Football Gods Punish Red Raiders

West Virginia defeated Texas Tech 37-34 on a last-second field goal Saturday at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, TX.

That West Virginia kicker Josh Lambert would hammer home a 55-yard field goal to dispatch the Texas Tech Red Raiders was almost a foregone conclusion. The winning play had the air of inevitability, nay, justice about it. It was merely the culmination of a series of missed opportunities by Tech, and failures to drive a stake through the heart of the vampire.

First and foremost, the Red Raiders lost this game when they kicked two short field goals rather than score touchdowns in the third quarter. After a miraculous 16-yard grab by Dylan Cantrell, who is becoming an old hand at miraculous catches, Tech was set up with 1st-and-goal at the West Virginia three. But following a run for minus one by Quinton White, an incompletion toward Cantrell, and a Robert Hall reception for no gain, the Red Raiders settled for a 20-yard field goal.

On West Virginia’s next offensive series, Pete Robertson came around the edge like a Tomahawk missile and forced a Clint Trickett fumble that was recovered at the Mountaineer 22 by Demetrius Alston. Four plays later Tech was set up with 1st-and-goal at the West Virginia nine. But the rare turnover created by the defense was destined to be squandered.

Three offensive snaps netted exactly one yard, and Bustin was again call upon, and again connected, this time from 25 yards out.

Kudos to Bustin. Raspberries to the Red Raider offense. Tech had the chance to put West Virginia in a 35-13 hole with roughly two minutes remaining in the third quarter, but instead, the score stood at 27-13. This was the difference between burying the Mountaineers in a coal mine and shining a ray of light in the mine shaft. And sure enough, it was Tech that experienced a cave-in as the visitors struck for the final 17 points of the game to pull out the victory they deserved, and the Red Raiders did not.

Still, after Justin Stockton’s 69-yard lightning thrust put Tech up 34-20 with only 7:32 showing on the clock, it looked like the Red Raiders might get away with their earlier red zone ineptitude. But the gridiron gods would have none of it.

West Virginia trucked 75 yards on seven plays—four of them runs—in only 1:37 to draw within a touchdown with 5:55 remaining.

But Tech still had a chance to put the Mountaineers out of their misery, either by scoring, or by mounting a sustained, clock-burning drive. Instead, the Red Raiders went three-and-out on a DeAndre Washington run, an incomplete pass, and a Justin Stockton carry. Tech gave West Virginia the ball again with 4:39 still showing.

Nevertheless, the Red Raiders still had the chance to slam the door. All they needed to do was thwart a Mountaineer drive. Couldn’t get it done. It took West Virginia only 2:37 to go 78 yards for the tying score, which came on a one-yard run by Rushel Shell with 2:02 still to play.

The advantage, however, still, amazingly, remained with Tech. A scoring drive would win it. And a drive of any duration would leave WVU will too little time to score. Overtime would be in the offing.

The Red Raiders put together a drive of sorts. They managed to go from their own 30 to the Mountaineer 46, but stalled out there, and rather than go for it on 4th-and-3, Kliff Kingsbury elected to punt the ball away.

In his postgame comments, the coach stated that he was not confident in his receivers’ ability to defeat press coverage, and this is what motivated his decision to punt. And he probably felt reasonably sure that his defense would not yield points with less than a minute remaining. He was sadly mistaken.

West Virginia took over at its own 20 with only 52 ticks of the clock yet to elapse. Yet even here, in entirely advantageous circumstances, Tech could not do the job. The Mountaineers plowed through the Red Raider defense to the Tech 38, and at that point, all that remained was the inevitable, almost anticlimactic coup de grace. Lambert blasted the 55-yard field goal with room to spare and football justice was served.

The headlines will bellow forth the news about the last-second cannon shot, but the real story was Texas Tech’s utter failure to put the Mountaineers on the mat when they were up against the ropes and awaiting the knockout blow.

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