CFB Game Of The Week: TCU vs WVU
A country full of passionate football fans tuned into ABC, eager to see an offensive explosion between TCU and West Virginia. The TCU Horned Frogs came into Morgantown ranked 7th in the new playoff rankings. The Mountaineers knew that this was their opportunity to work up the rankings. The Mountaineer faithful were buzzing early this morning as ESPN’s College Gameday was there. College Gameday’s Lee Corso tried to tame West Virginia, even offering an awful rendition of John Denver’s “Country Roads” before putting on the TCU Mascott’s headgear (his way of picking a victor). With all eyes on this game could West Virginia prove Corso wrong?
The West Virginia offense provided a compelling opening argument. They made a clear effort to establish and lean on their running game. Their 10 play opening drive featured 7 rushing attempts. Kevin White, arguably the nation’s top receiver, kept the drive alive with a dazzling run after a key 3rd down catch. Shortly after, Mario Alford caught Clint Trickett’s first touchdown pass. In a game sold as a sure-to-be-barnburner the Mountaineer offense played their role perfectly.
The Mountaineer crowd was sent in a frenzy after an eye popping hit on the following kickoff. With Clint Trickett off to a fast start, TCU knew they needed to answer the bell. TCU however gave the crowd exactly what they wanted, a quick 3 & out. Three straight incompletions and a punt gave the Mountaineers great field position and an opportunity to gain a two score lead. West Virginia would have to settle for a field goal and a 10 point lead.
The following kickoff showed why weather can play such a factor in football. West Virginia kicked off against the heavy wind and ended up recovering the wobbling football to steal another possession. It was essentially the best-worst kick ever. On a key 3rd down in the red zone, Clint Trickett kept the ball on a naked bootleg. It did not fool the TCU defense and WVU had to kick another field goal. It was a huge win for the Horned Frog defense. The Mountaineers had the ball for 20 more plays than TCU with 3:52 left in the first quarter. With a potent offense TCU was not in a deep hole down 13.
The West Virginia defense was playing aggressive. They were pressing the TCU wide receivers and were not shy about blitzing. The Horned frogs made them pay when Trevone Boykin hit Deante’ Gray on a screen pass, for a 47 yard touchdown. The score was now 13-7 and tension crept into the stadium.
Early in the second quarter West Virginia turned over the football and gave TCU a golden opportunity. They would not take advantage of it however, as they suffered their 3rd 3 & out. Despite it costing them a touchdown, WVU would not back down on defense. They were stifling Boykin and were content allowing some big plays. They knew that it would be awfully tough to sustain drives against this aggressive attack.
Clint Trickett would give TCU the ball right back; he was intercepted forcing a pass to Kevin White. This was the second straight drive for TCU to start after a huge turnover. It began to rain heavily and it was clearly effecting offensive execution. TCU however continued to shoot themselves in the foot. A costly clipping penalty gave them a first and 25. Two plays later Boykin lost his helmet after getting pummeled while scrambling. By rule he had to exit the game for 1 play. The drive was effectively dead and the turnover essentially cost the Mountaineers nothing.
What promised to be an offensive explosion became a defensive slugfest in the rain. The big story was the strong start by the Mountaineers but it was the turnovers that played a critical role in the first half. West Virginia fumbled twice and Trickett was intercepted. Boykin also had 1 interception. Both teams squandered a handful of opportunities. The rain certainly played a factor, clearly the wind did as well but it was the defenses who really were on top of their game. West Virginia did a great job taking away the quick passes for TCU. Boykin struggled for the first time this season, his statistics have usually been video game like. TCU did a great job of confusing Clint Trickett and limiting the explosive plays.
Halftime adjustments did not change anything, both teams went 3 & out to start the second half. The team that could find their offense and sustain it would win. Both teams had a great sense of urgency, every play felt important.
TCU was once again handed a great opportunity. A fumbled snap resulted in the fourth Mountaineers turnover. TCU had failed to capitalize on the previous turnovers. TCU would not be denied & took a one point lead. For the first time of the afternoon the Mountaineers were behind.
The Mountaineers offense ignited instantly to respond to the TCU score. 7 plays after TCU took the lead, WVU took it right back with a Dreamus Smith touchdown run. Smith had a 50 yard run that put WVU in the red zone. We finally seemed to be getting the fast paced back and forth game we expected. With momentum leaning to the blue and gold, the West Virginia defense snatched it completely. Terrell Chestnut recovered and returned a Josh Doctson fumble for a touchdown. West Virginia scored two touchdowns in 15 seconds and led 27-14.
TCU would not go away quietly into the misty cold night. After Paul Dawson intercepted Trickett, tension crept back into the raucous stadium. TCU scored on a 23 B.J. Catalon touchdown run. The score was 27-21. It did not take long for WVU to get another score. Both offenses woke up and they were putting on a show. With Kevin White being mostly taken out of the game Trickett went to Mario Alford for a big play. Trickett hit Alford for a 46 yard bomb. The Mountaineers settled for a field goal but were happy to have a two score lead.
TCU marched down the field with a huge 8 play 51 yard touchdown drive. Every time the Mountaineers thought they had the game in hand, TCU responded with a score. The number 7 team in the country showed unbelievable resolve. The score was now 30-28.
Late in the fourth West Virginia stopped TCU on a controversial 4th & 2. TCU however would get the ball back quickly. With 4 seconds to go Jaden Oberkrom made the winning field goal. TCU was victorious and it will likely haunt Morgantown forever. It was an incredible ball game and sadly but surely there had to be a loser. At the end of the day, you don’t win many games when you turn the ball over 5 times and you settle for 3 field goals. Congratulations must go to TCU who battled their way to a jaw dropping win.