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No. 13 West Virginia pushes past No. 17 Texas on late 2-point conversion

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Trailing 41-34 with half a minute to play, Will Grier found Gary Jennings for a 33-yard touchdown pass for what seemed like the tying, overtime-forcing score. But Dana Holgorsen and No. 13 West Virginia came to Austin for the win, and the Mountaineers kept their offense on the field. After two defensive timeouts, Grier kept the ball, for the first time all game, around the left side to notch a game-winning 2-point conversion, helping the Mountaineers surge past No. 17 Texas, 42-41.

The score was necessary after Texas broke a 34-34 tie with Sam Ehlinger‘s 48-yard touchdown pass to Devin Duvernay with 2:34 to play, handing Texas fifth lead of the day. West Virginia’s resulting score marked the fifth time in two seasons Texas has blown a fourth quarter lead and the seventh time in that span the ‘Horns have lost a one-score game.

The win moves West Virginia to 7-1 overall and 5-1 in Big 12 play, putting the Mountaineers in prime position to reach the Big 12 championship. Texas, meanwhile, has now dropped two straight and will need help to reach the title game.

Despite a dry spell that covered most of the second half, West Virginia simply got what it wanted from the Texas defense. Grier completed 28-of-42 passes for 346 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions while the team ran 33 times for 232 yards and two touchdowns.

After a WVU field goal and two punts to open the game, the two teams were off to the races. Texas got on the board thanks to the first of two spectacular Sam Ehlinger-to-Lil'Jordan Humphrey connections, the first a 23-yard lob on 3rd-and-4 with four West Virginia defenders flushing Ehlinger out of the pocket. That play set Texas up at the WVU 1, and Ehlinger kept it the next play to put Texas up 7-3.

West Virginia then struck back with the first of two Will Grier-to-David Sills throws, the first going 60 yards for a touchdown. After taking a 10-7 lead, WVU was hit with two consecutive personal foul penalties, the second of which kicked All-Big 12 left tackle Yodney Cajuste out of the game. Humphrey took the ensuing short kickoff 29 yards to the WVU 39, then completed the short drive with a 21-yard touchdown grab.

Trailing for the second time, West Virginia quickly erased the deficit by moving 75 yards in nine plays, aided by a roughing the passer penalty on Texas linebacker Malcolm Roach that would have sentenced WVU into a 4th-and-15 at the Texas 37 with a stiff wind in their face. Given new life, West Virginia scored again on an 18-yard connection from Grier to Sills.

Another key Texas penalty gave WVU a chance to take a commanding lead, as an offensive pass interference penalty on Humphrey erased a 45-yard Collin Johnson touchdown catch. Rather than a 21-17 lead, Texas faced a 3rd-and-20 at its own 40, but a 17-yard connection from Ehlinger to Duvernay gave Texas a 4th-and-3, which the Longhorns converted with a 26-yard catch by Johnson. Tre Watson punched in a 5-yard run two plays later, putting Texas up 21-17 with 10:04 left in the first half.

And yet again West Virginia came right back, converting two third-and-shorts to set up Martell Pettway‘s 55-yard touchdown run, staking the Mountaineers to a 24-21 lead with 7:36 before halftime. It was the second long score that came at the expense of freshman Texas safety Caden Sterns, who was beaten on the long Sills touchdown and then missed a tackle on Pettway.

Facing its fourth deficit of the first half, Texas once again answered. This time, a defensive holding call erased what would have been a three-and-out, and the Longhorns then rolled 65 yards in seven plays from there, scoring on a 32-yard swing pass from Ehlinger to Watson to give Texas a 28-24 advantage with 2:40 to play in the first half.

West Virginia again surged down the field to close the first half, but the drive stalled at the Texas 27 with 14 seconds to play. Texas head coach Tom Herman called a timeout to ice WVU kicker Evan Staley, whose kick sliced wide right. Given a second chance, Staley drilled a 44-yard field goal to cut the deficit to one.

After a first half that saw the officials call 18 combined penalties, they again intervened for a major call on the first drive of the second half. On a 4th-and-1 from the WVU 5, Ehlinger kept and was originally reviewed down two inches beyond the yard stick. However, after a lengthy review, officials ruled his helmet came off before he reached the line to gain, handing West Virginia a crucial stop.

Texas forced a West Virginia punt after the turnover on downs, stuffing a 3rd-and-2 run for a loss of three yards. The Longhorns again moved the ball and again failed to reach the end zone, settling for a 22-yard Cameron Dicker field goal to push the lead to 31-27 with 2:55 left in the third quarter.

West Virginia again moved the ball on its next possession — sensing a theme here? — but the drive came away scoreless when another short-yardage run was stuffed, this one a Kennedy McKoy run for no gain on 4th-and-1 on the final play of the third quarter.

Given a chance to deliver a knockout blow, Texas once again missed. After running the ball into WVU territory, a holding call on guard Elijah Rodriguez erased a run that would have given Texas 1st-and-10 in the red zone. WVU stiffened, forcing a 3rd-and-15, and an Ehlinger scramble came close to the first down but did not reach it, forcing a 38-yard Dicker field goal that snuck inside the left upright with 9:38 remaining.

Facing a second half shutout to that point, West Virginia got the answer it needed, relying mostly on the run to move 75 yards in 11 plays. Pettway strolled in untouched from 19 yards out for the equalizer with 5:40 to play, putting him over the 100-yard mark.

Ehlinger closed the day hitting 24-of-35 passes for 356 yards with three touchdowns plus another on the ground. Watson led Texas with 14 carries for 80 yards and a touchdown.

Star WR Michael Pittman confirms he’ll play in USC’s bowl game

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(Pardon us as we’ve been catching up on a few things due to some very significant technical difficulties.)

USC fans can assuage their anguish somewhat over the retention of Clay Helton with the knowledge that one of their school’s most explosive weapons on offense will be available during the postseason. There, feel better?

After some uncertainty and speculation, Michael Pittman announced on Twitter this week that he will be playing in the Trojans’ bowl game. USC will face Iowa in Holiday Bowl Dec. 27, the first meeting between the football programs since 2002.

Pittman led the Trojans this season in receptions (95), receiving yards (1,222) and receiving touchdowns (11). The catches and yards led the Pac-12, while the scores were second.

The fourth-year senior was named first-team all-conference and is a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award.

FAU makes hiring of Willie Taggart as Lane Kiffin’s replacement official

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A week ago, it was reported that Willie Taggartbadly wants a second act” at USF.  While that job ultimately went to a Clemson coordinator, Taggart still ended up landing yet another gig in the Sunshine State.

With rumors swirling throughout the day, Florida Atlantic confirmed Wednesday evening that Taggart has been named as the Owls’ new head football coach.  Taggart replaces Lane Kiffin, who left shortly after FAU won the Conference USA championship game Saturday for the Ole Miss job.

“I’m grateful to Brian White and President Kelly for their belief in me to lead the football program at Florida Atlantic University,” a statement from Taggart began. “I’m looking forward to long-term success here. I think our players and the university deserve that commitment. Family is extremely important to me. I couldn’t do what I do without their love and support and all of us are looking forward to being here in Paradise for the foreseeable future.”

After four years as the head coach at South Florida, Taggart left USF for Oregon — for one season as it turned out as he pulled up stakes from the Pac-12 school for the Florida State job in December of 2017.  Less than two full seasons later, though, Taggart was shown the door by the Seminoles in early November.

Taggart is a native of Bradenton, Fla. and has deep, extensive recruiting ties in the state, which will only aid him in taking over a football program that has won two conference championships the past three years.

Taggart has never won a conference crown during his 10 seasons as a head coach, although he did claim a division title at South Florida in 2016.

“I couldn’t be more excited to have Coach Taggart on board to lead our football program,” FAU athletic director Brian White said in his statement. “Coach Taggart is a proven program builder who will develop strong relationships with our student-athletes and develop them as future leaders. His deep relationships around the state of Florida and the nation will be vital in recruiting as well. The traits he brings to the table will allow us to continue building upon our recent success.”

FAU’s Harrison Bryant named Mackey Award winner as nation’s best TE

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In a change of pace, we come to an award that doesn’t involve either Joe Burrow or Chase Young.

The John Mackey Award winner was announced earlier in the day Wednesday, with Florida Atlantic’s Harrison Bryant claiming this year’s honor.  The Mackey is handed out annually to the nation’s top tight end.

Established in 2000, the 2018 winner was Iowa’s T.J. Hockenson.

This past season, Bryant caught 65 passes for 1,0004 yards and seven touchdowns.  Bryant led all FBS tight ends in both catches and receiving yards.

Bryant beat out seven other tight ends for the 2019 Mackey.

  • Hunter Bryant, Washington
  • Brycen Hopkins, Purdue
  • Brevin Jordan, Miami
  • Charlie Kolar, Iowa State
  • Albert Okwuegbunam, Missouri
  • Colby Parkinson, Stanford
  • Giovanni Ricci, Western Michigan

Ole Miss announces future home-and-home with Oregon State

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With the 2019 regular season put to bed, there is some future scheduling news on which to hit — and some very rare news at that.

Wednesday afternoon, Ole Miss announced that it had reached an agreement on a future home-and-home series with Oregon State.  The Beavers will travel to Oxford Sept. 18, 2027, with the Rebels making the trek to Corvallis on Aug. 31, 2030.

The 2027 game will mark the first-ever between the football programs.

According to Ole Miss, they have played a current member of the Pac-12 just twice, with both of those games coming against Cal.  Those games, incidentally, came in the last three years, including this season.

Oregon State last played a team from the SEC in 1987 when they traveled to Georgia.  A team from that conference has never played in Corvallis.