The Times West Virginian

Sports

November 12, 2013

FURFARI COLUMN: Both teams battled hard in WVU heartbreaker

MORGANTOWN — West Virginia’s 47-40 overtime loss to Texas at home Saturday night obviously was another Big 12 football game it could just as easily have won.

In doing so, the disappointed Mountaineers (4-6, 2-5 Big 12) had nothing of which to be ashamed. I thought it was a most interesting, high-scoring shootout in which both teams battled hard from start to finish.

If you enjoy football, you had to like that except for the outcome. The Longhorns (7-2, 6-0 Big 12) were only six-point favorites.

Statistically, the contest turned out to be almost as close as this until a Texas linebacker intercepted quarterback Paul Millard’s would-be tying touchdown pass to settle the issue.

The Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium crowd of 58,570 had to be as heartbroken as the WVU players and coaches were.

From West Virginia’s viewpoint, the players’ effort and energy appeared to be great. But a team can’t afford to turn the ball over five times in a close, see-saw skirmish without damaging chances of winning, can it?

The Mountaineers fumbled a season-high six times, and lost three. They also threw two interceptions, the second ending the contest.

Those three fumbles WVU lost and the first interception led to Texas’ first 16 points of the game.

While losing starting quarterback Clint Trickett to a head injury early in the opening period had to hurt WVU, give junior QB Paul Millard credit for filling in. He did well directing the offense the remainder of the game.

Millard, who backed up All-American Geno Smith the past two seasons, completed 16 of 32 passes for 259 yards and two touchdowns.

Running back Charles Sims rushed for 93 yards on 24 carries. He also caught five passes for 42 yards.

West Virginia now has lost four games, which most observers believe were winnable in young Dana Holgorsen’s third year as the Mountaineers’ head football coach. He has the school’s highest paid staff in the university’s history — by far.

The Mountaineers now have lost 12 of their last 18 games, dating back to last year. You may recall that what’s believed to be the football program’s greatest ever collapse. It was when the 2012 team started 5-0 and was ranked No. 5 in the polls, then finished 2-6 for a final 7-6 mark.

Here’s part of what Holgorsen told the reporters following Saturday night’s contest:

“It’s obviously a disappointing loss for players and coaches. I’m proud of the way they fought out there.

“It would have been a good win for us. But we weren’t able to make plays when it counts. That’s tough to take.”

What seems most troubling to many Mountaineer fans is that Holgorsen, who has built his reputation mainly as an offensive coordinator, and his assistants couldn’t come up with a touchdown in four tries when the team was on the Texas 5-yard line, first down and goal to go.

West Virginia returns to the road Saturday in a Big 12 meeting at Kansas. The kickoff is set for noon.

The Jayhawks are 2-7 overall and tied with Kansas State for the last offense in the standings with 0-6 Big 12 records.

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