Despite a disappointing debut season in the Big 12, TCU is turning out to be pretty tough on the road.
Corey Fuller caught a 25-yard touchdown pass and Trevone Boykin threw to Josh Boyce for the 2-point conversion, lifting TCU to a 39-38 double overtime win over No. 23 West Virginia on Saturday night.
In becoming bowl eligible, TCU (6-3, 3-3 Big 12) snapped a two-game losing streak and improved to 3-1 on the road in the conference despite having a freshman-laden team.
"We have to just keep growing up and getting better," TCU coach Gary Patterson said. "Anytime you go on the road and get a win, it’s a positive."
It left fellow Big 12 newcomer West Virginia (5-3, 2-3) with a three-game losing streak for the first time since the end of the 2004 season and two straight losses at home for the first time since 2003.
The mood in the West Virginia locker room afterward was subdued — "a lot of disappointment," said West Virginia linebacker Isaiah Bruce.
TCU overcame a 10-point deficit in the second half and got the victory after West Virginia went ahead on Geno Smith’s 25-yard TD pass to Stedman Bailey.
On TCU’s possession in the second overtime, Boykin handed off to B.J. Catalon and he pitched to Brandon Carter, who threw to Fuller in the end zone.
Boyce then caught the 2-point conversion, which was upheld after review, setting off a celebration on the TCU sideline.
"I knew I caught it," Boyce said. "We kept fighting. The game is never over until the last whistle."
TCU outgained the Mountaineers 405-338. Smith finished with three touchdown passes, including two in the second quarter. But West Virginia was limited to 126 yards after halftime.
"What we’ve done the last three games offensively is totally unacceptable," West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said.
Tavon Austin helped West Virginia with a 76-yard punt return for a score with 3:19 left for a 31-24 lead.
But West Virginia’s beleaguered defense, which had allowed an average of 53 points in its four previous games, got exposed again at the worst possible time.
TCU took over deep in its territory late in the game and Boykin was sacked on first down. After scrambling on the next play, he found Boyce, who was pushed out of bounds by a defender, returned to the field and was wide open when he caught the ball. Boyce went 96 yards untouched into the end zone with 1:28 left to force overtime.
"Their receiver was out of bounds, and he came back in and we lost track of him," Holgorsen said. "Then their quarterback made a play. It was sad to see (TCU) get that long pass after (West Virginia’s defense) had played so well."
West Virginia had a chance to win it in regulation, getting a first down at the TCU 38 with under a minute left. But Smith threw three straight incompletions and Tyler Bitancurt’s 55-yard field goal try was short with 13 seconds left.
Both teams missed field goals in the first overtime. Jaden Oberkrom’s 37-yard try was wide left, while Bitancurt’s 36-yard attempt was blocked. It was Bitancurt’s fourth miss of the game.
TCU went on defense first in the second overtime and gave up Bailey’s 15th touchdown grab of the season, a West Virginia record.
The Horned Frogs then made good only their only play of the second overtime.
Boyce, who had six catches for 180 yards and two scores, wasn’t surprised at the decision to go for two points, saying Patterson called the same play — although it didn’t work — in a close win last year at Boise State.
"In these environments you have to go for it," Boyce said.
Boykin finished 12 of 29 for 254 yards and two scores.
"He was getting hit all night," Boyce said. "But to step up like that, as a freshman quarterback, he’s going to be great. He’s going to be a great player. We just need to get a couple more things tweaked and we’re going to be good."
Patterson also noted the beating Boykin took, joking that he’s going to let some offensive linemen play quarterback next week "and see how they like that."
Smith wasn’t at his best but generated more points than the past two games combined, both blowout losses to No. 20 Texas Tech and No. 3 Kansas State.
TCU forced Smith out of the pocket and he took several hard hits on runs, including being shaken up in the third quarter after landing awkwardly on a third-down rush. He went to the sideline and crouched on both knees momentarily before heading to the bench. He didn’t miss a play.
Smith finished 32 of 54 for 260 yards.
Austin also scored on a 43-yard reception in the second quarter. He caught 11 passes for 101 yards.
West Virginia forced a turnover on special teams when Karl Joseph hit TCU’s Skye Dawson on a punt return, and the Mountaineers’ Nana Kyeremeh recovered at the 9. Shawne Alston, back from missing four games because of a right thigh bruise, scored from 1 yard for a 21-14 halftime lead.
Bitancurt connected on a career-best 52-yard field goal early in the second half. But on West Virginia’s next drive, Bitancurt couldn’t handle a low snap on a punt. TCU’s Dominic Merka picked up the loose ball and went 15 yards for a score to pull the Horned Frogs within 24-21.