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October 6, 2013

HERTZEL COLUMN: Mountaineers endure true horror story

MORGANTOWN — Who wrote the script for this West Virginia University visit to Waco, Texas, Edgar Allen Poe?

Talk about horror stories.

Final score: Baylor 73, West Virginia 42.

And it wasn’t that close as Baylor became the first FBS team since 1930 to score 70 or more points in three consecutive games.

Fact is, if Baylor coach Art Briles hadn’t pulled his starting team for the second half, the Bears would have scored 100 points and surpassed 1,000 yards of offense … against that “improved” West Virginia defense.

You know the defense. You might remember some of the things they were saying before going to Baylor, coming off that surprising victory over Oklahoma State a week ago, a victory that didn’t look so good after Kansas State almost knocked the Cowboys off.

Take what WVU’s linebacker Jared Barber said when asked if he expected a shootout like last year when WVU survived, 70-63.

“Absolutely not. We don’t care about how many points they’ve scored. Just like every time we play, we are going for a shutout,” he said.

A shutout?

That ended on the game’s third play when Bryce Petty hit Antwan Goodwin for a 61-yard touchdown, the only thing causing him to stop being the wall at the back of the end zone.

That was the start of an onslaught that knew no end.

What is going on with this West Virginia team has become so embarrassing, last week’s victory not withstanding, that no less a prominent WVU graduate than Patrick White, a quarterback who enjoyed some success during his days at WVU, took to Twitter to call for a change at the top.

“He is not a leader. Players don’t believe or trust. #LaneKiffin #PullThePlug,” White tweeted, then followed it up with this, “9 wins in each season and an Orange Bowl win with his recruits… Don’t think we’ve ever been the most talented, just more pride…”, that being a reference to Bill Stewart’s regime.

The tipoff of what was to come came before the game, about the time the score arrived from Tallahassee, Fla., which showed Florida State had scored 63 points and Maryland had scored … well, they hadn’t scored.

That was the same Maryland that had beaten the Mountaineers, 37-0, the last time it had stepped on a football field. That is a 100-point swing, Maryland being 37 points better than WVU and 63 points worse than FSU.

And the Mountaineers were about to face a team averaging 69.7 points a game … and an avalanche of points that would render the second half meaningless.

There are any number of ways to put what happened in the first half when Baylor’s starters were on the field. The best way may be to point out that Baylor had 617 yards at the half to 148 for WVU.

When the game finished, Baylor had 864 total yards and WVU 394. In fact, Baylor rushed for more yardage than WVU’s total yardage with 496 rushing yards.

It was so bad they could have made Baylor play under Canadian rules, having only three downs not four and playing on a field 110 yards long and it wouldn’t have made a bit of difference, so overmatched was WVU on both sides of the ball.

“I ain’t never seen a half like that,” WVU coach Dana Holgorsen said on the radio as he was leaving the field at the half. “They got a lot of yards offensively. It was even more out of control than it was last year from our defensive point of view. Offensively we’re having a hard time making a play.”

Clint Trickett had started the game and did what he could do when Baylor wasn’t trying to pull his limbs from his body. He completed only 9 of 28 passes for 161 yards and a touchdown and an interception before mercifully being relieved by Paul Millard.

Millard was 7 of 11 for 93 yards and two touchdowns, numbers inflated by a drive that came after an interception he threw was eliminated by an offside call on Baylor. As it was, WVU did outscore Baylor in the second half, 28-17, facing second- and third-stringers, one on a Charles Sims 39-yard run, two on Paul Millard passes to Ronald Carswell for 43 yards and to Kevin White for 1 yard, then by safety Darwin Cook after taking a lateral from Travis Bell after he made an interception.

That meant that WVU’s two best defenders, Cook and safety Karl Joseph, were among WVU’s best offensive weapons for Joseph also scored a TD, recovering a muffed punt in the end zone.

With it all, the two defensive TDs, outscoring Baylor in the second half, WVU still could not manage to cover a four touchdown spread.

It’s that bad, folks.

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.

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