MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - TCU coach Gary Patterson rolled the dice and it came up sevens. Trevone Boykin’s two-point conversion pass to Josh Boyce in the second overtime gave the Horned Frogs a 39-38, come-from-behind victory over No. 23 West Virginia in double overtime Saturday evening at Milan Puskar Stadium.
“The two-point play was the same one we used at the Boise (State) game, where we isolate Josh and we’re fortunate we made the play,” said Patterson. “When no one thought it was possible, they were going to make (plays)."
In a game both teams needed to win, Patterson’s team was able to make enough plays at the end of the game to snap its two-game losing streak and extend West Virginia’s to three – the most the Mountaineers have lost since the end of the 2004 season. WVU has also dropped four of its last five overtime decisions since defeating Rutgers, 41-39, in triple overtime in 2006.
“We had plenty of opportunities to win the game, and we failed to do so on all three sides of the ball,” said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen.
West Virginia (5-3, 2-3) led by 10 points midway through the third quarter, 24-14, but momentum turned on the Mountaineers when punter Tyler Bitancurt dropped the ball on his punt attempt at the WVU 17 and tried to pick it up, only to have TCU’s Dominic Merka knock the ball out of his hands. Merka scooped up the football and ran 13 yards for a tide-turning touchdown.
The Horned Frogs (6-3, 3-3) then knotted the game with 12:01 left in the fourth quarter when Jaden Oberkrom converted a 26-yard field goal.
From there, TCU’s defense bottled up West Virginia’s offense twice, forcing punts on back-to-back possessions. However, the Horned Frogs were unable to do anything with their two possessions before being forced to punt the ball back to the Mountaineers with 3:19 remaining.
Tavon Austin took Ethan Perry’s punt at his 26, made one quick move to his right and took off up the near side of the field for a 74-yard touchdown to give the Mountaineers a 31-24 lead.
On TCU's ensuing possession, West Virginia’s defense was able to hold to force Patterson to make a decision on fourth and four and the ball at his own 20 with 2:37 remaining on the clock. Patterson wisely chose to punt the ball back to West Virginia and hold on to his three timeouts.
The Mountaineers took over at their 47 with an opportunity to run out the clock and win the game if they could get one first down, but they couldn’t, and in the process milked only 30 seconds off the clock before punting the ball back to the Horned Frogs. TCU took over at its own 15 and lost nine yards on a first-down sack of Boykin by Josh Francis, before taking advantage of a big error by the West Virginia secondary to tie the game.
Boykin, scrambling around in his own end zone, was able to buy enough time to find Josh Boyce standing alone at his own 40. Boykin flipped the ball to Boyce, who ran untouched into the end zone for a 94-yard touchdown to knot the game with just 1:28 remaining.
“Obviously their quarterback got out of the pocket, the receiver went out of bounds, legally, came back in and we lost track of him and the quarterback made a play,” said Holgorsen. “Other than that, we got turnovers, got three-and-outs, got pressure – everything that we tried to get accomplished over the course of the last seven or eight games.”
WVU was able to get the ball into position for a Tyler Bitancurt 55-yard field goal try to win the game with 13 seconds left, but his kick landed well short of the goal post to force the first overtime game at Milan Puskar Stadium since Cincinnati in 2008.
In the first OT, West Virginia won the coin toss and looked like it was in position to win the game when Oberkrom missed a 37-yard field goal, but on its ensuing possession, Bitancurt’s 36-yard field goal attempt to end it was blocked by Jason Verrett, sending the game to a second overtime.
On the first play of the second overtime, Geno Smith found Stedman Bailey in the left corner of the end zone for a 25-yard touchdown – Smith’s third TD pass of the game - and Bitancurt’s PAT gave the Mountaineers a 38-31 lead.
But Patterson once again dipped into his bags of tricks, calling a reverse pass that had Boykin flipping the ball to wide receiver Brandon Carter running in the opposite direction. Carter then lofted a soft pass to wide open tight end Corey Fuller at the 15 and he jogged into the end zone for a 25-yard touchdown. Patterson chose to go for the two-point conversion and following a timeout, Boykin rolled to his right and hit Boyce, who was able to pick the pass off the turf. Replay officials confirmed the catch.
“It turned out to be the right call on his part,” said Holgorsen. “I thought he caught it on the field. They looked at it and said he caught it so I guess he did.”
“We got beat by Texas Tech on one of those, so it was nice to return the favor for a change,” added Patterson. “The offenses have the advantage down there.”
West Virginia had 338 yards of offense, but it was TCU’s defense that really controlled the game. After allowing the Mountaineers to convert four of their first seven third down tries, TCU stiffened, limiting West Virginia to just two successful conversions in its last 15 tries.
“They tackled a lot better than we blocked,” said Holgorsen. “They whipped us up front. I thought our O-line played bad, receivers didn’t make big plays, and Geno was probably as bad as he’s been since he’s been here and it falls on me. We’ll look at it and see what we have to do to get better.”
The Mountaineers had 212 of their 338 yards in the first half on the way to building a 21-14 halftime lead.
Both Smith touchdown passes in the first half were the result of great individual efforts by his wide receivers. On the first one, Smith threw into double coverage and J.D. Woods was able to step in front of safety Elisha Olabode for a 22-yard touchdown. The second one was Austin making a terrific play on his own, getting bottled up at the far sideline near the TCU 35 before changing field and out-running the entire Horned Frog defense for a 43-yard touchdown.
WVU’s other TD came on a Shawne Alston fourth-and-goal run from the one. Alston was seeing his first action since the James Madison game.
TCU’s first half touchdowns came on a Matthew Tucker two-yard run and a Boykin-to-Boyce 31-yard touchdown pass when Boyce got past West Virginia’s Brodrick Jenkins.
Boyce finished the game with six catches for 180 yards and two touchdowns while Boykin completed 12-of-29 passes for 254 yards. After completing seven of his first 11 pass attempts, Boykin hit just three of his next 14 before connecting with Boyce on the big pass play.
Smith completed 32-of-54 passes for 260 yards and three touchdowns with an interception. Austin caught 11 passes for 101 yards and finished the game with 203 all-purpose yards.
Neither team could run the ball consistently, although TCU was a little better than the Mountaineers. The Horned Frogs finished the game with a 126-78 edge on the ground.
“What we’ve done the last three weeks offensively is totally unacceptable,” said Holgorsen.
West Virginia’s defense, despite allowing 405 yards and a couple of missed assignments, actually played much better than it had in its prior four Big 12 games when it was surrendering 565 yards and 53 points per game.
“They responded to all of the criticism and scrutiny that they’ve been under and they practiced hard and got better,” Holgorsen said. “It’s sad to see that long pass for a touchdown after they played so well.”
TCU has games remaining against Kansas State, Texas and Oklahoma while West Virginia still must play Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Iowa State and Kansas.
A game time for next week’s Oklahoma State game has not yet been announced.