Faced with a fourth and one in the first overtime period of Saturday’s game against the Baylor, West Virginia football coach Neal Brown knew what he wanted to do and did not hesitate.
“If you go for it on fourth down, especially in plus territory, over the course of a season those percentages play in your favor,” Brown explained after the game. “And so we’re always going to be aggressive on fourth down.”
Brown, whose offense was not at its best Saturday, could have chosen to just send the field goal team out there and put three safe points on the board. WVU playing offense first, however, meant that then Baylor would have been able to win the game with a touchdown.
“In overtime, if you look at the numbers, and this was something that was a little bit of an offseason study for me, if you get the ball first field goals do not win in overtime,” Brown said.
West Virginia ran a bootleg with quarterback Jarret Doege, who completed a pass to tight end Mike O’Laughlin for 10 yards and a first down. On the next play, Doege hit wide receiver Bryce Ford-Wheaton in the end zone for a touchdown.
Now leading 21-14, it was up to WVU’s defense to try and stop Baylor from matching the touchdown. On the first play Baylor ran in overtime, quarterback Charlie Brewer hit tight end Ben Sims on a crossing route for a 25-yard touchdown.
Senior defensive tackle Darius Stills said they thought the Bears might try to take a shot on first down, but they were not able to stop it.
“We kind of expect that from a lot of situations in the game, just to see if they can get the momentum going,” Stills said. “After that first touchdown, our guys weren’t flustered at all. You can’t let your last play ruin the next four or five, or even the next one so we just put it behind us and we just moved on.”
Heading into the second overtime, WVU’s defense was put right back out there to try and defend Baylor again. But the Mountaineers were not hung up on allowing that first touchdown.
“The second overtime, it just gave us another chance to go out there and do what we do,” sophomore safety Tykee Smith said. “It allowed us to get out there and get another chance at them.”
After their success in the first overtime, Baylor took another shot on the first play of the second overtime. However, this time Brewer overthrew the ball and Smith was able to intercept it out of the back of the end zone.
“We kind of figured they were going to take another shot because the last over time they took that first shot,” Smith said. “They had the momentum so they wanted to keep the momentum going.”
Now all WVU needed to win the game was a score of any kind. The Mountaineers ran four plays, helped by a Balor penalty, and ended the game on a three-yard touchdown by running back Leddie Brown, his second of the game.
“I was just happy,” the junior running back said. “I was just happy for my team, my team depends on me a lot and I’m just happy that I can come through and make that play.”
Neal Brown said that being aggressive and take chances were not decisions not things he made in the heat of the moment. He also said they were not decisions he would have regretted.
“You can’t just make those [decisions] in the game, those are things that you put thought process in,” Brown said. “I believe in it, even if it didn’t go our way. Field goals don’t win in overtime.”