For the second week in a row, mistakes hampered West Virginia, but this time, the Mountaineers did just enough to win — and they did so in dramatic fashion.
A Tykee Smith interception in the second overtime period led to a walk-off touchdown by running back Leddie Brown, as the Mountaineers topped Baylor 27-21 for their first Big 12 victory of 2020.
Head coach Neal Brown admitted that some onlookers might describe the win as “ugly,” but he called it “gritty.”
“I’ll say this: winning is hard,” Brown said. “I think in COVID times, it’s probably even harder, but that was a great program win. On a day where a ton of things went wrong, we found a way to win.”
The WVU defense allowed West Virginia to overcome four turnovers and other costly mistakes in this game by continually stuffing the Baylor offense throughout regulation.
Leading 14-7 late in the fourth quarter, West Virginia appeared to have the game won after a goal line stand on Baylor’s second-to-last possession. But, the Bears got the ball back after forcing a punt with 1:55 to go, and scored 36 seconds later on a 34-yard Charlie Brewer touchdown pass to Josh Fleeks, forcing overtime.
In the opening overtime period, WVU quarterback Jarret Doege hit Bryce Ford-Wheaton on a six-yard fade to put the Mountaineers in front, 21-14. Baylor tied the score one play later when Brewer connected with Ben Sims, forcing a second overtime period.
Baylor had possession first in that additional period and went for a go-ahead touchdown immediately, but Brewer’s pass was intercepted by Smith in the end zone, returning possession to the Mountaineers.
Brown’s three-yard rush on the ensuing drive ended the game.
West Virginia’s defense recorded 11 tackles for loss, including six sacks, in the victory. It held Baylor to just 27 rushing yards on 33 attempts and forced six three-and-outs.
The Bears logged two more takeaways than the Mountaineers, but they only scored seven points from those four turnovers. West Virginia’s two interceptions — one from defensive back Dreshun Miller, the other from Smith in double overtime — came at critical junctures in the game.
“I was really pleased with our defense overall,” Brown said.
In the days leading up to this game, Brown promised to find a remedy for the issues that plagued the WVU offense in the loss at Oklahoma state, but instead, that unit produced another shaky performance. Doege committed three first half turnovers, and four more West Virginia drives were three-and-outs.
But as Brown pointed out, the Mountaineers were efficient in their two lengthy scoring drives in regulation, and were successful with both of their overtime possessions.
Unlike the Oklahoma State game, WVU was able to win despite shortcomings on offense.
“We found ways to lose that game. Here at home, we found a way to win, and I hope what we can do is, we point back when we get this thing rolling, we can say, ‘hey, this is the game we kind of figured it out,’” Brown said.
WVU (2-1, 1-1) will head into an open week before returning to action Oct. 17 vs. Kansas. The Mountaineers are now 5-0 all-time against Baylor at Milan Puskar Stadium.