FORT WORTH – “We lost to a really good football team. I’m tired of saying it, but it’s true,” said Dana Holgorsen following the Mountaineers fourth-straight defeat.
The usually confident Holgorsen had no other choice than to give Heisman Trophy frontrunner Trevone Boykin a high-five following one of his many, many elusive runs during tonight’s Big 12 battle between No. 5 TCU and the unranked Mountaineers.
“With all due respect to Corey Coleman (Baylor) two weeks ago, Boykin is the best player in college football,” he said. “You can’t tackle him. He’s a phenomenal football player and I’m glad we never gotta see him again.”
Boykin completed 32 of 47 passes for 384 yards and three touchdowns through the air. He also took advantage of his quick heels, gaining 84 yards and finding the endzone once on 11 rushing attempts. Backup quarterback Bram Kohlhausen relieved him with just under six minutes remaining in the game.
After winning the coin toss and electing to receive the ball, the first quarter was nothing short of an uphill battle. Holgorsen’s struggling offense just couldn’t seem to get the ball rolling.
Skyler Howard, who’s performance over the last three games left Mountaineer fans questioning his ability to play the starting quarterback role, looked comfortable and quite accurate for the first time since the non-conference slate. However, the usually stout wide receiver core proved disappointing, dropping three sure-fire touchdown passes that were thrown right on target.
“It was pretty apparent in the first half… You gotta make those plays,” said Holgorsen. “We gotta call better plays, we gotta improve our schemes, we gotta coach better and call better plays. Some of it, it’s gotta fall on the players as far as making those plays. It was pretty apparent in the first half. We had a bunch of dropped balls that were huge plays.”
Howard completed 16 of 39 passes for 160 yards, one touchdown and one interception through the air while rushing 10 times for 40 yards.
Since David Sills’ performance against Baylor, the West Virginia receiving core has been the talk of the town. Sills, Gibson and Jovon Durante each dropped what should have been routine receptions.
Sills finished with three receptions for 43 yards. Senior Jordan Thompson also grabbed three, while Shelton Gibson hauled in two including a 32-yard touchdown pass from Skyler Howard.
Wendell Smallwood, still battling a roaring ankle injury that not even he can run away from, led the West Virginia rushers with another 100+ yard performance. Smallwood has only practiced a limited amount over the last week, and none at all the two weeks prior to that.
“We’re beat up mentally and physically,” said Holgorsen. “Our job is to continue to fight. To continue to coach, and continue to fight.”
Late in the fourth quarter, Smallwood left the game with what looked to be, to no surprise, an aggravated ankle. His status will be re-evaluated later this week.
It seems as though Holgorsen has been on the hot seat for a few weeks now, and tonight, he didn’t shy away from admitting that he wasn’t doing the best job.
“If you wanna play and win against a team like TCU and Baylor, or even what looks like Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, you gotta try to score. So, I’ve been saying it, we’ve gotta try to improve offensively to the point where we can score. I’m failing at my job to get that done offensively,” he said.
The West Virginia defense struggled vastly trying to shutdown an on-fire Boykin, which was near impossible, but even more-so with the help of some questionable pass interference calls dealt down as the game progressed.
WVU suffered nine total penalties for 114 lost yards. However, TCU suffered almost equally in that column with nine penalties for 100 yards.
Injuries didn’t help Tony Gibson’s defense play up to their potential, either. Terrell Chestnut, suffering an already-existing injury sustained against Baylor, started the game despite wearing an arm sling for days following the initial injury. He left the game in the second half. Daryl Worley and KJ Dillon also fought through early injuries, returning to the field to play on with an already-thinned secondary.
“It’s college football. Second-teamers, third-teamers need to get in there and play,” said Holgorsen. If you can’t compete at a high level with those guys, you’re gonna be in trouble. TCU was playing with their backup corners.”
On a more positive note, a mono-stricken Josh Lambert nailed a 51-yard field goal, his longest on the season.
With tonight’s game, West Virginia concludes their dreaded four-game gauntlet that consisted of four top 25 teams, including two top-five teams, all of which hold a combined record of 27-1 between them.
With a 3-4 record (0-4 in Big 12), WVU must win three more games to become bowl eligable.
“What I said to them in there (the locker room) was that I love them, and we’re gonna keep fighting and I know they will,” said Holgorsen. “It’s gonna be a hard week for us. This was a tough one, now. And obviously after four-in-a-row tough ones, it gets harder. But let’s see what we’re made of.”