After watching the WVU basketball team score a huge victory at Virginia, it was time for Mountaineer fans to sit back and enjoy the final regular season football game against the Baylor Bears.
After a slow start, the Mountaineers regrouped, and then withstood a late Baylor rally for a 24-21 victory.
The first half, as was the whole game, was interesting to say the least.
The Bears took the ball first and West Virginia was able to get the crowd hyped early when Marvin Gross picked off quarterback Zach Smith on a play where Gross was in the right place at the right time and hauled in the deflection.
But the Mountaineers (10-2, 7-2 Big 12) failed to capitalize and in just four plays turned the ball over on downs.
After getting to Baylor to match with a punt of their own, WVU went back to work on the offensive side. Justin Crawford rumbled for 11 yards and two plays later, freshman Marcus Simms made an acrobatic catch for 12 more. However, the offense stalled at the Bears 29-yard line and Mike Molina missed a 46-yard field goal that kept the game scoreless.
Two possessions later, the Mountaineers finally got going, but it was the Baylor defense to thank. The Bears (6-6, 3-6 Big 12) committed seven penalties that allowed WVU to get in Baylor territory, but a couple missed throws by Skyler Howard forced Molina to kick another field goal, this one a 50-yarder which he made, and West Virginia took a 3-0 lead late in the first quarter.
Baylor answered on the ensuing drive when early in the series Terence Williams had a 48-yard run down the left sideline. Three plays later, Williams crossed the goal line and gave the Bears a 7-3 lead.
Howard continued to miss open receivers including a wide open Daikiel Shorts that would have converted a 3rd-and-15, but the ball sailed over his head forcing a punt back to the Bears.
It only took them two plays for Smith to hit K.D. Cannon for a 60-yard touchdown and Baylor extended their lead to 14-3, stunning the home crowd for the time being.
The Mountaineers finally put together a drive of their own doing as Dana Holgorsen rode Crawford and Martell Pettaway down the field. Crawford gained 30 yards on the drive and Pettaway had 19. The drive concluded on the 15th play when Shorts hauled in a 4th-and-3 pass where he jumped and drug his foot along the back of the end zone and WVU trimmed the deficit to 14-10 at the break.
Both teams traded punts twice to open the third and on Baylor’s second series, it was Gross again, this time with a sack, that forced the Bears off the field after moving it well prior to that.
Crawford broke through the line for a 63 yard gain on the following drive, but three straight plays that included a sack, a four yard run and a dropped pass brought Molina back on the field for a field goal attempt. Except Molina hooked it left, missed it badly and the boo birds rang over Milan Puskar Stadium.
When the Mountaineers got the ball back, Crawford started the series with a nice 9-yard run then Shorts hauled in a 7-yard catch for a first down. Three plays later, lightning finally struck. Howard, who was still struggling mightily at the time, made a perfect throw to Gary Jennings over the middle of the field and the sophomore outran the Baylor secondary for a 58-yard touchdown, and the Mountaineer grabbed the lead at 17-14 with 2:02 left in the third period.
The Bears got the ball back looking to answer, but Gross’ career game continued with a fury as he sacked Smith again and forced a fumble, and Darrien Howard corralled it for WVU.
The Mountaineers took advantage even though they had to wait until fourth down to do. Howard snapped the ball quickly and got into the end zone with help off a push by Elijah Wellman as WVU extended their lead to 24-14 just three seconds into the fourth quarter.
Baylor scored late on a pass to Ishmael Zamora that made the score 24-21 and then Orion Stewart recovered an onside kick as things started looking gloomier than the weather for West Virginia. However, it got sunnier when the officials reviewed the play and noted an illegal block against Baylor and the ball had to be re-kicked. On the second attempt, West Virginia’s Trevon Wesco jumped on the ball and recovered it.
After the Mountaineers failed to gain a first down to run out the clock, Baylor had one more chance. They got near midfield before Noble Nwachukwu forced a fumble that a Bears lineman picked up and shuffled forward. The play was reviewed and upheld as Darrien Howard recovered his second fumble of the night and WVU sealed the deal.
Crawford led the offense with 210 yards on 28 carries. Pettaway picked up 63 yards on 16 totes.
Howard was just 10-for-26 for only 111 yards. He did throw two touchdowns.