We saw a little bit of everything in this one … muffed punts, blocked punts, blocked field goals, a punt return for a touchdown … you name it, but in the end it was a 47-yard field goal by Josh Lambert on the game’s final play that finally decided it: West Virginia 40, Maryland 37.
"I just couldn't be happier for the team, the coaching staff and fanbase," said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen. "Everybody needed this one."
Lambert’s game-winning kick came one possession after his first field goal try to put the Mountaineers back in the lead was blocked by Alvin Hill.
Maryland couldn’t do anything with the football following Hill’s block, punting the ball back to West Virginia at the Mountaineer 5 yard line with just 2:35 left in the game.
West Virginia took its time, running the ball on three consecutive plays to get a first down at the 20. Then, on third and eight at its own 22 with the game clock winding inside of 1:30, Trickett found Dustin Garrison out in the flat for a 13-yard gain to the West Virginia 36. Garrison’s catch got the Mountaineers out of a hole and opened up Holgorsen’s playbook.
On second and 11, Trickett completed a 17-yard pass to Daikiel Shorts for 17 yards to the Maryland 49. Holgorsen, with all three timeouts remaining, elected to use one there with the game clock sitting at 36 seconds left.
A Garrison 10-yard run got the ball to the Maryland 39, and from there Holgorsen was content to work the sidelines and keep the clock running to set up Lambert’s game-winning field goal – the second of his career. Lambert’s first game-winning kick came last year at TCU in overtime.
That the game even got to this point is a mystery, considering West Virginia (2-1) led 28-6 at one point in the second quarter and had a 37-27 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Maryland erupted for two touchdowns to end the first half, a 77-yard touchdown pass from C.J. Brown to a wide-open Stefon Diggs and a 26-yard TD hookup from backup quarterback Caleb Rowe to Jacquille Veii to reduce West Virginia’s lead to 28-20 at halftime.
Then, at the beginning of the fourth quarter West Virginia’s special teams self-destructed, Jordan Thompson fumbling a punt at the WVU 8 leading to a Brad Craddock field goal, one of three he made for the afternoon. Then, with the Mountaineers holding on to a 37-30 lead, William Likely took Nick O’Toole’s punt 69 yards for a touchdown to tie the game.
That play completely wiped out West Virginia’s big early lead accomplished primarily on the arm of Clint Trickett, who finished the game completing 37-of-49 passes for 511 yards and four touchdowns, two of those going to Mario Alford and one each to Kevin White and Shorts.
Trickett’s 511 yards passing were the second-best performance in school history and White’s 216 yards receiving (on 13 catches) were the third-most in school history.
But lost in all of this offense was the second-half performance of the WVU defense, which produced four three-and-out possessions, including the final two it faced for the game. West Virginia had four turnovers for the game and also failed to convert two fourth-and-short opportunities deep in Maryland territory. Added up, WVU either turned the ball over or lost the ball on downs at the Maryland 5, 39, 16, 8 and 36, plus, Thompson’s fumble at his own 8.
"What a game. I don't know if I've ever been involved in a game where the momentum swings were back and forth like that," said Holgorsen. "We didn't win the turnover battle and we wanted to focus on finishing in the red zone and we obviously didn't do that as good as we wanted to."
Brown finished 19-of-35 for 241 yards and one touchdown through the air, and ran 18 times for 161 yards, including his third quarter 75-yard touchdown run.
The two teams combined to produce 1,315 yards (694 for West Virginia and 447 for Maryland).
"At the end of the day winning is the most important thing and we will build off of this," said Holgorsen.
West Virginia ran 108 plays to Maryland’s 65. Maryland falls to 2-1.
The Mountaineers return to Milan Puskar Stadium on Saturday, September 20, to play Oklahoma in a 7:30 p.m. game that will be televised on FOX.