Huskies Win in OT
UConn got 113 yards and a touchdown from Jordan Todman to go with three field goals from Teggart to knock off West Virginia for the first time in seven tries.
“You are not going to win any football game when you can’t take care of the football,” said West Virginia coach Bill Stewart, who has seen his football team turn the ball over seven times in its last two games against Syracuse and Connecticut.
The Huskies, now 4-4, 2-2, got just enough offense to put away the slumping Mountaineers, 5-3, 1-2 and losers of two straight for the first time since 2008.
West Virginia jumped out to an early first quarter lead, as it did during last week’s loss to Syracuse, but the Mountaineers couldn’t put away the Huskies when it looked like they could have. West Virginia scored the first 10 points of the game – thanks to a Brad Starks 53-yard touchdown run on a reverse and Tyler Bitancurt’s 36-yard field goal - but the offense couldn’t cash in on more points when the defense was handling UConn, minus starting quarterback Cody Endres who has been suspended for the season, and backup Mike Box, who was held out of tonight’s game after suffering a concussion in last week’s shutout loss to Louisville.
In fact, Connecticut’s offense had just 54 yards of offense before its final drive of the first half that covered 69 yards and ended with Teggart’s 39-yard field goal with just one second showing on the clock.
The offensive woes continued for West Virginia in the second half, Ryan Clarke’s fumble on fourth and 1 at the Connecticut 26 on WVU’s opening drive of the third quarter a harbinger of things to come for the Mountaineers.
After Clarke’s fumble, Connecticut took over at its 29 and used Todman six times on the ground to get to the WVU 30, where on fourth and 3 Connecticut coach Randy Edsall chose to go for it instead of kicking into the wind.
Quarterback Zach Frazer found tight end Ryan Griffin over the middle for four yards to the West Virginia 26, and two plays later, Todman got through a crease and ran 24 yards for a touchdown to tie the game with 6:17 left in the third quarter. It was Connecticut’s first touchdown in its last eight quarters dating back to a 27-24 loss at Rutgers on Oct. 8.
“In the second half they ran their counter scheme for some success and then I thought we got better control of that,” said West Virginia defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel.
West Virginia retook the lead on its next possession, driving from its 26 to the Connecticut 25 where Tyler Bitancurt kicked a 42-yard field goal with 1:46 left in the third quarter.
Connecticut, content to take the wind in the fourth quarter, chose to run off the remaining time on the clock and punt the ball back to West Virginia at the beginning of the final quarter.
A personal foul penalty on UConn helped get the football into Husky territory, but West Virginia’s drive ended at the 44 when Smith’s fumble was recovered by UConn’s Sio Moore.
Frazer immediately went to the air where he found Kashif Moore for 40 yards behind safety Robert Sands to the Mountaineer 15. The Moore catch set up Teggert’s 26-yard field goal to tie the game with 10:48 left. Twice, West Virginia’s offense got into Connecticut territory before running into more problems.
Smith took a sack for a loss of eight on first and 10 at the 50 that eventually led to a Gregg Pugnetti punt to the Connecticut 13. Then after another defensive stop, a second chance to retake the lead ended at the UConn 33 when Stewart chose to punt the ball and pin Connecticut deep in its own territory instead of trying a 50-yard field goal into the wind.
“I was going to take the timeout and our defense just couldn’t stop them and doggone, if they didn’t run a simple isolation and they make the first down,” explained Stewart.
West Virginia downed Pugnetti’s punt at the Connecticut 1, but the Huskies managed to get a first down to move the chains and run out the clock in regulation.
Connecticut won the coin toss and elected to play defense to begin the overtime.
West Virginia’s first two plays of overtime were not promising. Jock Sanders’ first down run that took the ball inside the UConn 5 was called back for a holding call on Matt Lindamood. And Sanders nearly gave the ball back to Connecticut when his fumble was recovered by teammate Brad Starks at the Husky 22.
A Smith-to-Tavon Austin six-yard pass got the ball to the 16 and set up a Clarke three-yard run to the 13 that gave the Mountaineers a fresh set of downs. Clarke runs of three, eight, and four yards got the ball to the Connecticut 1. But on Clarke’s fourth consecutive carry, Connecticut nose tackle Twyon Martin got past center Joey Madsen, forcing pulling-guard Eric Jobe to run into Clarke during the quarterback-running back exchange. As a result, the football came out and Connecticut middle linebacker Lawrence Wilson recovered the ball at the 4.
“The ball didn’t get to him. It looked like a pitch handoff. I can’t explain it,” said Stewart.
Instead of getting certain points, West Virginia needed to come up with a defensive miracle to keep Connecticut off the scoreboard on its overtime possession.
That miracle became unlikely when Todman ran eight yards to the 14 for a first down, and then he moved it to the nine on two more runs to set up Teggart’s game-winning kick.
“The thing we didn’t do was get the field turned with a turnover. We didn’t make any of the big plays that you need to do,” said defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel.
West Virginia had drives end in turnovers three times in the fourth quarter and had four turnovers in all. WVU now has 17 turnovers in eight games.
Smith completed 22 of 34 passes for 160 yards, and also ran 15 times for a season-high 64-yards; Devine finished the game with 67 yards on 16 carries to help the Mountaineers produce a season-high 254 yards on the ground.
“Geno played OK. He didn’t play as bad as he did last week, nor did he play as good as he did the first six week,” said Stewart.
“I’ve never been a guy that has been into stats,” added offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen. “I’m a guy that wants to lead the league in wins, and right now we’re not doing that.”
Connecticut’s 278 yards of offense made it the third time this season an opposing team has defeated West Virginia without gaining at least 300 total yards. Frazer, after misfiring on his first four pass attempts, finished the game completing 18 of 29 passes for 166 yards.
West Virginia gets two weeks to figure it all out before facing improving Cincinnati on Saturday, Nov. 13, at Milan Puskar Stadium. The Bearcats play Syracuse Saturday.
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