West Virginia Vs. Connecticut: Mountaineers Fall In Overtime

West Virginia's losing streak is now at two, and the Mountaineers' Big East hopes are hanging by a thread.

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What Happened Friday Night?

[This was written Saturday morning after the Mountaineers crushed any hope I had at a top-notch season.  I was traveling and my crappy hotel didn't have Wi-Fi.  My apologies for the lateness of this wrap-up.  --Aaron]

Last night I sat a bar outside the nation's capital and watched the game.  There were some lonely folks there by themselves gently nursing one drink and waiting for their chance to sing karaoke to an empty bar.  That said the saddest thing I saw last night was the Mountaineer football team.

I don't know what to think any more. The level of focus on the field last night was nearly nonexistent. Ryan Clarke's fumble on the one yard line encapsulates the entirety of the rest of the game. Here we have one of the most talented players on the field literally handing the game to a team that was so over-matched they shouldn't even been allowed off the bus. Somehow, someway it seems that the 2010 Mountaineer Football team will find a way to lose. Even when they've won they have looked like they were still looking for a way to turn the tables in the opposition's favor.  So when Clarke put the ball on the ground during a play that would have assuredly won the game it was almost as if the whole team said, "Sorry, this is as far as we can go."

The defense, again, performed admirably, but even they had lapses, giving up just enough yardage to let UConn stay in the game and one big play that contributed just enough points to make things interesting.  For the most part they seemed to be in control, which is what makes Clarke's game ending fumble so frustrating.  There was no way UConn was getting the ball in the endzone, but the Mountaineer's created a way for them to win it with a field goal.

There were a few bright spots, and players who played well, but this is a team game.  If someone's off their game, the entire team is off.  I've defended this coaching staff's play calling all year, and I still don't have a problem with it.  However, calling plays is only part of their duties.  The other part is to have the team focused and prepared and ready to play no matter the opponent, no matter the situation. Last night it was painfully obvious to everyone watching that the Mountaineers were not even remotely prepared.  After the game, Coach Stewart told the press, "You cannot win ballgames if you can't take care of the ball."  I wonder if he bothered to tell the team that.

It's difficult to know what the future holds for the Mountaineers, but at this rate I think it's safe to say that it's not going to be good.

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West Virginia Vs. Connecticut: Final Turnover Dooms Mountaineers In Overtime Loss

West Virginia's Big East hopes are on life support, and the Mountaineers have only themselves to blame.

Four deadly fumbles cost West Virginia big time on Friday night, as it fell to Connecticut 16-13 at the Huskies' Rentschler Field. The loss drops the Mountaineers to 1-2 in Big East play.

The West Virginia defense was stout much of the night, yielding only 277 total yards and one long touchdown drive  to Connecticut. Unfortunately for WVU, though, its turnover-plagued offense allowed the Huskies to remain in the game and eventually force overtime.

It was in that extra period that the Mountaineers fumbled again, giving the Huskies their overtime possession, needing only a field goal to win. Connecticut got it in the form of a 27-yard field goal by Dave Teggart to end the game.

The West Virginia offense found a lot of success against UConn, out-gaining the Huskies 414-277. Four Mountaineers had greater than 40 yards rushing including Noel Devine (67 on 16 carries), Geno Smith (64 on 15 carries), Brad Starks (53 on a touchdown run in the first quarter), and Ryan Clarke (42 on 10 carries). Smith was accurate, completing 22/34 passes, however, he threw for only 160 yards, averaging 4.7 yards per completion.

It will be a couple of weeks before the Mountaineers can redeem themselves, as they now wait for a matchup with Cincinnati at home on Nov. 13.

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West Virginia Vs. Connecticut: Overtime

Following Connecticut's touchdown, both teams traded field goals, Connecticut's coming off another West Virginia turnover, to tie the score at 13. The fourth quarter saw both teams trade punts, and after West Virginia pinned Connecticut deep inside with five with under two minutes to play, the Huskies ran out the clock to force overtime.

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West Virginia Vs. Connecticut: Huskies Tie It Up

Coming out of the half, Connecticut ground the West Virginia defense down with a 14-play, 71-yard drive that culminated with a 24-yard touchdown run by Jordan Todman to tie the game at 10-10.

Despite holding the UConn offense quiet through much of the first half, the Mountaineers were finally victimized by their inability to hold onto the ball. On its first drive coming out of the locker room, West Virginia lost a fumble, its third turnover of the game, and Connecticut cashed it into points.

The Mountaineers are still holding on to about a 100-yard lead in total yardage. Nevertheless, the score is deadlocked now.

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West Virginia Vs. Connecticut: Huskies Add Field Goal Before Half

The West Virginia defense stood tall against the Connecticut offense in the half, holding the Huskies to 116 total yards. However, it did bend a bit, surrendering a field goal to UCONN right before the half to cut the Mountaineer lead to 10-3.

West Virginia has out-gained Connecticut 231 to 115. Quarterback Geno Smith has been accurate, but hasn't moved the ball much through the passing game, going 10-for-15 for only 82 yards. The Mountaineers have done their damage on the ground. Brad Starks, on the strength of a 53-yard run for a touchdown in the first half, leads WVU in rushing. Geno Smith has 47 yards on seven carries and running back Noel Devine has racked up 40 yards on eight carries. Overall, the Mountaineers have outrushed the Huskies 149 to 32.

All in all, a decent half of football for a West Virginia team reeling a little bit following its loss to Syracuse last week. No doubt, however, coach Bill Stewart would probably like to see a little more from his team against the last-place squad in the Big East.  The Mountaineers will have to start by limiting turnovers (they lost two in the first half) and cutting down on penalties (three for 25 yards in the first half).

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West Virginia Vs. Connecticut: Penalties Stall Drive

On West Virginia's ensuing offensive drive following its early touchdown, the Mountaineers got an apparent score from running back Noel Devine, but it was called back by a personal foul penalty. An illegal formation penalty was tacked on afterward, killing WVU's drive and forcing the Mountaineers to settle for a 36-yard field goal by Tyler Bitancurt.

West Virignia now leads Connecticut 10-0. WVU has outgained UConn 144-7.

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West Virginia Vs. Connecticut: Mountaineers Off To Big Start

Evening folks, your not-so-humble Penn State blogger is at the controls tonight, so try not to be too hard on me.

The Mountaineers are off to a big start at Connecticut tonight thanks to a 53-yard dash for a touchdown by Brad Starks early in the first quarter. The two teams had been trading punts for the better part of the first five minutes, but West Virginia used the quick strike to get on the board and stake out a lead.

The Mountaineers have outgained the Huskies 96-9 at present, yet have held possession less than half the game.

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West Virginia vs. Connecticut: WVU Tries To Bounce Back From Last Week's Awful Loss

Technically, it's been a short week for the WVU Mountaineer football team. Because they play on Friday, they had one less day to prepare for UConn. Unfortunately, after last week's Homecoming upset at the hands of the Syracuse Orange, this still feels like the longest week ever as everyone in Morgantown has been looking for answers. When the game starts at Rentschler Field there will still be plenty of questions about the 2010 Mountaineers, and hopefully this week is the week we get some answers.

Some things to watch for:

-The defense. Despite giving up a touchdown that shouldn't have happened last week, the defense still carries the water for this Mountaineer squad. Ranked sixth in the country despite dropping two games, this unit is playing well. UConn sends its third string QB, Zach Frazer, out to face the Mountaineer D. Cody Endres, who started to begin the season, has been kicked off of the team, and backup Michael Box was knocked out of the game last week against Louisville with a head injury. All in all, the time is ripe for the Mountaineer defense to feast on inferior talent. But will they? Who knows anymore. This UConn team came into the season highly touted, but has sunk like a stone since day one. Hopefully that trend continues.

-Offensive consistency. Will the Mountaineers ever have it? Geno Smith had this to say about last week's performance against Syracuse:

"I think our strength is balance," Smith said. "We have a good passing game and a good running game. But we have yet to put together a complete game. Whenever we decide to put together a complete game, we'll be a great offense."

"That inconsistency is something we have to look into. Sometimes we come out and light it up, while sometimes we come out and look flat. You don't want that to happen."

I tend to agree with him, but it's hard to be balanced when the offensive line fails to push defenders off of their blocks and has serious issues pass protecting. All around Mountaineer Nation tonight, fans will be looking for some sort of rhythm and a sense that the team has a cohesive game plan. Right now, that's the biggest issue in the Mountain State. Are the Mountaineers a running team? Are they a passing team? Do they even know?

My good friends over at City of Morgantown think the answer is less huddling. The fine folks at the D.A. couldn't come up with one solution, so they found three, but none of those seem to fit. Right now, it's all about making the offense run. It doesn't matter which plays are run, or for which players. Nothing is more important than simply making the offense move. The tendency to sink into the field through questionable play calling and pathetic execution has to stop if there's any hope for the Mountaineers to win the conference. Which brings us to ...

-What's the deal with the Big East? Look, I support the conference as much as the next guy and tend to believe Big East teams aren't quite as bad as everybody says they are. Right now, though, the whole conference stinks. One intrepid blogger has figured out that there's a way for seven of the eight Big East teams to finish tied for first with 4-3 conference records. If that's not the picture of mediocrity, I don't know what is!

In the end, all there really is to look out for tonight is to see if the Mountaineers can come out and play like they're the best team on the field. It doesn't happen all the time, but it should happen tonight. If it doesn't, well, I don't even want to begin to think about what the rest of the season holds ...

I'm out of town this weekend, so hopefully I'll get a chance to stop back by tomorrow and recap what goes down. Hopefully it's good. If it isn't, and you find yourself in some Washington DC watering hole listening to the quiet sobs of a downtrodden 'Eers fan, come up and say "Hi." I promise I won't bite.

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