WVU Shatters Hopes with Second-Half Comeback

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- A chance at bowl eligibility and the end of a near two-decade long losing streak came crashing down on Rutgers in crushing fashion against West Virginia. Leading by 10 at the half, Rutgers imploded in the second half and lost 41-31 to the No. 25 Mountaineers.

PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Rutgers had West Virginia and its 16-game losing streak in its crosshairs at a snow-filled High Point Solutions Stadium, but missed the mark in one of the more crushing losses of the streak.

Leading by 10 points after an emotionally charged first half, Rutgers (5-3, 2-2) slowly fell apart and surrendered 20 unanswered points in an eventual 41-31 loss to the Mountaineers.

"You just have to find a way," said head coach Greg Schiano. "That's what championship teams do. They find a way to get it done no matter the situation. We didn't do that."

Rutgers and West Virginia each made gutsy calls in the fourth quarter, but the differences was that the Mountaineers' call paid off. Trailing by three points on a fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line, head coach Dan Holgorsen opted to go for it.

Quarterback Geno Smith rushed the ball in from one yard for the game-deciding score.

Smith hit receiver Tavon Austin for a 20-yard score a minute later after a Gary Nova fumble and crushed Rutgers' hopes.

"There comes a point where we have to start learning how to win these games," said junior defensive tackle Scott Vallone. "We have to start learning how to grow up as a program and start winning."

The Scarlet Knights had a chance to put the game away by calling a fake field goal with a three-point lead. The play-call was right, with wide receiver Brandon Coleman open in the end-zone, but the execution was off.

Holder Pat Kivlehan under-threw the pass and the ball bounced off Coleman's chest before hitting the ground.

"I heard on the headset ‘we got him,' but we didn't hit it," Schiano said. "We hit it in practice all week."

Even in the 31-point first half, Nova struggle with accuracy, but it got worse as the game went on.

Not counting multiple dropped interceptions, Nova threw two against the Mountaineers and lost a fumble. The true freshman finished 18-for-46 for 235 yards and two touchdowns.

"Some of the balls weren't there, but I have all the confidence in Gary," said Mark Harrison, who rebounded from a bad drop last week with a 45-yard touchdown. "I know he can do it. I've seen him do it."

Prior to a second-half implosion, Rutgers executed a strong first half to build the largest lead on West Virginia since beating the Mountaineers in 1994.

In a 56-minute first quarter filled with scoring, the weather elements took advantage of both teams.

For West Virginia, multiple dropped passes and a Geno Smith fumble within his own 20-yard line set up 17 first-quarter points for Rutgers.

Mohamed Sanu bounced a tackler on a 14-yard slant for a touchdown, followed by Mark Harrison catching a 45-yard touchdown bomb in similar fashion to last week's drop.

For Rutgers, the West Virginia skill players took advantage of the wet conditions to slip out of multiple tackles on two 50-plus yard touchdown runs.

"We got a turnover or two," Holgorsen said on the difference between the halves. "...When adversity hits you and you don't make a play, what are you going to do? Are you going to shut it down or are you going to line up and play even harder? And we did that in the second half."

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