MORGANTOWN, W.Va.– It wasn’t always pretty but the West Virginia University football team pulled out a double overtime thriller against Baylor on Saturday.
There were plenty of positives in the victory but there was also a lot of negatives.
1. The Mountaineers’ defense is the real deal:
When WVU needed it most its defense always stepped up and got the job done. During regulation, the defensive unit held the Bears to just 14 points. Last season Baylor averaged 431.2 yards and 35.2 points per contest but Neal Brown’s squad held them to just 256 yards of total offense. Two weeks ago against Kansas, the Bears’ ground game tallied 203 yards but WVU limited them to 27 yards. John Lovett and Tristan Ebner have been known to destroy defenses but Saturday Lovett had 23 yards and Ebner nine. The Mountaineers tallied six sacks and 11 tackles for lost yardage.
“I was really pleased with our defense overall,” Brown said. “I thought Coach (Jordan) Lesley and Coach (Jahmile) Addae did a great job with our game plan,” said Brown of his co-defensive coordinators. “Our front seven played really well. In the back end, we gave up some passes, but we also made some plays against the pass.”
Darius Stills was a force to reckon with on the d-line. The senior had four tackles. He had 2.5 sacs and 3.5 tackles for loss. Graduate transfer Tony Fields II had 10 tackles, a sack, one breakup and two TFL. Josh Chandler-Semedo and Alonzo Addae both had nine tackles.
Tykee Smith’s huge overtime interception set WVU up for the win.
2. Red Zone Success:
In recent years, the Mountaineers have had their share of struggles in the red zone. However, WVU went 4-for-4, scoring 27 points while Baylor was 1-for-3 in the red zone. This is a big deal for a team that struggles here. The Mountaineers went for it three times on fourth down, including once in the overtime session. All three times WVU got the first down.
3. Turnovers, Turnovers, Turnovers:
Against Oklahoma State turnovers played a large role in the outcome. Turnovers plagued the Mountaineers again on Saturday. Luckily, the defense stepped up and the Bears made several miscues. WVU’s offense had four turnovers and a fumble that the offense recovered. Quarterback Jarret Doege threw two interceptions in the first half.
Once again penalties were an issue for the Mountaineers. There were 12 penalties for 102 yards. There were five false starts and an unsportsmanlike conduct call on Bryce Ford-Wheaton in the second quarter. WVU needs to clean up the non-contact penalties.
5. Special Team Issues Continue:
For the second consecutive week, the Mountaineers made mistake on special teams. In the fourth quarter, Ford-Wheaton made a crucial blunder on special teams that could have cost the game. Alec Sinkfield signaled for a fair catch on a punt but Ford-Wheaton ran into him, causing him to fumble the ball.
6. Hard work and Grit Prevails
While the game wasn’t pretty, the biggest take away was that WVU came out with the win. It was a game full of mental mistakes but there was no quit from the young men in the old gold and blue. The Mountaineers continued to battle the entire game. When the offense blundered, the defense stood tall. When players made mistakes, they returned to the field and gave 110 percent and forgot about their mistakes. Many players redeemed themselves with bigger plays. The offense battled and came through in overtime. In the end, the heart and determination of this team triumphed.
Cover Photo Credit: Ben Queen- USA TODAY SPORTS