West Virginia Football Falls to TCU Despite Solid Effort in Close Game
MORGANTOWN, W.Va – Coming off the heels of one of the worst losses for the program in a while, West Virginia had nothing more to lose and so much to gain if they could knock off the undefeated Horned Frogs. But hanging with TCU was going to be a tall task for a banged up West Virginia team.
WVU did take an early 7-0 lead after their defense was able to stop quarterback Max Duggan and the TCU offense to open the game. Running back CJ Donaldson hammered the ball in for the first score following three straight run attempts in the red zone. The Mountaineers showed that they were going to stick to the balanced offense strategy despite being without Tony Mathis.
The WVU lead did not last long though, as what defensive lineman Sean Martin brought up earlier in the week about this being a new Duggan was proven true. Duggan, who has taken his game to another level this season under new head coach Sonny Dykes, was able to find one of his favorite big play targets senior wide receiver Taye Barber for a 71-yard touchdown. Barber extended the play, running by WVU defenders and all the way into the end zone.
But unlike the week earlier in Lubbock, West Virginia was not going to just go away and lay down for the number 7 ranked team in the country. And the Mountaineers kept going back to what was working in Donaldson. The freshman back carried WVU throughout most of their second scoring drive, finishing it off early in the second quarter. WVU once again was up by a touchdown, 14-7.
A highlight of the first half for WVU was something that didn’t impact the scoreboard. Dante Stills broke the program’s all-time record for tackles for a loss. The record breaker gave him 48.5 in his college career.
Dante Stills Breaks Record for Most Tackles for Loss in West Virginia Football History
Big plays by Duggan and TCU would be the story of the half from that point on. This included a 51-yard run by Kendre Miller, a 55-yard catch by Quentin Johntson and a 33-yard burst by running back Emani Bailey. Prior to Bailey’s run, Justin Johnson capped off a Mountaineer drive with a touchdown of his own with a catch he then ran into pay dirt. WVU was still hanging around at halftime, but TCU did have a 28-21 lead.
Mountaineer Nation was able to breath a sigh of relief when Donaldson returned at the start of the second half after exiting the game in the second quarter with what appeared to be a soldier injury. He helped contribute right away and then a fumble recovery on a WVU punt resulted in a Casey Legg field goal to cut TCU’s lead to 28-24.
A decision by head coach Neal Brown to go for it on 4th down near the goal line switched the momentum to TCU on the failed attempt. That’s where it looked like it was staying following another big play by the Horned Frogs. Duggan connected with Savion Williams on a pass play that ended up going for 57 yards, which became TCU’s largest gain on a single play of the day. The WVU defense stepped up and held TCU to only a field goal off of the turnover.
Daniels threw a stroke to Reese Smith to make the score 34-31, a nail bitter not many expected, in the final minutes. An interception on the ensuring Horned Frogs drive ignited the Mountaineer bench. WVU could not go anywhere with the ball on their next drive and had to give it back TCU with now one less minute on the clock.
It was then up to Duggan to keep his team’s special season alive. He kept the ball himself and ran up the middle with a minute left for a first down to retain possession. This sealed up the win for the Horned Frogs and even eventually led to another score and a 41-31 final.
TCU stays unbeaten, moving to 8-0 on the season, while WVU drops to 3-5. The strong effort for West Virginia comes up short and does not translate to a win.
Can the Mountaineers bring this performance with them throughout the rest of the season and hope for a better result? When will the next win happen to stop the bleeding of a season on the verge of missing bowl eligibility? These are the now the questions that surround Brown and the WVU program, and will until something changes.