MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia finally beat a ranked opponent, using a big rally to do it.
Will Grier threw four of his five touchdown passes in the second half and West Virginia overcame an 18-point deficit after halftime to beat No. 24 Texas Tech 46-35 on Saturday.
West Virginia (4-2, 2-1 Big 12) beat a team in the AP Top 25 poll for the first time in 10 tries dating to the 2014 season. The Mountaineers dropped close games earlier this season to No. 6 TCU and No. 15 Virginia Tech.
“Things weren’t going great,” said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen. “Our guys were just fighting and kept hanging in there. We finished for the first time this year in a close game.”
Nic Shimonek threw four first-half TD passes for Texas Tech, but the Red Raiders (4-2, 1-2) got little going after halftime and made plenty of mistakes to enable the Mountaineers to mount their comeback.
Ka’Raun White had fourth-quarter TD catches of 32 and 17 yards to give the Mountaineers their first lead, and Grier capped the scoring with an 11-yard pass to Sills with 3:23 left.
Sills also had scoring catches of 13 and 8 yards to boost his national-leading total to 12 this season. Grier completed 32 of 41 passes for 352 yards.
White’s brother, Kyzir White, intercepted Shimonek on Texas Tech’s next drive to dash the Red Raiders’ hopes.
It was Shimonek who looked unstoppable at the start of the game. He threw TDs on four of Texas Tech’s first five possessions, including strikes of 60 and 53 yards to T.J. Vasher. The Red Raiders’ Dominic Panazzolo converted a fake punt for a first down to set up one of Vasher’s long scores, and Texas Tech led 28-17 at halftime. Tre King’s 30-yard TD run put Texas Tech ahead 35-17 early in the third quarter.
Shimonek went 24 of 39 for 323 yards.
“Until late I felt like everybody was playing at a high level,” said Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury. “We’ve just got to execute better against a good team like that on the road. You knew they’d make a run and we weren’t ready for it.”
Texas Tech: The Red Raiders, whose regular kicker Clayton Hatfield did not make the trip, missed three field goals and were flagged 16 times for 159 yards, including three pass interference calls on the same third-quarter touchdown drive for West Virginia that shifted the momentum.
West Virginia: The Mountaineers were held under 500 yards of offense for the first time this season but they made their yards count. It marked the second-biggest comeback in the second half for West Virginia since its stadium opened in 1980. West Virginia overcame a 19-point deficit to beat Maryland in 1992.
FG VS. FIRST DOWN
Down 35-32 early in the fourth, West Virginia called timeout to talk over a fourth-and-1 at the Texas Tech 17. Instead of kicking a tying field goal, the Mountaineers’ offensive linemen persuaded Holgorsen to go for it.
“I’d like to think I was the loudest,” said right tackle Colton McKivitz. “Coach Holgorsen was like, ‘Are you guys going to get this?’ and we all kind of gave him a ‘Are you kidding me? Why would you ask that?'”
Holgorsen didn’t try to talk them out of it.
“They had that kind of confidence and at that point in the game I was more interested in taking the lead,” Holgorsen said. “I said “OK, it’s on your shoulders.”
Grier ran for the first down — barely — and found White with a pass in the end zone on the next play.
The Mountaineers were limited to 44 rushing yards, which put pressure on Grier to get them out of several third-and-long situations. Big 12 rushing leader Justin Crawford was held to 47 yards on 14 carries.
Texas Tech will fall out of the AP poll, while West Virginia, which fell out a week ago after the loss at TCU , could sneak back in.
Texas Tech: Hosts Iowa State next Saturday.
West Virginia: Plays at Baylor next Saturday.
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