No. 7 TCU holds off upset West Virginia 41-31
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The seventh-seeded TCU used four big plays in the first half to hold off upset West Virginia 41-31 in front of a sun-drenched crowd of 50,426 this afternoon at Puskar Stadium. from Milano.
The undefeated Horned Frogs, ranked third in the nation in scoring offense, improved to 8-0, 5-0 under freshman coach Sonny Dykes, mostly based on those explosive first-team plays half time.
TCU’s four scores in the first half covered distances of 71, 55, 51 and 30 yards.
“Our kids competed,” West Virginia coach Neal Brown said afterwards. “People can be mad at me, that’s fine, but those kids fought today.”
On the Frogs’ second possession in the first quarter, quarterback Max Duggan isolated slot receiver Taye Barber on WVU center linebacker Lee Kopbga and threw a pass to midfield which Barber caught and ran through. 71 yards for a touchdown.
Duggan’s second touchdown pass early in the second quarter went to Quentin Johnston wide open on the near sideline for 55 yards when the WVU defender covering him went down.
TCU’s last two scores of the first half were on the ground, one a 51-yard jaunt from Kendre Miller down the middle after a JT Daniels fumble, and the other a 30-yard run from backup running back Emani Bailey with 24 seconds in the half.
West Virginia did its best to stay close to the turbocharged TCU, reaching the end zone on three of its five possessions in the first half.
WVU’s game-opening possession resulted in a 1-yard touchdown from CJ Donaldson to cap an eight-play, 80-yard drive.
Donaldson entered the end zone again to start the second quarter on a 1-yard run, capping a 10-play, 75-yard walk that consumed 4:34 of the clock.
The Mountaineers added another touchdown late in the half when Daniels returned a fourth pass and a goal to Justin Johnson in the near flat to score a 5. That drive covered 89 yards in 15 plays.
West Virginia earned points in its third-quarter opener following odd play. The horned frogs appeared to have stopped the climbers at their own 40, but Noah Daniels was unable to handle At Oliver Straw’s punt at TCU 20 and Malachi Ruffin got the ball back at the 17. There appeared to be kick interference on the play, but it wasn’t called and WVU gained possession inside the red zone.
However, three-pointers only scored 2 yards, which resulted in At Casey Legg’s 33-yard field goal, his 12e successful kick in 12e try this season. That score reduced TCU’s lead to 28-24.
West Virginia had a great opportunity to score more points, moving up from their 42 to TCU 4, but two incomplete passes from Daniels in the end zone gave the ball back to the Horned Frogs on tries.
There was a lot of contact on the receiver Kaden Prather on Daniels’ fourth pitch, but no penalty was called on the play.
“If our kid doesn’t get a chance to make a play, then it has to be pass interference,” Brown said.
Another explosive play flipped the field when Duggan teamed up with Savion Williams for a 57-yard pass at WVU 27, but the Mountaineer defense offered a goal line to force a 30-yard field goal from Griffin Kell.
Freshman linebacker Raleigh Collins III found Johnston on a wide receiver backhand for an 11-yard loss to the 12, forcing TCU to kick the field goal.
But a quick three-shot possession by the WVU offense returned the ball to TCU, who used Miller runs from 21 and 8 yards to throw another field goal and give him a two-possession lead. The Horned Frogs stalled at WVU 25 when Duggan kicked for a 3-yard loss, but Kell made a 46-yard field goal, making it 34-24.
Two pass interference penalties on TCU, one second against Bud Clark while defending a deep pass at Sam Jamesput West Virginia in position for Daniels to fire a 23-yard touchdown pass to Reese Smith, who soaked up a heavy contact while performing a hard hold. It was Smith’s first touchdown this season and second of his career.
After an unsuccessful kick attempt, West Virginia got the football back at 15 when Malachi Ruffin recovered the ball 50-50 from Duggan to tight end Jared Wiley on the near sideline. But an incomplete pass from Daniels, a Jaylen Anderson running for a loss of 3 and another unsuccessful pitch from Daniels to Prather forced West Virginia to pass the ball back to TCU, with the Mountaineers having all three timeouts remaining.
TCU managed to freeze the game with a third conversion and then a 29-yard touchdown from Duggan to Williams on the near side of the field against man coverage with just 20 seconds left on a fourth-and-a-play.
Kell’s conversion kick made the final score 41-31.
West Virginia’s inability to capitalize on two big red-zone opportunities in the third quarter proved to be its undoing this afternoon.
“We didn’t have as much success inside the 10 as we should have. That’s really what came back to bite us,” Brown said.
Duggan completed 16 of 28 passing attempts for 341 yards and three touchdowns and one interception. Miller added 120 yards on just 12 carries, while Barber (99 yards) and Williams (97 yards) nearly passed the 100-yard receiving mark.
Donaldson, who eventually left the game with an injury in the third quarter, led WVU’s offense with 104 yards and two rushing touchdowns. It was the fourth freshman 100-yard rushing performance of the season.
Daniels was 23 of 39 for 275 yards and two touchdowns, James catching six for 95 yards.
“We just didn’t make enough plays in the second half, offensively,” Brown said. “In the second half, they basically played an eight-man box (to stop West Virginia’s running game).”
TCU had a 494-430 advantage in total yardage – despite a 79-55 disadvantage in total games and a 36:16-23:44 disadvantage in time of possession – but overcame it by averaging 9 yards per game.
West Virginia was playing without starting guards James Gmiter and Doug Nesterin addition to several other starters on both sides of the ball.
“We’re beaten. We were beaten pretty well coming in. A lot of guys didn’t play and we lost several more in the game,” Brown admitted. “He was the next man. I’m proud of the way they played. We rely on the results, and I understand that. The result wasn’t what we wanted, but I’m proud of the way which they played.”
Today’s victory ends West Virginia’s four-game winning streak in the series and drops the Mountaineers’ record this season to 3-5, 1-4.
West Virginia is back on the road to take on Iowa State next Saturday in Ames. The Cyclones lost 27-13 to Oklahoma earlier today.