By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
Life is strange.
Really, there’s no other way to put it for there is no logical explanation of what transpired Saturday afternoon in Fort Worth, Texas, when West Virginia University went in and got redemption for an overtime loss last year to TCU that was surely the most wild and whacky game you could ever imagine … until this one.
If you were looking for a theme in the way the game was won, officially on a 34-yard field goal by redshirt placekicker Josh Lambert, 30-27 in overtime, it had to be redemption.
It was as if this was a day of forgiveness for West Virginia for all it had done wrong and could go wrong.
Three straight losses, forget them. They have become a one-game winning streak.
Two interceptions that clearly should have given this game away by quarterback Clint Trickett? TCU wasn’t about to take those gifts, and when he had to do it, Trickett threw completions, not interceptions.
And even the way they won.
Go back to last year. You might remember it, for it was an unforgettable game.
Tavon Austin had returned a punt 76 yards for a touchdown to give WVU a seven-point lead until TCU got the ball with just over two minutes to play. That’s when quarterback Trevone Boykin
hit Josh Boyce with a 94-yard touchdown pass on which the Ishmael Banks blew his coverage.
Earlier this week he admitted as much.
“My safety tried to give me a check, but I didn’t hear it — the crowd was real loud,” Banks said. “I thought it was Cover 2.”
So, instead of jumping Boyce’s route, he turned him over to Cecil Level … he thought.
Only Level was covering a different receiver.
“He was playing one coverage and I was playing another,” Banks said. “We just broke down and gave up a play.”
Quite a play, one that wound up forcing double overtime as WVU botched a field goal with 18 seconds left in regulation.
So where does the redemption for Banks come in.
Fourth quarter, TCU leading, 17-13, with the ball when Banks was in the right coverage and did it perfectly, intercepting a pass by Casey Pachall that completely turned the game around.
It gave WVU the ball and gave Clint Trickett a chance to make up for what really had been a frustrating day to that point.
“You never have to worry about that kid letting one mistake lead to another,” said offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson of Trickett.
He’d thrown two interceptions and had two others that should have been interceptions, one dropped and the other taken into the end zone only to have a holding call against All-American Jason Leverrett negate it.
Even one that counted and seemed to be a disaster, the ball winding up on the WVU 2 yard line, proved to be as harmless as week-old kitten, Boyce going from a hero a year ago to a goat, fumbling the ball and losing it when TCU was poised to virtually clinch the game.
Trickett wound up following Banks’ interception hitting Cody Clay with a swing pass on which the big man made a Mary Lou Retton-like move diving for the end zone for a go-ahead touchdown.
And, of course, there was redemption, too, for the WVU defense, which had been battered as badly as … eh, as … as badly as it battered TCU quarterback Casey Pachall all day.
What WVU did to Pachall would be considered criminal in nearly every state but football mad Texas, knocking him around all day. There were sacks, yes, but just as important he was punished over and over just as he got the ball off.
In the end, by the time the game got to overtime, he had to be looking over his shoulder to see where Will Clarke was.
And speaking of overtime, we get back to redemption.
Overtime was a nightmare for WVU last year after the 94-yard completion tied the game.
After an 18-yard field goal that would have won the game in regulation was missed, another one that would have won the game in the first overtime was blocked by Jason Verrett.
In the second overtime, after WVU had turned a Geno Smith-to-Stedman Bailey TD pass into a seven-point lead, TCU scored and opted to either win or lose the game right there, going for two.
The Horned Frogs made it on a pass from Boykin to Boyce, who managed to go down and catch the ball just before it hit the turf.
Overtime was not so kind to TCU this time around as they wound on their overtime possession facing a fourth-and-30, trying a 62-yard field by Jaden Oberkrom, which believe it or not was easily long enough but wide left.
Call it redemption.
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.