By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
There is supposed to be magic in Milan Puskar Stadium, or was that really Mountaineer Field magic?
Has it slipped away?
True, WVU did pull off a startling upset of No. 11 Oklahoma State earlier this year and was on its way to a second straight home upset of a ranked team, leading Texas Tech by 11 points late in the third quarter, the fans rocking and rolling as they normally do, all 54,084 of them who came out despite that 73-42 whipping that Baylor put on the Mountaineers the last time they took the field.
But if there was magic, the only thing that disappeared was the Mountaineers’ lead. The Red Raiders, ranked No. 15 and 16 in the nation, ran their unbeaten string to seven games as they roared from behind and scored a 37-27 victory.
These kind of things just aren’t supposed to happen in this venue, or did all that change with the Pitt loss or the name change?
On this day, the fans certainly did their thing.
“Our crowd was great,” Holgorsen said. “We’re up 13 points (actually 11 points). We didn’t have the will to put it away and that’s disappointing.”
Interestly, it was Texas Tech that said it fed off the crowd.
“Our players really enjoyed it,” Kingsbury said. “It was hostile, the music got us pumped up and it was everything I expected and was told. I loved it.”
For the middle quarters, after WVU withstood an early onslaught from Texas Tech, helped no small amount by some breaks that are always part of Mountaineer Field magic, the Mountaineers were in charge of the game.
Down 10-0 early and after a gamble by Holgorsen, who passed on a long field to try to get a first down on fourth-and -14 only to throw an incomplete pass, the Mountaineers roared back.
One break came when Tech quarterback Davis Webb was about to go into the end zone on a quarterback draw play, just a step away when Darwin Cook hit him and the ball came loose, recovered at the 1 by linebacker Isaiah Bruce.
That led to a 99-yard touchdown drive by WVU, a full 14-point swing. The drive started with Charles Sims getting them off the
goal line with a 16-yard spurt that was a shoestring tackle away from a 99-yard TD run.
It ended with Dreamius Smith making a nifty 38-yard touchdown run that started to the left, had Smith cut back on a move he had planned before the snap if the defensive end charged, and then cut through a seam to the end zone.
The second break came as WVU’s Clint Trickett was intercepted on a badly underthrown ball only to have pass interference called in the end zone on the corner trying to cover Kevin White, that setting up a 4-yard TD pass to Charles Sims.
It was to be the only TD thrown by Trickett, who was healthy and had a much better game than at Baylor, completing 27 of 43 for 254 yards.
But come the fourth quarter, WVU turned from tiger to kitten, not getting so much as a first down on its final three possessions.
“We finished with five three-and-outs,” said Holgorsen, exaggerating only slightly. “Up until that point we ran a lot of plays and the tempo was good all the way through the mid-third quarter.”
Meanwhile Webb and tight end Jace Amaro were shredding WVU’s worn-out defense.
Webb was making just his second start, completing 36 of 50 passes for 462 yards and two TDs, both to Amaro, one to start the scoring and the other to end it, each from 10 yards out.
Amaro, who buried WVU a year ago with 156 yards receiving before they put him out for the year, caught nine passes for 136 yards while Brad Marquez caught 8 for 112.
“You can’t cover him,” Holgorsen said of Amaro. “Even when you cover him, he makes plays.”
And he saved the best for last.
“He said put it on his shoulders for the second half so that’s what I did,” Kingsbury said.
It was a wise decision because, it appears, talent has a way of beating magic.
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.