Associated Press

West Virginia closes with 29 unanswered points to rally past No. 24 Texas Tech

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One week ago, West Virginia was ranked No. 23 in the AP poll and played every bit like you’d expect the No. 23 team in the country to play in challenging but ultimately falling in a loss to No. 8 TCU. However, voters dropped the Mountaineers out of the rankings and inserted Texas Tech at No. 24, rewarding them for a win at Kansas — something everyone in the Big 12 save Charlie Strong does.

Voters will rectify that tomorrow.

West Virginia rallied from an 18-point second half deficit with 29 unanswered points to knock off the 24th-ranked Red Raiders, 46-35. The win lifted Dana Holgorsen to a 4-1 lead over his former player and colleague Kliff Kingsbury.

Texas Tech’s offense came out firing, as West Virginia did not force a punt until the Red Raiders’ seventh possession and only one boot in their first nine touches. Nic Shimonek fired four touchdown passes, two bombs to freshman T.J. Vasher and a pair of short tosses to Dylan Cantrell and Keke Coutee, but the Red Raiders built their early lead on the ground. Texas Tech harassed West Virginia quarterback Will Grier for much of the game and held Justin Crawford in check for the first two-and-a-half quarters.

Tre King 30-yard touchdown run gave the Red Raiders a 35-17 lead with 9:11 to play in the third quarter. Texas Tech (4-2, 1-2 Big 12) again moved the ball on their next possession, but Michael Barden missed a 37-yard field goal to close the drive — his third miss of the day. That would prove crucial.

Once West Virginia (4-2, 2-1 Big 12) found a way to protect Grier, Texas Tech could not stop the Mountaineers. More specifically, Texas Tech could not stop Grier.

An 8-yard strike to David Sills pulled West Virginia within 35-24 at the 5:07 mark of the third quarter, and a 32-yard rainbow to Ka'Raun White (plus a 2-point strike to Sills) pulled WVU within 35-32. Texas Tech appeared to seize back momentum after Grier was stuffed on a 4th-and-1 sneak, but an examination of the spot gave West Virginia the first down by the nose of the ball. Grier put West Virginia on top for good on a 17-yard strike to White on the next play.

Grier’s fifth touchdown pass of the day to Sills (his third scoring snag) gave West Virginia an insurance score with 3:23 to play, and Kyzir White’s interception of Shimonek sealed it with 1:49 left on the clock.

Grier closed the day hitting 32-of-41 passes for 352 yards with five touchdowns and one interception, while Shimonek was 24-of-39 for 323 yards and four touchdowns against one pick. 

Texas Tech leading West Virginia through one half

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Through one half in Morgantown, Texas Tech is threatening to run West Virginia off its own field. The Red Raiders have not punted and lead 28-17 at the half.

Texas Tech forced two West Virginia three-and-outs and turned them into quick touchdowns. The first came after the first drive of the game, when Nic Shimonek hit T.J. Vasher for a 60-yard snatch-and-dash on the Red Raiders’ second snap.

West Virginia raced down the field in three plays, equaling the score on a 31-yard strike from Will Grier to David Sills. Texas Tech returned volley, this time moseying down the field in 10 plays, the last of which a 6-yard strike from Shimonek to Dylan Cantrell.

The Red Raiders’ defense held serve on the next possession by forcing a 43-yard Mike Molina field goal and, after a missed field goal of their own, forced a second three-and-out, which turned into Shimonek’s third touchdown toss of the first half, a 6-yarder to Keke Coutee.

West Virginia answered with a 5-yard Justin Crawford run and appeared in position to take its first lead when Texas Tech’s punt team took the field for the first time of the day. But punter Dominic Panazzolo ran 13 yards around the left side on 4th-and-1 to keep the drive alive, and Shimonek hit Vasher on a 53-yard bomb one play later. 

The Mountaineers momentarily posted their first true stop of the half on Texas Tech’s final possession of the half when Shimonek was intercepted in the end zone, but the pick was wiped out after a roughing the passer penalty. Coutee, however, dropped a touchdown pass on third-and-goal, and Michael Barden missed his second field goal of the half, doinking a 23-yarder off the left upright.

Shimonek finished the half hitting 17-of-24 passes for 252 yards and four touchdowns. A host of Red Raiders have pieced together 18 carries for 86 yards.

Grier has completed 18-of-22 passes for 184 yards and a touchdown, but the Mountaineers’ running backs have managed 13 yards in seven carries.

Texas Tech will receive to open the second half.

No. 8 TCU survives, advances past No. 23 West Virginia

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The tenor of No. 8 TCU’s game and season changed before the Frogs took the field today. Thanks to No. 3 Oklahoma’s stunning home loss to Iowa State, TCU’s date with No. 23 West Virginia changed from a challenge for a Big 12 College Football Playoff front-runner to a survive-and-advance test for the Big 12 College Football Playoff front-runner.

The Frogs survived, outlasting a physical West Virginia team for a 31-24 win in Fort Worth.

Trailing 3-0 late in the first quarter, TCU booted away its third punt of the day but was gifted the ball right back when a Mountaineer player blocked a TCU defender into West Virginia punt returner Jovanni Stewart, which TCU’s Vernon Scott recovered at the West Virginia 33-yard line. The Frogs punched in their only score of the first half on a 2-yard direct-snap keeper by Sewo Olonilua at the 14:16 mark of the second quarter.

After a field goal of their own to open the third quarter, Nick Orr intercepted a Will Grier overthrow and returned it 34 yards to the West Virginia 45, and Kenny Hill (15-of-28 for 188 yards, seven carries for 28 yards) pushed the lead to 17-3 on a rainbow to Jalen Reagor one play later.

However, two deep strikes from Greer pulled the Mountaineers even. The first one came on a mix-up in the TCU secondary, where Greer hit a wide open David Sills for a 64-yard score. His very next pass found Ka'Raun White for a 76-yard catch-and-dash, and less than five minutes after trailing 17-3 West Virginia had tied the game at 17-17.

TCU answered with its best drive of the game, a 4-play, 75-yard march completed when Hill raced in a 48-yard score on a throwback from KaVontae Turpin, giving the Horned Frogs a 24-17 lead with 15 seconds left in the third quarter.

An exchange of punts gave West Virginia the ball at the TCU 49, and a series of Justin Crawford (19 carries for a game-high 111 yards) runs set up Grier’s (25-of-45 for 366 yards) third touchdown pass of the second half, a 4-yarder to Sills, knotting the game at 24-24 with 9:50 remaining.

TCU see-sawed back in front with, if not its best possession of the season, then its most important. The Frogs ate 70 percent of the remaining clock, using six minutes and 57 seconds to travel 65 yards over 13 plays, eight of them runs. The final run came on a 3-yard keeper by Hill, who avoided two blockers to stretch across the goal line on 3rd-and-goal, staking the Frogs to a 31-24 lead with 2:53 to play.

Needing a touchdown to extend the game, West Virginia momentarily advanced near midfield, but an offensive pass interference penalty turned what was a first down completion to Sills into a 1st-and-25 at their own 25. The Mountaineers advanced to the TCU 32 but moved no further, and TCU expired the clock after West Virginia turned it over on downs.

The loss dropped West Virginia to 3-2 on the season and 1-1 in Big 12 play, meaning they will likely fall out of the polls tomorrow even though they showed themselves every bit worthy of their No. 23 ranking in challenging the No. 8 team in their house.

TCU (5-0, 2-0 Big 12) will now rest up from this physical game for another physical test at Kansas State next week.

TCU leading but struggling at midway point vs. West Virginia

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West Virginia has controlled the pace and the stat sheet through one half, but TCU holds a 7-3 lead in Fort Worth. And that lead is thanks to a WVU mistake.

Trailing 3-0 late in the first quarter, TCU booted away its third punt of the day but was gifted the ball right back when a Mountaineer player blocked a TCU defender into West Virginia punt returner Jovanni Stewart, which TCU’s Vernon Scott recovered at the West Virginia 33-yard line. The Frogs punched in their only score of the half on a 2-yard direct-snap keeper by Sewo Olonilua at the 14:16 mark of the second quarter.

West Virginia has dominated the stat sheet despite playing at a severe field position disadvantage all day. Four Mountaineers drives have started inside their own 5-yard line, but the first of which sparked a 14-play, 77-yard drive, culminating in a 37-yard Mike Molina field goal. West Virginia also put together a 63-yard march, but that ended in a Will Grier misfire to David Sills on 3rd-and-3 from the TCU 12 and a Molina missed field goal from 29 yards out.

Kenny Hill has avoided his signature boneheaded turnovers but been largely off, hitting only 7-of-15 passes for 65 yards. Making his return from injury, Kyle Hicks leads the Frogs with five carries for 28 yards.

Will Grier has nailed 12-of-20 passes for 142 yards, while Justin Crawford leads all runners with 66 yards on 10 carries.

West Virginia will receive to open the second half.

Hokies take late first half lead in defensive battle with West Virginia

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Old Big East rivals Virginia Tech and West Virginia are locked in an entertaining defensive battle in Landover, Maryland. After one half of play, the No. 21 Hokies hold a 10-7 lead on the No. 22 Mountaineers thanks to a touchdown run from freshman quarterback Josh Jackson.

West Virginia’s Will Grier has been given some good protection from his offensive line in his first start with an FBS program since being suspended by Florida in 2015. Grier isn’t lighting up the Hokies defense, which very few players and teams are capable of doing anyway, so it has been a smart and steady evening of work so far for Grier with 15-of-24 going for 105 yards and a touchdown, and 13 rushing yards. Justin Crawford leads all players with 85 rushing yards for West Virginia, which is more rushing yards than Virgina Tech has as a team (68).

Virginia Tech has also broken in new quarterback Josh Jackson, who has had flashes of solid play as well. Jackson has also had to play efficiently for the Hokies rather than break open many big plays, but he has had his moments.

The story of the first half, however, has been the defenses. The hitting has been fierce at times, and the Mountaineers have exhibited something rarely seen from a Big 12 team by forcing three consecutive three-and-outs after Grier tossed a poor interception to Virginia Tech’s Trevon Hill. It wasn’t one of Grier’s finer moments.

But he did make up for it later in the first half with a touchdown pass to David Sills to give the Mountaineers a 7-3 lead.

Jackson led the Hokies on a nice touchdown drive to close out the first half, finishing the drive himself with a nice run up the middle of the West Virginia defense to reclaim the lead.