Turnovers haunt WVU in 16-13 OT loss to UConn
Published: Monday, November 1, 2010
Updated: Monday, November 1, 2010 00:11
Robert Sands sat on the field with his head down.
The West Virginia safety looked up at the field goal post, and then moved out of the way – the University of the Connecticut students were rushing the field to celebrate.
For the first time in the history of the series, West Virginia lost to Connecticut 16-13 in overtime Friday at Rentschler Field in Hartford, Conn.
The defeat downs the Mountaineers' record to 5-3, marking the earliest in the season the program has lost three games since 2003 and the first time WVU has fell to Big East Conference opponents in back-to-back games since 2004.
"I'm disappointed for our program, losing for the first time to the University of Connecticut," said WVU head coach Bill Stewart. "Maybe the UConn Huskies' fans rushing the field around us will linger in their minds."
West Virginia fell victim to seven turnovers and four penalties, including a holding call on Matt Lindamood on the team's first play in overtime – a play that otherwise would have resulted in a Jock Sanders 25-yard touchdown.
The Mountaineers reached the Connecticut one-yard line on the possession, but after gaining 15 yards on consecutive plays, West Virginia tailback Ryan Clarke fumbled on the UConn one-yard line – the sophomore's second fumble of the game.
The Huskies handed off four times to running back Jordan Todman to set up a Dave Teggart 27-yard field goal to clinch Connecticut's first Big East win of the season.
"It was like a pitch handoff," Stewart said. "It was unbelievable."
After scoring 10 points in the first quarter, the Mountaineers had plenty of opportunities to pad their lead. Despite being pinned at its own three-yard line, WVU had marched 63 yards to the Huskies' 44-yard line with 12:46 left in the game.
But on a carry up the middle, West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith lost a fumble, which was recovered by Connecticut linebacker Lawrence Wilson.
UConn quarterback Zach Frazer hooked up with Kashif Moore on the Huskies' first play of the following drive for a 40-yard pickup. Four plays later, Teggart converted a 26-yard field goal to tie the game 13-13 with 10:48 remaining.
Despite the mistakes, the Mountaineers still converted 414 total yards of offense, compared to the Huskies' 278 total yards.
"It's a tough pill to swallow when you realize penalties and turnovers are what killed you," said WVU offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen. "There is no magic potion for holding onto the ball."
With 3:23 left before the half, West Virginia had outgained UConn 231-53 in total yards.
But that was when Connecticut strung together a 12-play, 63-yard drive that ended in a 39-yard Teggart field goal, cutting the WVU lead to 10-3 entering the half.
Connecticut's success carried into the second half as the Huskies drove 71 yards on 14 plays on their first possession of the second half to tie the game 10-10 on a Todman 24-yard touchdown run.
The junior, who entered the game as the nation's fifth-leading rusher, finished the drive with eight carries for 50 yards and touched the ball on nine of the team's 14 plays.
Todman finished with 113 yards on a career-high 33 carries.
Before the two scoring drives, Todman had 11 carries for 15 yards while Frazer was 6-for-7 passing.
"We had a nice drive right before the half and when we came into the locker room, I told the guys I wanted to keep up that tempo," said UConn head coach Randy Edsall.
After stalling on the UConn 35-yard line on its first possession, the WVU offense wasted no time on its second possession as receiver Brad Starks scored on a 53-yard end-around to put WVU up 7-0 just 4:45 into the game.
On their next possession, the Mountaineers were able to reach the Connecticut 9-yard line, until two-consecutive penalties forced West Virginia to settle for a field goal with 4:03 remaining in the first quarter.
Noel Devine led the Mountaineers with 77 yards on 16 carries while Smith added 73 yards on the ground and finished 22-for-34 for 160 yards through the air.
"It's an unpleasant feeling," said West Virginia defensive lineman Chris Neild. "It's a new and different territory for us. This has never happened to us."