West Virginia ensured a game many predicted would be a shootout stayed in check, stuffing Baylor’s offense to pull off a 41-27 upset of the No. 4 Bears in Morgantown, W.Va. Here are three thoughts on the Big 12 stunner.
1. The Mountaineers started slow, but finished in style
West Virginia had the kind of shaky start that normally derails an upset bid before it can began, particularly against a high-powered offense like Baylor’s. Yet despite three Mountaineers’ turnovers in the first 15:08, Baylor built only a 13-7 lead.
The Bears turned quarterback Clint Trickett’s fumble on West Virginia’s opening drive into a seven-yard score, on a pass from Bryce Petty to Corey Coleman. But Trickett’s pick that gave Baylor the ball at the Mountaineers’ 37-yard line led to only a field goal, and Daryl Worley’s muffed punt resulted in no points when Petty missed a wide-open Antwan Goodley on a crucial fourth down.
Even after those wasted opportunities, the Bears seemed ready to seize control midway through the second quarter, when Petty hit Goodley for a 63-yard score to take a 20-14 lead. It had all the makings of the play that would wake the Bears up and spark a 60-point outburst. Instead, it was Baylor’s final score for 22 minutes.
The Mountaineers’ defense suffocated the Bears’ ground game, holding Baylor to 95 yards on 42 carries. The Bears converted just 3-of-16 third downs, and Petty went 16-of-36 for 223 passing yards with two scores. He missed on several deep balls, and his receivers did him few favors with several drops.
West Virginia's offense also stepped up. After those two early turnovers, Trickett settled in to go 23-of-35 for 322 yards with three touchdowns. Trickett and wide receiver Kevin White continued to show excellent chemistry as White surpassed the 1,000-yard mark on Saturday with his eight-catch, 132-yard effort, his seventh straight 100-plus-yard performance. White showed off his skills on a masterful one-handed touchdown grab in the fourth that proved to be the winning score.
After Baylor scored 136 points in its past two meetings with West Virginia, the Mountaineers showed significant improvement. The result was Baylor’s lowest point total of the year.
2. Both teams had a barrage of penalties
Even with Petty’s miscues and an unproductive ground game, the Bears still could have pulled out the win had they not decimated themselves with penalties. Baylor was flagged 18 times for 215 yards. It was hardly a banner day for the Big 12 officiating crew, which flagged both teams, and especially Baylor, for several questionable pass interference calls. The Mountaineers drew 14 flags for 138 yards, so the Bears weren’t one-sided victims of an aggressively officiated game.
However, the penalties helped put West Virginia over the top by extending drives. The Mountaineers got 10 first downs from penalties.
3. Baylor’s College Football Playoff dreams are likely over
The first half of the 2014 season taught fans that one loss does not end a team’s playoff aspirations. That’s likely not true for Baylor, though. Given the Bears’ weak nonconference schedule (SMU, Northwestern State and Buffalo), they probably needed to go undefeated to secure a playoff bid.
However, after winning a wild 61-58 affair against TCU last week, Baylor couldn’t handle West Virginia on the road. Even in a deep Big 12, Baylor would need some serious chaos in other Power Five conferences to sneak into the playoff at 11-1.