WVU head coach Dana Holgerson had been placed on the hot seat before the season, that if the Mountaineers did not contend in the Big 12, he would more than likely be fired by AD Oliver Luck. Were these rumblings premature? More than likely so, as the West Virginia Mountaineers shocked the Baylor Bears at home today, 41-27, to completely shake up the Big 12 standings.
Holgerson had said that this week was the best practice the 'Eers had had all year, and they were pumped to attempt to knock off a top 5 team in the country. Baylor's air raid offense struggled today at times against KJ Dillon and the Mountaineers defense.
However, in the first quarter, it seemed that West Virginia would be another victim of Baylor's after 3 turnovers. Joe DeForest's WVU special teams were a mess, making head-scratching errors that Baylor should have capitalized on. Clint Trickett threw an interception early as well. However, Baylor often settled for field goals, keeping WVU in the game. Clint Trickett and Kevin White, potentially the best QB-WR duo in the nation, connected for a 36 yard pass for a TD in the 1st quarter, which ended 13-7 in Baylor's favor.
West Virginia would start to come alive in the 2nd quarter. After another special teams error by WVU, Baylor had the ball early in the quarter deep in WVU territory. However, the 'Eers defense would show up, as Nick Kwiatkoski and the defensive front seven took care of business. Baylor had a wide open receiver on 4th and 7, but Bryce Petty threw the ball wide right.
On the ensuing WVU drive, the Trickett-White connection continued, getting the 'Eers in Bears territory early. A story from the game was how much Baylor CB Xavien Howard was picked on, as Kevin White often won the battle for the ball between the two. Howard couldn't strike a balance of cautious and aggressive coverage on White, and the star WR took advantage. After a one yard Andrew Buie run, WVU took the lead, 14-13, even after all of those turnovers.
Baylor was not to be outdone. On the Bears' next drive, Petty unleased a bullet to Antwan Goodley who took it to the house, a 63 yard TD pass. This was obviously going to be a shootout.
West Virginia responded a little later in the quarter, in a drive dominated by rushes by Dreamius Smith. WVU has a 3-headed monster of a RB corp, with Rushell Shell, Smith, and Andrew Buie leading the charge. They are talented at using these three to their strengths, and Smith just so happened to be the one to steer them for this drive.
Near the end of the quarter, WVU had a 54 yard field goal attempt converted by Josh Lambert, potentially the best field goal kicker in the nation. Lambert had a 56 yard field goal last week to defeat the pesky Texas Tech Red Raiders in Lubbock.
West Virginia led at halftime 24-20, and Baylor now knew that they had a problem on their hands. West Virginia's defensive scheme matches up extremely well against an air raid offense, and Bryce Petty and his WR corp had experience problems in the first half.
Those problems would compile into what would be an extremely poor 2nd half for the Bears, in which they only scored one touchdown, near the end of the 3rd quarter. Although West Virginia lost star defender Terrell Chestnut to an injury, the scheme continued to puzzle the Bears, which Clint Trickett continued his dominance over the Bears' defense.
WVU scored two more times in the game in the 4th to seal the deal, one to White in the right hand corner of the endzone, and another to White's impressive counterpart, the speedy Mario Alford, for 39 yards. West Virginia showed that they could contend with the big boys of the Big 12, showcasing their lights-out offense in this matchup, and coming out victorious in one of the biggest games in the past 5 years in Morgantown.
Baylor now gets a bye week to regroup, then have a relatively easy game at home against the worst team in the Big 12, the Kansas Jayhawks. West Virginia, now in the thick of things in the Big 12 Championship race, will tussle with Oklahoma State in Stillwater, a team coming off of a drubbing vs. the TCU Horned Frogs. After today, Kansas State leads the Big 12, while West Virginia is in a tight race for 2nd with TCU, Oklahoma State, and Baylor. We shall see how everything plays out in the upcoming weeks.