You can’t blame anybody, particularly Dana Holgorsen, if he had a case of déjà vu.
Two times this season West Virginia had the football with an opportunity to tie a game on their final possession and fell short in a comeback attempt.
It wouldn’t happen a third time Saturday.
But before we can get to the ending, let’s start from the top. West Virginia found itself trailing by 18-points in the third quarter and Holgorsen openly challenged his team.
“I told them there was a point in the third quarter where I didn’t know if they had it in them because it wasn’t happening,” Holgorsen said.
Perhaps that is exactly what the Mountaineers needed to hear?
In a total team effort, West Virginia reeled off 29-straight points after falling behind 35-17, while blanking Texas Tech on the defensive side and allowing only 16 total yards in the fourth frame.
The comeback was the second largest in Mountaineer Field history and the type of win that has eluded the program of late especially in competitive contests against ranked opponents.
West Virginia snapped a nine game losing streak to ranked teams, which extended out to 16 of the last 18 including both previous attempts this year. It’s the type of season-altering win that can change the fortunes of a team and a breath of fresh air into the program overall.
You can never overstate the importance of one single game, but this could be the win that eventually defines this season and helps bring this West Virginia team together. For at least one quarter, it was the most complete performance of the year in every phase of the game.
“We finished for the first time this year in a close game,” Holgorsen said. “You can’t just pinpoint one side of the ball for that, you have to do it all around.”
But to think it almost never happened.
After cutting an 18-point second-half Red Raiders advantage to three-points, Holgorsen had a decision to make with his football team.
Staring at a fourth and one at the Texas Tech 18-yard line, the Mountaineers were already well within field goal range to attempt to tie the game so the head coach sent the kick team out. But because the operation was slow after considering the possibility to go for it, Holgorsen took a timeout.
After the break, and urging from both his offensive line and coordinator, Holgorsen reversed course and the offense took the field for the Mountaineers.
Grier walked up under center in the full house backfield, took the snap and plunged forward for quite literally inches on the football for the first down. Almost ironic that on a day when Grier lost 36 yards on the ground, it came down to a one-yard sneak to keep the momentum alive.
“I wiggled through there and got a yard,” Grier said.
The Mountaineers would score the go ahead touchdown on the next play on a strike to Ka’Raun White and seize the first lead of the game. They’d never look back.
While the program hasn’t caught breaks at times this year – ultimately football comes down to making plays and it was something that the Mountaineers hadn’t done. Until now.
Now winning this team means little in the grand scheme of things if the Mountaineers don’t continue to move forward starting with a matchup at Baylor next weekend. But it’s worth savoring for now.
“Maybe one of the more exciting locker rooms I’ve seen in quite some time,” Holgorsen said.
In the post-game, Holgorsen seemed almost shocked that the deficit was as much as 18 although he acknowledged the turnaround it took to pull off the feat.
“I guess I should probably make a big deal about that,” he added.