By John Antonik for MSNsportsNET.com
November 8, 2008
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Postgame notes from nine stories above Milan Puskar Stadium in the press box following West Virginia’s 26-23 overtime loss to Cincinnati:
ALMOST A MIRACLE FINISH
West Virginia was trailing by 13 points with 1:11 left in the game and no timeouts remaining when, pinned deep in its territory, Cincinnati opted to take a safety to make it 20-9. That’s when things began to get interesting.
West Virginia used seven plays to get into the end zone when Pat White found Dorrell Jalloh on a 3-yard pass on second and goal with 19 seconds left.
White then ran in the two-point conversion to put WVU to within a field goal, 20-17.
Then Pat McAfee executed a perfect onside kick that Mortty Ivy recovered at the West Virginia 44. A 21-yard White to Dorrell Jalloh pass moved the ball to the Bearcat 35 with nine seconds left.
An incomplete pass by White forced the Mountaineers to try a last-ditch 52-yard field goal with five seconds remaining.
Naturally Pat McAfee made it – tying his career long.
In the overtime, Cincinnati's tough D was able to force another McAfee field goal and that set up the winning play, a 2-yard pass from Tony Pike to Kazeem Ali.
“Well another boring game,” joked Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly. “I hope ESPNU thanks us for the ratings. Again, I think the thing that stands out more than anything else is Big East football is a battle right to the end. West Virginia is a great program and to take the best from them you have to keep on playing.”
NOT SO MANY HAPPY RETURNS
Mardy Gilyard’s 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to begin the game was the first one taken back for a score against West Virginia in 18 years. The last player to return a kick for a TD was Pitt’s Ricky Turner, who also covered the same distance on Sept. 29, 1990 in Pittsburgh.
The last opponent to take a kickoff the distance at Milan Puskar Stadium was Penn State’s Curt Warner, who went 88 yards for a TD on Oct. 25, 1980.
MAKING THE MOST OUT OF SO LITTLE
Cincinnati proved in the first quarter that you don’t have to move the football to score. The Bearcats had 32 yards of offense and averaged 1.9 yards per play, yet still managed to score 13 points.
How did Cincinnati do it? The Bearcats took the game’s opening kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown and a short, 22-yard Pat McAfee punt, coupled with a personal foul penalty, gave UC the football at the West Virginia 33.
That set up a Jake Rodgers 46-yard field goal.
Rodgers’ second field goal of the quarter came as a result of a Noel Devine fumble on the Mountaineer 34-yard line.
Cincinnati’s first-quarter scoring drives covered five and 20 yards.
The second half was more of the same. The Bearcats sat on 20 points for the entire second half, managing just 46 total yards before the end of regulation.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
West Virginia appeared to get a turnover when Mardy Gilyard coughed up a wide receiver screen that Boogie Allen recovered at the WVU six-yard line, but the instant replay official overruled the call on the field saying Gilyard never had possession of the football.
Late in the third quarter, West Virginia challenged the referee’s call that DeAngelo Smith fumbled a punt return that he was ruled down at the WVU 23. The replay officials upheld the call on the field, costing the Mountaineers a timeout.
DOWN THE PIKE
Cincinnati’s Tony Pike used both his arm and his legs to lead the Bearcats to their best scoring drive of the game. Pike hit Dominick Goodman for passes of 25, 7, 18 and 9 yards before taking the football into the end zone himself from four yards.
The key play was a Pike-to-Goodman 18-yard pass on third and 17 that moved the ball to the WVU 28. West Virginia flushed Pike out of the pocket and looked to have him sacked, but he escaped the rush and found Goodman open down the middle of the field.
That was the only third down Cincinnati successfully converted in the first half, going 1 of 6.
After a shaky start completing 3 of his first 10 passes for 20 yards, Pike finished the first half 13 of 22 for 154 yards.
DODGING A BULLET
West Virginia escaped three more points when Jake Rodgers hit the left post on a 29-yard field goal attempt that would have put the Bearcats up 23-7 with 1:32 remaining in the first half. Cincinnati got into scoring position when John Goebel was able to slip through a couple of West Virginia tacklers and run to the Mountaineer 13 on a 66-yard play.
West Virginia has trailed at halftime in five of nine games this year: Cincinnati (20-7), Connecticut (13-7), Auburn (17-10), Colorado (14-7) and East Carolina (17-3). WVU is 2-3 in those games.
West Virginia had five three-and-out possessions in the first half and four straight to start the second half. West Virginia’s initial first down of the second half was a hook-and-lateral play from White to Jock Sanders, who pitched back to Noel Devine for a seven-yard gain. WVU’s other big play on the drive was a 15-yard personal foul penalty on Connor Barwin that advanced the football to the Bearcat 22.
West Virginia’s drive stalled at the Cincinnati six and on fourth and four, the Bearcats stopped White a yard short of the sticks.
“We played very well defensively today,” Kelly said. “We needed to play that well. Team defense: but at the end of the day you are going to have to make individual tackles on one or two of those guys and we came up with them all night.”
STARTING FIELD POSITION
None of West Virginia’s starting possessions in regulation began on its side of the 50. Here is where West Virginia began its offensive drives against Cincinnati: WVU 28, WVU 21, WVU 23, WVU 24, WVU 23, WVU 22 and WVU 20 in the first half. In the second half its possessions began on the WVU 32, WVU 16, WVU 10, WVU 24, WVU 47, WVU 40 and WVU 38 and the WVU 44.
BEARCATS WIN THE RED ZONE; WIN THE GAME
West Virginia had two opportunities to score touchdowns to get back into the game midway through the fourth quarter and both times Cincinnati’s defense turned away the Mountaineers. WVU went for it on fourth and four from the Bearcat six and Pat White came up a yard short.
On WVU’s next possession, West Virginia got to the Cincinnati two and once again UC stopped the Mountaineers on fourth down. This time White’s pass out in the flat was intercepted by DeAngelo Smith at the three.
West Virginia ran 17 offensive plays inside the Bearcat red zone before finally getting a touchdown (Jalloh 3-yard TD) with 19 seconds left to make it 20-17 after Pat White’s two-point conversion. In overtime, West Virginia ran five more plays before settling for a field goal. Add it all up and WVU had 22 red zone plays after intermission and came away with just 10 points.
West Virginia averaged more than 300 yards and four rushing TDs per game in its last three games against Cincinnati. On Saturday, the Bearcat defense held the Mountaineers to a season-low 98 yards rushing on 42 attempts.
As a result, Pat White was forced to try a career-high 38 pass attempts, completing 20 for 219 yards and a pair of touchdowns. White was sacked four times and threw one interception.
LET’S PLAY ‘EM ALL AT NIPPERT
West Virginia is 14-2-1 all-time against Cincinnati and all three blemishes on the ledger have come in Morgantown. In 2003, Cincinnati upset West Virginia 15-13 on a late field goal. The Bearcats also tied the Mountaineers 7-7 in Morgantown in 1940.
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