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2017 Season - Week 8

West Virginia Escapes Baylor’s Late Comeback

A 23-point fourth quarter almost gave the Bears their first win of the season.

Jerry Larson - Associated Press

West Virginia Escapes Baylor’s Late Comeback

A game that looked like it was going to be a blowout midway through the third quarter turned into a close contest late. Baylor battled back from a 25-point deficit to come within a two-point conversion of taking the game to overtime.

What felt like a slow developing first quarter was highlighted by a first strike from the Mountaineers.

West Virginia would get the scoring going with a 27 yard field goal after Will Grier hit Gary Jennings deep to get the Mountaineers into Baylor territory. After getting the ball on the turnover on downs, Grier would make some big throws to get past the 50 yard line again.

He then found success by hitting David Sills V with a 35 yard touchdown catch to put the Mountaineers up, 10-0.

The Bears responded in the second quarter. Baylor found success throwing the ball down the field on their next drive and got all the way inside the West Virginia ten yard line. They were unable to get a touchdown, though, and settled for the field goal to close the gap to 10-3.

Baylor forced a West Virginia punt and managed to get inside the Mountaineer 35 yard line for the fourth consecutive time. After a Denzel Mims 45 yard catch-and-run, Baylor was in position for another Connor Martin field goal, which made it 10-6.

West Virginia wasn’t done scoring, however. A drive late in the first half set the offense up inside their opponent’s red zone. Grier would hit Sills again over the middle for the 16 yard score to put the Mountaineers up 17-6.

If the crowd at McLane Stadium thought West Virginia would come out flat in the second half, they were soon dispelled of that notion. A kickoff return to midfield gave Will Grier great field position to work with and he hit Sills on the first play from scrimmage for six points. The 53 yard strike made it 24-6.

After managing to make West Virginia punt the ball mid-way through the third quarter, Baylor would get their first touchdown. A 56 yard pass from Smith to Galvin Holmes would put the Bears inside the Mountaineer ten yard line. A handoff to John Lovett meant Baylor was down two possessions once again, 24-13.

West Virginia wasn’t done making their own big plays, however, and a 40 yard Grier pass to Marcus Simms put the Mountaineers back up 31-13.

After a Baylor punt, Will Grier continued to complete big passes and in six plays West Virginia had another six points. This time the score came off a fade to Ka’Raun White, which allowed West Virginia to go up 38-13.

Matt Rhule then decided a change up was necessary for the Bears and substituted true freshman Charlie Brewer in for Zach Smith. Shortly thereafter, freshman quarterback would find running back Trestan Ebner out of the backfield for 52 yards for a score. Down 38-20, Baylor looked to have found new rhythm.

Not wanting to give the ball back to the blue and gold offense, Baylor caught the West Virginia return team unawares with an onside kick that they recovered. Two plays later, Ebner got another score off a handoff and sprinted 40 yards into the end zone.

What had looked like a solid blowout was now getting competitive at 38-27 with 13:50 left in the fourth quarter.

A West Virginia three-and-out gave the ball back to Brewer and the Bears. On a drive highlighted by some Brewer scrambles to pick up yards, the Bears got in range for a Connor Martin field goal and Martin put it through the uprights to make it a one score game at 38-30.

West Virginia would try to run the ball out, but the Bears came up with a stop to force the punt.

Then, on their longest drive of the day the Bears ran sixteen plays and spent over four minutes to get down to the West Virginia nine yard line.  There, Charlie Brewer found Ebner in the end zone for what could potentially have been the game-tying score.

Down by two, the Bears had to go for it. Brewer dropped back, but couldn’t find anyone and was sacked with 17 seconds left as he tried to scramble. West Virginia got out of town with the 38-36 win.

TEAM STATS

MATCHUP WVU BU
1st Downs 23 30
3rd Down Eff 4-11 3-15
4th Down Eff 0-0 3-5
Total Yards 493 497
Passing 375 370
Comp-Att 26-37 24-40
Yards Per Pass 10.1 9.3
Interceptions 0 0
Rushing 118 127
Rush Att 29 42
Yards Per Rush 4.1 3.0
Fumbles Lost 0 0
Penalties 11-134 6-20
Possession 23:11 36:49
PASS LEADERS C/ATT YDS AVG TD INT QBR
WVU – W. Grier 26/37 375 10.1 5 0
BU – Z. smith 16/27 261 9.7 0 0
RUSH LEADERS CAR YDS AVG TD LONG
WVU– K. McKoy 7 55 7.9 0 20
BU – T. Ebner 3 54 18.0 1 40
RECEIVING LEADERS REC YDS AVG TD LONG
WVU –D. Sills V 7 136 19.4 3 53
BU –D. Mims 7 132 18.9 0 45

EMPTYING THE NOTEBOOK

Baylor’s offense absolutely got a shot of life with Brewer at quarterback. The more mobile Brewer gives the running game a dimension that is missing with Zach Smith.  After Brewer came in, Baylor scored 23 points on three straight possessions. His ability to scramble was key to the Bears picking up yards on long down-and-distance conversions. It is hard to see how Brewer isn’t the starter next week against Texas.

A win is a win, but if you are Dana Holgerson you’d have reason to be worried about the ability of your team to close out what should not have been a close game. All credit goes to the Baylor offense, which absolutely came alive late when they had been up and down early. At the same time, though, this was still a winless team that had a real chance to take this contest into overtime. West Virginia looked dominant throughout a lot of this game and this is the second week in a row the Mountaineers have been a different team in the fourth quarter.

One thing that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet is that when West Virginia’s passing game is clicking, it’s absolutely lethal. The running game tonight against Baylor – a team that was last in the Big 12 in rush defense – managed a passable 118 yards. Justin Crawford had some good runs, but the strength of this offense is undeniably their ability to burn defenses deep. Even the threat of a run was all Grier usually needed to get an explosive play.

West Virginia gave up some big plays late in the game, but their run defense did enough early so that Baylor was only averaging about three yards a run. The defensive front for the Mountaineers gave the Bears enough fits all day that they also managed six sacks and forced Rhule to replace his starting quarterback. That ended up being bad news for West Virginia, but assuming that we grade entire games and not just individual quarters, tonight was a solid effort in stopping the run.

The Bears continue to showcase that they still have talent and athleticism despite their record. Hasty, Ebner and Williams are all legitimate threats, while many of the wide receivers proved that they can make plays when the ball is thrown their way. Were Baylor in a conference that didn’t have so much parity, their weekly improvement would have most likely translated into wins by now. Today’s loss officially means that Baylor won’t make a bowl game, but that probably makes them all the more dangerous. It’s not hard to imagine Baylor pulling off the upset against two or three of the teams left on their schedule.

Hindsight is 20/20, but Rhule may regret not going for the long field goal early in the game. Baylor’s first two drives got them all the way to the West Virginia 34 yard line. Admittedly, that would have been a long kick, but given Connor Martin’s history of success – and the fact that Baylor ended up losing by two points – it might not have been a bad idea to try for the long field goal there just to get some points.

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