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West Virginia struggles in loss to Minnesota in Guaranteed Rate Bowl

West Virginia team laid an egg offensively in their Guaranteed Rate Bowl matchup with Minnesota on Tuesday night at Chase Field. The team combined to go for a total of 206 yards as opposed to the Golden Gophers 358 yards, as West Virginia lost 18-6.

The West Virginia defense forced two Minnesota turnovers off a first half fumble recovery and a second half interception from Charles Woods, but the offense was unable to take advantage of either takeaway.

On the first drive of the game, West Virginia struggled to move the ball, compared to Minnesota, who came out passing the ball early and often in the first quarter. The passing success included a connection between Tanner Morgan and receiver Dylan Wright for the 22-yard score.

West Virginia’s defensive line stood up in the first quarter and held Minnesota from putting any points on the board as a Dante Stills sack stopped the Golden Gophers on their first drive at the five yard line. The next Minnesota drive then ended with Charles Woods recovering a ball knocked out of the hands of Ky Thomas.

The first score of the day came on a two-yard touchdown rush from Minnesota offensive lineman Daniel Faalele early in the second quarter. The touchdown was set up by a Mar’Keise Iriving 23-yard rush to the left side which was the best rush of the day so far for Minnesota. The Golden Gophers then converted on a two-point conversion on a Brock Annexstad rush for the 8-0 lead.

The Mountaineers first score came on their first drive of the second quarter on a Doege one-yard rush which saw the quarterback dive at the pylon for the touchdown. When West Virginia also tried to go for a two-point conversion, Doege was incomplete on a pass to Bryce Ford-Wheaton, keeping Minnesota’s lead in tact at 8-6.

Thomas showed what the Minnesota rushing attack hype is all about when the running back ripped open a 50-yard rush with two minutes left in the first half. Two plays later, Thomas rushed into the end zone from five yards out for the 15-6 Golden Gopher advantage.

Before the end of the first half, West Virginia owned possession of the ball before Doege was picked off by Michael Dixon looking for a covered receiver. The first half didn’t treat Doege very nicely getting sacked three times and tossing the lone interception before halftime.

Minnesota’s rushing attack got the team in scoring position again for a Matthew Trickett 41-yard field goal to extend the lead to 12 points with five minutes left in the third quarter. The field goal was set up by a Thomas 16-yard rush and an Irving 14-yard run.

Charles Wood stepped up big for the West Virginia defense next picking off a Morgan pass near the sideline at the 45-yard line near the end of the third. Woods enjoyed a successful defensive day being at the center of two Minnesota turnovers.

The game concluded with Minnesota setting up in victory kneel formation near the goal line with around two minutes remaining in regulation. While Morgan took the final kneel, the quarterback threw for only 109 yards, with the ground game hauling most of the work.

The Mountaineers finish the season 6-7, in what was the third year under head coach Neal Brown.

Photo by Dale Sparks, All Pro Photography

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