MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - If nothing else, West Virginia's football games have become oddly predictable.
Here's the way they go: The Mountaineers play well for a half or so, get a lead, then choke on it big time. The only variable is whether or not they recover from that second-half lapse.
Well, it happened again Saturday night against Texas in front of a crowd of 58,570 at Mountaineer Field. West Virginia collapsed under the weight of a second-half lead for the fourth straight game. This time it was multiple leads, like 26-16 in the third quarter and then 33-30 and 40-37 in the fourth. That 40-37 edge was still holding up as the clock wound to under a minute.
And while for the second week in a row the Mountaineers managed to do enough to get into overtime -- both TCU and Texas scored in the final seconds to tie the game -- this time the end result wasn't nearly as good. This time Texas scored first in the extra period and then held the Mountaineers on four downs from the 5-yard line and won 47-40.
"It would have been a good win for us,'' WVU coach Dana Holgorsen said. "But we just weren't able to make the plays when it counts, which is tough to take.''
It was tough to take on many levels, not the least of which is that the Mountaineers (4-6, 2-5 Big 12) had a chance to get some breathing room in their race to bowl eligibility and now find themselves backed against a wall again. Although the opposition is suspect, at best, West Virginia still must beat 2-7 Kansas on the road next week and 1-8 Iowa State at home two weeks later in order to extend its streak of bowl games to a dozen years.
It was tough, too, because it could have been a victory of some consequence in the Big 12 race. West Virginia isn't a part of that, of course, but Texas certainly still is, improving to 7-2 overall and 6-0 in the league. The Longhorns won in overtime for only the second time ever.
But the real disappointment was that for the fourth consecutive game all the Mountaineers had to do was hang on and make a few defensive stops in order to win the game. And for the fourth straight game they did not. Texas Tech, Kansas State, TCU and Texas now have all rallied in the second half to either tie or take the lead against WVU. Only against TCU in overtime did West Virginia survive one of those collapses.
"It was the difference in the game,'' defensive coordinator Keith Patterson said. "In the first half we got them in third downs and got them off the field (Texas was 1-for-9 on third downs in the first half). In the second half we got them in third downs and didn't get off the field. And when we got them in a fourth down and the game was on the line we let them catch the ball right at the sticks.''
Indeed, in a second half full of defensive lapses, that was probably the worst. West Virginia led 40-37 and the Longhorns faced fourth-and-7 near midfield with only 59 seconds to play. But quarterback Case McCoy hit Jaxon Shipley for a 9-yard gain to keep the drive alive. Five plays later Anthony Fera's 24-yard field goal extended the game.
The fact is, Texas entered the game as a run-dominated offense and West Virginia defended that well. But passes like that fourth-down throw were brutal.