Column: WVU had to play perfect; it didn't

West Virginia fans were as rabid as ever. They did anything and everything in their power to try to will the No. 16 Mountaineers to an upset victory over No. 2 LSU.

Throughout all the hype of ESPN College GameDay and a national T.V. performance, though, it seems fans forgot just how perfect WVU would need to play to win.

There were certain things the Mountaineers couldn't do on both sides of the ball. They couldn't turn the ball over on offense, allow LSU to convert on third-and-long and get beat through the air with play-action.

If the stars aligned and WVU was able to do everything it needed to do and nothing it couldn't, then perhaps the gold-clad crowd would be dancing in the streets and burning couches again in support of a near top-10 team.

It was not to be, however, as the Mountaineers failed to execute on all sides of the ball – and much more talented LSU team ended up winning 47-21.

"If I would've scripted it, I probably wouldn't have scripted it this way," said WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen after the game. "(LSU) is going to find a way to win, because they're a smarter football team than we are."

WVU had four turnovers to LSU's zero. Sure, some of these were fluke plays like quarterback Geno Smith's intercepted screen pass at the end of the first half that turned into a touchdown. Still, they were all killers.

The tackling was pretty terrible in the second half, as well. In the fourth quarter alone, the Tigers rushed 14 times for an average of nearly six yards per rush mainly because of missed tackles and a lack of assignments late in the game that made it a bigger margin of loss.

Even the Mountaineers had double the amount of penalties LSU had. And WVU had a pre-snap infraction for the first time this season – each one of them coming at a seemingly inopportune time.

WVU didn't play smart, and it's ironic, because that's one of the sayings plastered around Morgantown, on commercials and even in the team's entrance video.

"When you have 10 penalties to their five and four turnovers to their zero, it pretty much says that they're a smarter football team than us," Holgorsen said.

An underrated but meaningful factor in every game, but particularly this game, was special teams – which LSU seemingly had the upper edge for the entire contest. Not only was kickoff return touchdown by Morris Claiborne a heartbreaker after clawing back to within one touchdown late in the third quarter, but LSU punter Brad Wing had one of the best nights in Milan Puskar Stadium history.

He was able to pin the Mountaineers deep in their own territory on almost every single drive. Sometimes, WVU was able to come out from its end zone. But, it had to almost each time it had the ball.

"They take pride in special teams, and I like to think we do as well. We've met about it and talked about it a bunch," Holgorsen said. "The things we preached, though, we didn't get done."

It was ugly in the end, as LSU just ran it up the middle, to the left and then back to the right over the Mountaineers' defense. They couldn't make a tackle, and LSU's SEC speed surely showed in the final quarter.

Holgorsen has said over and over again that great teams are good on all three sides of the ball. WVU was not on Saturday.

It's a shame, because it was all set up to be one of the most memorable regular season games at Mountaineer Field in its history.

The fans were pumped – and they stayed throughout the entire game despite being down by 20 points at halftime. The eyes of an entire nation were keyed on Morgantown and its "Gold Rush."

WVU had to play the perfect game, though; or at least a better one than they played.

There's good in this loss, however. WVU doesn't have to play a team nearly as good the rest of the way.

The Mountaineers proved on offense they can be explosive against the best defense in the nation. West Virginia played with the Tigers – don't believe the score if you didn't watch it.

It just wasn't meant to be against such a good opponent tonight.


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