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Notebook: Key plays swung momentum away from WVU

MANHATTAN, Kan. - There were a lot of little things, it seemed, that contributed to one big loss for West Virginia's football team here Saturday.

That's not to say the major issues weren't, well, major. They were. The Mountaineers still can't move the ball consistently on offense, give up way too many third-down plays on defense and haven't made more than a handful of plays all season on special teams.

But consider how even just two or three plays might have changed what came to be a 35-12 Kansas State win:

  • Twice in the second half, quarterback Clint Trickett fumbled. Both times a teammate was right there to recover. And neither did.
  • First, Ronald Carswell slid past a loose ball and the Wildcats recovered. Later, Trickett was hit scrambling for a first down while WVU's offense was moving and the deficit was only 21-12. Quinton Spain seemed almost to fall on the ball with his 335 pounds, but he didn't secure it and Kansas State recovered.

  • Defensive breakdowns on just two third-down plays sparked KSU's rally. The Wildcats' first second-half score wouldn't have happened had running back John Hubert not been lost on a swing pass on third-and-6. He gained 15 yards and the Wildcats avoided punting.
  • On the next scoring drive, WVU had third-and-6 defensed perfectly. But then heavy-footed quarterback Jake Waters scrambled and got the first down.

    Combine those two defensive breakdowns with the fumble Spain didn't recover - which led to the next KSU score - and West Virginia might well have kept the momentum.

    "Sometimes that's all it takes is one or two plays. I know those are the ones I can't get out of my head,'' said defensive coordinator Keith Patterson. "I thought we played well the first half. I thought, maybe this is going to be the day we get over the hump and finish.

    "But it doesn't matter what you do in the first half or even the first three quarters. This is a 60-minute game.''

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  • There was another time when West Virginia actually gave away points. But it wasn't because of any decision by the coaches - save for the one they made to give the special teams players an option to fake a field goal.

    It came at the end of the first half when WVU had driven inside the Kansas State 10. On fourth down, the Mountaineers lined up for a field goal with a 9-7 lead. But holder Mike Molinari took the snap and ran over left tackle. He made four yards, but he needed seven for a first down or nine for a touchdown.

    It actually didn't seem like a bad place to try a fake, but it wasn't the coaches' decision. They give the specialists - Molinari and kicker Josh Lambert - the option if they see certain things. Lambert or Molinari apparently thought they saw something they didn't and called the fake.

    "It was not the correct look,'' Dana Holgorsen said. "And it was not the correct call.''

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  • Injuries are beginning to take a toll on West Virginia.

    Linebacker Doug Rigg did not make the trip after taking a hard hit last week against Texas Tech. Cornerback Daryl Worley stayed in street clothes after he was ruled out. Quarterback Ford Childress made the trip, but didn't dress.

    And that's not even to mention the laundry list of players - mostly on defense - who have been lost for the season. They include cornerback Nana Kyeremeh, linebackers Shaq Petteway and Dozie Ezemma, and lineman Christian Brown.

    Patterson, though, refuses to use that as an excuse.

    "I don't like to make excuses and that's what that sounds like,'' he said. "It's that time of year when things like that happen and start to pile up.''

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  • BRIEFLY: Oddly, West Virginia's game captains were all specialists - Molinari, Lambert, punter Nick O'Toole and snapper John DePalma. Teams used to assign captains from the offense, defense and special teams in order to represent the team with game officials, but apparently that's no longer an issue.

  • There will be no more redshirt for Darrien Howard. The 6-foot-2, 250-pound freshman, who arrived late in August and is still listed as a linebacker, made his first appearance as a nose guard early in the game. That officially eliminates him from a potential redshirt because he's played in the second half of the season.
  • Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickman1@aol.com or follow him at twitter.com/dphickman1


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