending to hit a receiver on the slant, Pachall instead connected with the extended arm of Mountaineer defensive lineman Kyle Rose.

The tipped pass fell straight into the waiting arms of Nick Kwiatkoski for his first pick of the season, placing the Mountaineers deep into Horned Frog territory at the TCU 25-yard line.

West Virginia would try to take advantage of the early turnover with their ground game, giving the ball to running back Charles Sims on the first three plays of the drive. Sims would scamper for a first down on the opening play, but the offense eventually would stall in the shadow of the TCU end zone.

Josh Lambert would be called on to kick a short 24-yard field goal, putting the Mountaineers on the board first, 3-0.

The Horned Frogs would manage to shake off an early miscue and attack the West Virginia defense on the ensuing drive. Led behind an efficient passing performance by Pachall, highlighted by a 14-yard catch by LaDarius Brown on third-and-seven, the Horned Frogs pushed the ball deep into West Virginia territory.

But Keith Patterson's defense would step up in the red zone, holding TCU to a short 22-yard field goal, tying the game at three midway through the first quarter.

After starting out the season rather lethargic at times on offense, TCU looked like a completely different unit early in the first half under the direction of Pachall. The senior quarterback, making his fourth game appearance of the season, led the Horned Frogs on a strong, efficient drive, going 80-yards in eight plays, ending with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Josh Doctson. The touchdown gave TCU its first lead of the game at 10-3.

Meanwhile, the struggles continued for West Virginia's offense, as a strong Horned Frogs front continued to put pressure on Trickett. The Mountaineers were unable to convert following the TCU touchdown, punting the ball back to Pachall and his offense as the first quarter came to a close.

While the Mountaineers continued to struggle finding a rhythm on offense, the Horned Frogs were having no such issues. After being arguably one of the worst offenses in the Big 12 this season, the Horned Frogs found a new life against the Mountaineers in the first half behind the arm of Pachall.

On their ensuing drive, Pachall would again lead TCU down the field in impressive fashion, completing five of six passing, with the final toss going to wideout David Porter for the 12-yard score. The touchdown extended TCU's advantage yet again, putting them up 17-3.

After both teams swapped a pair of three-and-outs, the Mountaineers finally found some life on offense thanks in part to the ground game. With shades of the 2012 offense, Coach Holgorsen's offense put together a quick three play, 86-yard drive, ending with a 31-yard touchdown run by Sims. The score cut into West Virginia's deficit as the Horned Frogs maintained a 17-10 advantage.

And just like that, it felt like a new game. The West Virginia defense, after being scorched on the previous three drives by Pachall and TCU, put together a strong effort, forcing the Horned Frogs to punt the ball back to the Mountaineers with a chance to tie the game prior to halftime.

Unfortunately, however, the Mountaineers would fail to take advantage in the momentum shift. A 16-yard run by Sims to open up the drive gave the offense hope, but the drive would simply stall, giving the ball back to TCU's offense with 4:12 remaining in the half.

TCU would try to reignite their early offensive success on the ensuing drive, moving the ball into West Virginia territory seemingly with ease. But a pair of costly penalties pushed the Horned Frogs out of field goal range, punting the ball back to West Virginia with just over two minutes remaining in the half.

It looked like the Mountaineers might be able to put together a decent two-minute drill. Led by a number of solid passes from Trickett, the Mountaineers pushed the ball into TCU territory with 30 seconds left and field goal range in sight.

But a bad deep pass from Trickett into double coverage would be picked off by Jeff Hooker, ending the drive and half for West Virginia.

The Mountaineers would receive the ball to begin the second half and pick up where they left off on the ground game. After gaining 80 yards and a touchdown in the first half, Sims would open up the second appearing to be West Virginia's offensive workhorse. Sims would gain 28 yards on three carries in the opening drive to try and spark the offense.

But beyond Sims, the Mountaineers failed to gain any offensive momentum, forcing a quick punt to TCU's 19-yard line.

Both squads would trade rocky offensive series over much of the third quarter, with each team getting into a rhythm at times but failing to capitalize.

It appeared that TCU had a pick-six at one point, with Chris Hackett picking off an underthrown Trickett pass and returning it for the score. But a defensive holding call in the secondary would negate the touchdown, giving West Virginia new hope and keeping the score 17-10.

The Mountaineers would fail to capitalize off the good fortune, punting the ball away several plays later.
Following another TCU punt, the Mountaineers and Horned Frogs would exchange turnovers deep in West Virginia territory. On the first play of West Virginia's drive, a terrible read by Trickett fell right into the hands of TCU's Dawson for the interception. It appeared that the Horned Frogs would punch the ball in for an easy touchdown.

But on the ensuing play, TCU quarterback/wide receiver Trevor Boykin would give the Mountaineers an early Christmas gift in the form of a timely fumble. The Mountaineer's Jared Barber would fall on the loose ball at the four-yard line to give West Virginia new life yet again.

Despite his inconsistent play on the day, Trickett would capitalize on the fumble, hitting a streaking Daikiel Shorts on back-to-back plays, gaining 17 and 38 yards each to put West Virginia in field goal range.

From there the Mountaineers could not take advantage of the field position, settling for a 46-yard field goal by Lambert to cut into the deficit. TCU still maintained a 17-13 lead with 12:21 remaining in the contest.

It seemed like momentum shifted in the favor of West Virginia after the third quarter stalemate with the previous drive, and it would carry over to the defense.

On the first play of TCU's drive, Pachall would throw a slightly off-target corner pass toward the sidelines. While the pass initially looked like it would fall short, cornerback Ishmael Banks made a tremendous diving catch to pick off Pachall at the West Virginia 45.

And with that interception, the Mountaineers would finally find an offensive rhythm. For the first time in the game, Trickett led a strong, balanced offensive drive, ending with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Cody Clay. The score gave West Virginia a hard-fought 20-13 lead with 8:55 remaining in the contest.

After grabbing the key interception on their following drive, the West Virginia defense attempted to give its offensive counterpart another shot at the throat of TCU. On a crucial TCU third down, protection broke down for Pachall resulting in a swarm of Mountaineers forcing a key fumble. West Virginia's Darwin Cook would fall on the fumble at the 13-yard line, giving the Mountaineers tremendous field position with 8:00 remaining.

Three plays later, the Mountaineer's workhorse, Sims, would get his second touchdown of the day, catching a pass on the flat before going 13-yards for the score. The touchdown extended West Virginia's lead, 27-17.

TCU would not go down without a fight, however, pushing their ensuing offensive effort deep into West Virginia territory. Eventually, Pachall would connect with Porter in the back of the end zone for his second touchdown reception of the game. The score cut into West Virginia's lead, with the Mountaineers holding a 27-24 advantage with just 3:01 remaining.

With 1:19 remaining in the contest, the Horned Frogs would get another chance to tie the game with a field goal or win with an overtime. Starting at their own 33-yard line, TCU would quickly move the ball into field goal range, mirroring the contest between these two teams in 2012.

TCU kicker Jaden Oberkrom would continue the overtime trend between the Mountaineers and Horned Frogs, nailing a 45-yard kick to send the game into overtime.

West Virginia won the toss and elected to start the overtime series on defense, which would prove greatly beneficial for the Mountaineers. The Mountaineer defense, and a little luck, pushed the Horned Frogs back 20 yards from the initial line of scrimmage, forcing a failed 62-yard field goal attempt.

With this is mind, the Mountaineers took the ball knowing they only had to kick a field goal for the win. Several plays later, Josh Lambert would be called on yet again to pull off the victory.

From 35-yards out, Lambert would give the Mountaineers their first victory in over a month, keeping West Virginia's bowl hopes alive.

Final score: West Virginia 30, TCU 27.

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