The Mountaineers, behind Clint Trickett’s career-high 511 yards and four touchdowns and a defense that stopped the Terrapins as well as possible over the final eight possessions, gained a huge 40-37 road victory on Josh Lambert's field goal as time expired. It appeared WVU did the same multiple times over before rallying for the win.
The Mountaineers scored on four of their first five possessions – the lone miscue a fumble inside the UM 10-yard line – to take a 28-6 lead before watching a series of self-inflicted wounds allow the Terps to tie the score at 37-37 with less than 10 minutes to play. From there, the teams would trade three punts, along with a blocked Lambert field goal, before West Virginia took over at its own five with 2:35 remaining. The offense, a mix between explosive and implosive at times, was patient, utilizing four straight Dreamius Smith runs prior to four consecutive completed passes to move inside Maryland territory with 36 seconds left.
From there, WVU gained 19 yards over four plays to again set-up Lambert, this time for a 47-yard try with four seconds left.
“We had some leakage on the first one,” special teams coordinator Joe DeForest said. “We know Josh came make it from 45-50 yards.”
Lambert stutter-stepped prior to the snap, but still managed to put a solid swing into the kick, splitting the uprights at Byrd Stadium as West Virginia’s players and staff poured onto the field in celebration, both for the win and a palpable sense of relief at not fully surrendering a 22-point lead in arguably the most pivotal game of the young season.
“Couldn’t be happier for our team, the coaching staff and the fan base,” Holgorsen said. “Everybody needed this one. What a game. I don’t know if I have ever been a part of a game that the momentum swings kept going back and forth and were drastic. We didn’t win the turnover battle. We wanted to finish in the red zone and we wanted to win special teams. There goes that except for the last (play).”
And yet it was inarguable that the better team emerged victorious. West Virginia (2-1) rolled up 694 yards of offense, scored 40 points in a game in which it should have easily had 50-plus, and limited a solid Maryland offense to virtually nothing of major consequence in forcing eight punts and, in the last eight possessions, allowing just 10 points despite being put in poor field position once by a fumble that set Maryland (2-1) up at the WVU eight yard line. The Mountaineers allowed just a field goal, an ultimate win for a unit that allowed an unsightly 447 yards via some big plays.
Trickett, once again showcasing excellent efficiency, completed 37 of 49 passes, including scores of 43 and 36 yards to Mario Alford and 44 yards to Kevin White. And, with WVU floundering under pressure, the right-hander fired a key strike to Daikiel Shorts in the back of the end zone for a 37-27 lead late in the third quarter.
“We didn’t think we were going to get any shots,” said Trickett, who has now gone over the 300-yard passing mark in four straight games dating to the finale last year. “But we kind of forced them into it the way we were playing. I recognized it and I made some checks at the line and they were up and we went deep. That’s what you have to do.”
The Mountaineers were balanced as well, prodding Maryland with early runs to set-up the deep shots. Rushel Shell rushed for 98 yards on 27 carries and one touchdown, while three other backs combined for 77 yards. WVU threw 49 passes and rushed 59 times.
“You can’t say anything bad about the way Rushel played,” said Trickett said. “They loaded the box and – he had that fumble, but the weather was bad. Hats off to all the running backs.”
And the wideouts. White continually made key third down catches, finishing with a career-high 216 yards on 13 grabs and a score; Alford lit up Maryland with exceptional body control and blinding speed for 11 receptions, 131 yards and two touchdowns. Maryland’s vaunted wideouts? They combined for 284 yards, with Stefon Diggs leading the way with five catches for 127 yards and the 77-yard touchdown off blown coverage.
UM quarterback C.J. Brown threw for 241 yards, with one touchdown and one interception in the losing effort. The Terrapins, losers to WVU for the eighth time in nine games, amassed 447 yards of offense. Maryland converted zero third downs in the second half and had minus-10 yards of total offense in the fourth quarter on 12 plays as the Mountaineer defense was the key in aiding the win.
“Those guys can move the ball and score points," Holgorsen said. “We gave up plays, they gave up plays and it was a heck of a game. We just happened to get one more.”
Maryland trailed the entire first half because of WVU’s vertical passing, but began to turn the tide early in the third quarter when Brown took a keeper 75 yards off the left side – the longest quarterback rush at the FBS level this season – to pull within one at 28-27 just 14 seconds into the second half. The score, a career-long run for the sixth-year player, gave the Terrapins 21 unanswered points after an early 28-6 deficit. West Virginia then began to reestablish itself offensively, driving 68 yards seven plays only to see Shell fumble after a great open field cut. Darius Kilgo fell on the ball at the Maryland 16 yard line to end that threat.
From there, a series of special teams miscues set-up the final 9:43 with the teams tied at 37-37. First, WVU’s Jarrod Harper blocked a Maryland punt, which then rolled through the end zone for a safety and a 30-27 WVU lead. The Mountaineers scored a touchdown on their resulting drive when Trickett hit Shorts in the back of the end zone for an 11-yard score and a 37-27 edge with 3:53 to play in the third. But it was then that the Mountaineers self-destructed, failing to convert on a fourth and one in Maryland territory.
The defense forced a punt, only to watch Thompson’s mishandle set-up Maryland inside the 10-yard line. WVU again held, limiting the Terps to a 30-yard Craddock field goal. But, once again, West Virginia’s offense stalled, and Maryland tied the game on a 69-yard punt return for a score by William Likely to set-up the final few series.
"We got ourselves back in the game to tie it up and then just could not get over the hump on third downs,” said Maryland head coach Randy Edsall, whose squad converted just four of 15 third downs – the same number as Towson last week. “It hurts and nobody likes it. Give West Virginia credit because I told you all week long that is a very good football team that is athletic with a lot of speed.”
West Virginia opened impressively, scoring touchdowns on three of its first four possessions, the only UM stop a fumble by Alford inside the 10-yard line. The Mountaineers, mixing a heavy dose of the run with vertical passing, quickly moved inside the UM’s score zone on the game’s first play, when Trickett hit Smallwood for a 50-yard catch and run. That drive culminated in Shell’s one-yard touchdown plunge on fourth down after the Mountaineers briefly bogged at the four, taking the four snaps to score.
After Worley intercepted Brown on the ensuing series, WVU chased its initial drive with a 10-play, 39-yard effort that ended with Alford’s fumble at the UM nine-yard line. West Virginia again stopped Maryland, then went ahead 14-0 on Trickett’s 43-yard pass to Alford for the wideout’s second score of the season with 2:12 left in the first quarter. Maryland answered with Craddock’s 46-yard field goal before Trickett struck again, hitting White with a 44-yard touchdown screen pass on a drive covering 49 yards in just three plays for a 21-3 advantage.
It looked like WVU might put the game out of reach when it again traded three for seven, as Alford scored again on a 36-yard sideline throw after Brad Craddock nailed a 41-yarder for the Terps. The scoring exchange left West Virginia with a then-commanding 28-6 lead that was cut to 28-20 at the break by a pair of touchdown passes to Diggs (7 yards) and Jacquille Veii (26). The latter came after a bit of confusion following a Mountaineer punt that hit Al-Rasheed Benton before being picked up and returned for a presumed score by Maryland. The touchdown was nullified because a fair catch was called on the kick.