WVU defense gets stop when it matters most
Baylor has lost a program record 13 consecutive games with two of those defeats during that stretch coming at the hands of West Virginia.
But it hasn’t been a cake walk either, as both games have come down to the Mountaineers successfully recovering an onside kick to avoid furious comeback bids by the Bears.
“We made a play at the end,” head coach Dana Holgorsen said.
West Virginia erased an 18-point second half deficit a week ago to steal a win away from Texas Tech and was on the verge of seeing the same thing happen to them the following week.
The Mountaineers defense had largely kept the Bears offense in check through three quarters holding Baylor to 13-points with 267 yards and only 6 yards rushing.
That’s when it all changed with second-string quarterback Charlie Brewer being inserted into the game.
Leading 38-13 in the fourth quarter, Baylor strung together 23-unanswered points to bring the score to within two setting up the biggest play of the game.
The Bears piled up 230 yards and 121 yards on the ground in that final quarter. It wasn’t just on the defense though as the Mountaineers offense would generate only 11 yards with one first down and the Bears would recover an onside kick to steal an extra possession.
Clinging to that 38-36 advantage, Baylor lined up for a tying two-point conversion attempt before the Mountaineers took a timeout. Coordinator Tony Gibson eyeballed the Baylor offensive alignment before taking the break for two very important reasons.
One was to get an idea of what the Bears could be running and secondly to get his players some rest considering that the starters played almost the entirety of the game.
Gibson expected Baylor to attempt a sprint out throwback pass, so he elected to back his players off in a zone defense. The Mountaineers showed initial pressure before falling out to avoid giving Brewer an easy window to fit the ball into.
On the play, senior Xavier Preston read the play well and was able to defeat his blocker to get to Brewer and bring him to the ground for the sack.
In a quarter where West Virginia couldn’t get a stop anywhere, it came through in the biggest moment.
“Those kids never quit and were dead tired,” Gibson said.
The Mountaineers would recover the ensuing on-side kick attempt this time to allow the Mountaineers to run out the remainder of the clock and avoid the complete comeback.
The win was the first for West Virginia in Waco, snapping a two-game skid as well as giving Baylor its first loss on homecoming weekend in the past seven years. Another hard-fought battle with the Bears, but one that brought a sigh of relief to the coaching staff when the clock hit zero.
“It was a good way to put a bow on it,” Gibson said.