WVU comes up short against TCU 31-24

Patrick Kotnik, Staff Writer
WV Sports
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No. 23 West Virginia (3-2, 1-1) suffered its first conference loss of the season Saturday in the hands of No. 8 TCU (5-0, 2-0) by score of 31-24 on the road.

After trailing 17-3 in the third quarter, West Virginia rallied to tie the game twice in the second half, but failed to do it once more after the late go-ahead touchdown for TCU, resulting in the team's ninth straight loss to a ranked opponent.

Special teams, field position and turnovers proved to be the difference as TCU scored 14 of its 31 points off of two West Virginia turnovers.

TCU punter Adam Nunez pinned West Virginia inside its own 10-yard line four different times. Three out of those four drives ended in punts for West Virginia.

Offensively, West Virginia outgained TCU 508-406 in total yards, but failed to finish promising drives. Seven Of West Virginia’s 13 offensive drives ended with punts.

Redshirt junior quarterback Will Grier finished the day 25-of-45 for 366 yards and three touchdowns along with an interception.

On the defensive side, Tony Gibson’s defense received a much-needed boost with the return of David Long, who made his first start of the season at WILL. Long finished the game with three tackles and two pass deflections.

TCU started things out with a 41-yard opening kickoff return by KaVontae Turpin, but West Virginia’s defense responded by forcing a three-and-out, leading to a 14-play, 77-yard opening scoring drive for West Virginia’s offense that was capped off by Mike Molina’s 37-yard field goal to give the Mountaineers an early 3-0 lead at the 7:30 mark in the first quarter.

After West Virginia's third defensive stop of the day, the Horned Frogs gained momentum after recovering a muffed punt on West Virginia’s 33-yard line.

TCU took full advantage of the West Virginia special teams miscue and responded with a 7-play, 33-yard scoring drive that ended with a 2-yard touchdown run from Sewo Olonilua as the Horned Frogs took a 7-3 lead early in the second quarter.

The Mountaineers would respond with a promising offensive drive of their own, but would come up empty-handed after Grier misfired on a third down pass to David Sills and Molina’s 29-yard field goal attempt sailed wide right.

Both teams would exchange punts to close out the first half and the score remained 7-3 in favor of TCU.

Despite trailing at halftime, West Virginia’s offense outgained TCU 236-131 in total yards in the first half and dominated time of possession, 17:23-12:37.

Tony Gibson’s defense was also effective in stopping TCU’s running game in the first half. The Mountaineers held the Big 12’s No. 1 rushing offense to just 66 rushing yards in the first half.

West Virginia began the second half on offense, but would punt for the third consecutive drive, allowing TCU to extend its lead on the ensuing drive with a 37-yard field goal from Jonathan Song to make it 10-3 in favor of the Horned Frogs at the 8:36 mark in the third quarter.

A Will Grier interception on West Virginia’s ensuing offensive drive led to TCU scoring its second touchdown off of a Mountaineer turnover as TCU quarterback Kenny Hill found for a 45-yard touchdown to extend its lead to 17-3.

The Mountaineer offense would respond with a long touchdown pass of its own as Grier connected with Sills for a 64-yard touchdown to cut TCU’s lead to seven points.

Following a key stop from West Virginia’s defense, Grier and the offense came up big again as Grier found wide receiver Ka’Raun White for a 76-yard score to tie the game up at 17 with 1:37 remaining in the third quarter.

TCU wasted no time regaining the lead, using some trickery as Turpin found Hill on a throwback for a 48-yard score to give the Horned Frogs a 24-17 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

The Mountaineers fought back again and tied the game up at 24 with less than 10 minutes to play with another touchdown pass from Grier to Sills, this one for a 4-yard gain.

On the ensuing kickoff, West Virginia's special teams would commit another mistake as Molina's kickoff went out of bounds, giving TCU favorable starting field position.

TCU would then use a 13-play, 65-yard drive that took 6:57 off the clock to take a 31-24 lead with a 3-yard touchdown rush from Hill with 2:53 left to play.

The drive was highlighted by an official review that overturned what would've been the first-career interception for West Virginia's Elijah Battle.

West Virginia's offense would turn the ball over on downs on the ensuing drive, sealing the win for TCU.

The Mountaineers will return to Morgantown next Saturday to face Texas Tech for a noon kickoff.

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