There are a lot of different ways to approach this game. You can marvel at the eye-popping numbers WVU put up. Clint Trickett was 37/49 for 511 yards with 4 TDs and 1 int, becoming only the the second WVU QB ever to surpass the 500 yard mark. Kevin White had 13 catches for 216 yards and a score (13 catches was 1 short of the school record and 216 is the best day ever by a WVU WR not named Stedman Bailey or Tavon Austin). Mario Alford had 11 catches for 131 yards and a pair of scores.
But that's not what we'll come out of here talking about. What we'll remember is a WVU team faced massive adversity - much of it of its own making - yet still scrapped and scrambled enough to win a huge road game in their last remaining border battle. The simple fact is a year ago this team doesn't win this game. They wilt, they make a mistake, they drop a pass....they lose.
In 2014 they won.
The irony is that even in winning we find ourselves asking many of the same questions we asked in 2013 and in the first two games of this year. What's the problem with the red zone? Can special teams get it done? Can we field a freaking punt? But maybe the most important question that we all had did get an answer - does this team know how to win?
Today they did.
Frustratingly, it was a game that should have been over early. Clint Trickett was dealing, Kevin White was an unstoppable monster and it seemed that Dana Holgorsen had once again crafted an offensive juggernaut from which there was no escape. WVU charged out to a 14-0 lead and then a 28-6 lead with a mere 6:09 left in the first half.
That was the point at which things fell apart for the Mountaineers. First a blown assignment by true freshman Dravon Henry that allowed the Terrapins' Stefon Diggs to get behind the defense for a 77 yard touchdown. Then the first awful decision that Trickett has made all year in an interception that was the first time the WVU offense was stopped all day. Finally the most head-scratching play you'll ever seen where a Nick O'Toole punt was muffed by the Terps.....but then the ensuing fumble picked up and returned for a Maryland touchdown. After a conference however this Big 12 crew decided that the returner had called for a fair catch and as such the ball could not be advanced after a fumble recovery. No matter as the Terps moved down the field for their only prolonged drive of the day and scored a touchdown with 40 seconds left in the half to move within 20-28 as the teams went into the locker room.
Then things got crazy.
Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown ran for a 75 yard score off a zone read on the first play of the second half to make it a 1 point game. WVU seemed to right the ship, blocking a Maryland punt for a safety and then driving again for a touchdown (an 11 yard Trickett pass to Daikiel Shorts) to stretch the lead back out to 10. But the Mountaineers proved themselves once again unable to deal with prosperity as Jordan Thompson muffed punt turned into a Terp field goal before Maryland's William Likely returned another punt 69 yards for the tying touchdown.
Fortunately the WVU defense held in key places and gave the potent offense the ball back. A curious drive that involved more running plays than you'll ever see in a supposed two minute drill (it was a 13 play drive...seriously....A 13 PLAY TWO MINUTE DRILL DRIVE) miraculously landed the Mountaineers at the Terrapin 30 yard line with time left for a single play to win.
Josh Lambert nailed it from 47 yards out (after having an earlier kick blocked from 44) and chaos ensued.
The questions remain and there's a lot to dissect and we'll be doing plenty of that here at the Musket, but for now concentrate on the fact that this is a 2-1 team that played both brilliant and awful football but still managed to grind out a road win against a team that beat them 37-0 a year ago. No Mountaineer team had come back to beat a team that beat them by that much in over 50 years.
WVU is still struggling in the red zone (3 times they got inside the Terp 20 and failed to score) and who knows what the hell is going on with the punt return unit, but a win is a win and now we turn our attentions to the #4 team in America coming to Morgantown for a night game and what is sure to be a rabid atmosphere.
It was a stressful afternoon, but it's a great night to be a Mountaineer, wherever you maybe. Appreciate that.