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Streak Snapped: Mountaineers surprised by Houston’s last-second Hail Mary in 41-39 loss

MORGANTOWN — Two seconds.

West Virginia was two seconds away from a 5-1 begin to the season and a 3-0 begin within the Massive 12.

Garrett Greene and Hudson Clement have been two seconds away from being heroes.

The Mountaineers have been two seconds away from overcoming a pile of errors to win their fifth straight recreation that might have continued to show their doubters fallacious.

And two seconds was all Houston wanted to erase all of it.

The Houston Cougars (3-3, 1-2 Massive 12), led by former WVU coach Dana Holgorsen, pulled off a surprising victory over the Mountaineers (4-2, 2-1) Thursday night time as quarterback Donovan Smith threw a 49-yard Hail Mary that receiver Stephon Johnson caught off of a deflection within the endzone for a 41-39 win as time expired.

“We didn’t lose the sport on the final play,” WVU head coach Neal Brown mentioned. “The place we misplaced the sport is self-discipline. That’s what’s gotten us so far. We weren’t a disciplined staff (Thursday).”

West Virginia rallied from a 35-24 deficit with lower than eight minutes to play to take a 39-35 with simply 12 seconds remaining on the clock. The Mountaineers took the lead when Greene, who performed the perfect recreation of his profession, threw a do-or-die 50-yard landing to Clement on fourth down from midfield.

After the play, Greene was referred to as for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, one among a season-high eight fouls dedicated by the Mountaineers, that pushed the following kickoff again 15 yards and gave Houston the ball at its personal 43-yard line with an opportunity to win the sport.

An opportunity was all of the Cougars wanted as Smith linked on his Sixteenth-straight cross for his fourth and remaining landing throw of the sport. That 15-yard penalty proved pricey because the Cougars solely had seven seconds once they acquired the ball.

“I don’t understand how that occurred on the finish,” Holgorsen mentioned. “I assume the soccer gods have been on our facet (Thursday). We’ll take it.”

Throughout its four-game successful streak, West Virginia hadn’t been enjoying its finest however was avoiding errors and never beating itself. On Thursday, each of these traits have been revered because the Mountaineers performed their finest recreation of the 12 months on offense, however let errors and miscues pile up on protection and particular groups because the Mountaineers misplaced for the primary time since their season-opener.

The Cougars piled up 393 yards and 41 factors towards a WVU protection that had been enjoying lights-out during the last three video games. Houston additionally severely outplayed West Virginia on particular groups because the Mountaineers’ four-game successful streak was snapped.

“They didn’t do something (Thursday) that we didn’t anticipate them to do,” Brown mentioned of Houston’s offense. “We didn’t sort out nicely. Anytime you don’t sort out nicely, it’s going to be a battle.”

Greene threw for a career-high 391 yards and scored 4 complete touchdowns, together with the would-be game-winner to Clement. The staff’s 39 factors have been essentially the most this season towards an FBS opponent. 

Nevertheless, the Mountaineers dedicated a season-high eight penalties for 84 yards, gave up an uncharacteristic 184 yards on kickoff return and had a would-be landing flip into an interception as, for the primary time this season, West Virginia made too many vital errors to beat.

At halftime, West Virginia led Houston in performs (40-29), yards (197-109) and time of possession (19:43-10:17) however trailed on the scoreboard 14-10 because the Mountaineers didn’t capitalize on their early benefit.

Houston started the sport with a three-and-out and WVU’s ball-control offense instantly went to work, embarking on a 16-play, 82-yard march that took ate up practically eight minutes of recreation time. The Mountaineers have been unable to get into the endzone, nonetheless, and settled for a Michael Hayes 27-yard discipline aim.

The Cougars responded when Matthew Golden returned the following kickoff 100 yards for a landing and a 7-3 UH lead.

WVU discovered the endzone on its subsequent drive, as Greene had a pair of lengthy completions, 31 yards to Preston Fox and 18 yards to CJ Donaldson, to arrange the scoring probability. Greene then made the important thing block that allowed Donaldson to attain on a five-yard run to take a 10-7 lead.

A penalty and a botched pitch ruined WVU’s subsequent drive because the Mountaineers have been pressured into their first punt of the sport. Each offenses have been caught in impartial following that because the staff traded seven straight punts till there have been lower than two minutes to play earlier than half. 

Getting the ball on their very own 44-yard line, Houston was capable of piece a drive collectively to search out factors simply earlier than the break. UH quarterback Donovan Smith accomplished 5 consecutive passes earlier than a WVU cross interference penalty moved the ball to the two-yard line. Smith ran the ball in himself to offer Houston a 14-10 benefit at halftime.

WVU once more had an opportunity to take management of the sport because the Mountaineers got here out of halftime to attain a landing on a 35-yard cross from Greene to freshman Traylon Ray to take a 17-14 lead after which pressured a three-and-out to get the ball proper again.

The Mountaineers have been poised to extend their lead, however Greene’s would-be landing cross to operating again Jaylen Anderson was bobbled and finally picked off within the endzone.

Houston transformed that right into a 15-yard landing throw from Smith to go up 21-17.

Though WVU scored on its subsequent drive to retake the lead, the Cougars discovered the endzone on three straight possessions to steer 35-24 halfway by means of the fourth quarter.

Greene orchestrated a crucial 88-yard scoring drive, capped off when he bumped into the endzone from eight yards out. Ray’s juggling two-point conversion made it only a field-goal recreation, 35-32 Houston.

WVU obtained what it thought could be its remaining cease on protection, though security Marcis Floyd’s cross interference penalty on third down allowed Houston to run an additional minute off the clock and punt the ball again to the Mountaineers with simply 1:17 remaining.

It regarded like that was all WVU would wish when Greene discovered Clement for the heroic 50-yard rating, however Houston wanted even much less time for its response on the game-winner.

Devin Carter led WVU’s receivers with 116 yards whereas Ray and Clement every scored a landing. Donaldson had 66 yards and a rating on the bottom and 25 yards by means of the air.

WVU completed with 546 complete yards in what was simply its finest offensive displaying of the 12 months.

Smith accomplished each cross he tried within the second half, ending 21 of 27 for 253 yards and 4 scores. He additionally ran for a landing. Johnson led with 96 yards and two touchdowns whereas Joseph Manjack and former WVU receiver Samuel Brown additionally scored.

After failing on every of its first 4 third downs, Houston transformed on 4 of its remaining six. The Cougars solely punted twice after halftime and had a mean beginning discipline place of 32.2 yards after the break.