FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — West Virginia quarterback Jarret Doege threw the ball and then took a big hit. When he got up and looked down the field, he saw the official with his hands in the air signaling a touchdown.
“I had no idea what happened,” Doege said. “Just in my head. I’m thinking, ‘No way, no way. Like, how did that just happen?’ I was kind of in shock.”
So was TCU.
Isaiah Esdale made an over-the-shoulder catch on a perfect pass for a 35-yard touchdown with 2:10 left, just getting his feet inside the pylon on the front corner of the end zone, and West Virginia ended coach Neal Brown’s first season with a 20-17 win on Friday that kept the Horned Frogs from getting bowl eligible.
“Huge win to finish the year,” Brown said. “It's been a long year, but our guys battled.”
The game-winning drive by West Virginia (5-7, 3-6 Big 12) was extended by two huge penalties. There was a pass interference call on a fourth down, and then TCU defensive tackle Ross Blacklock was ejected for targeting for a hit on Doege on a third-and-12 incompletion only two plays before the go-ahead touchdown.
“Can’t give ballgames away. ... Can’t keep drives alive with personal fouls. Plain and simple,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said. “Only a few times in my life, since I’ve been here, that we’ve lost when I’ve held people under 300 yards. And that’s happened twice this year.”
TCU (5-7, 3-6) isn’t bowl eligible for only the third time in Patterson’s 19 full seasons as head coach. The Horned Frogs lost four of their last five games. All those losses were by a touchdown or less, including losses to Big 12 co-leaders Baylor and Oklahoma.
Doege completed 20 of 35 passes for 158 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions that TCU failed to convert into any points. The Bowling Green transfer will maintain his junior status next season after playing in only the last four games.
“I think it was big for me. I think it let me earn respect to my teammates that I can come and play in the Big 12, and I'm not just some kid from Bowling Green,” Doege said. “And I hope, I think, that they believe in me and I believe in them. I think we've got a bright future.”
Horned Frogs freshman quarterback Max Duggan was 15-of-36 passing for 144 yards with two interceptions as both teams had fewer than 300 total yards on a cool, damp day. TCU had 297 yards, and West Virginia 244.
TCU led 17-10 after Jalen Reagor’s 70-yard punt return for a touchdown early in the third quarter.
Reagor initially took a step back and around to avoid a defender after fielding the ball, then charged forward and quickly past other defenders and the punter. It was an easy sprint to the end zone for his second punt return TD this season for the junior receiver, who could have played his last home game if he decides to bypass his senior season for early entry in the NFL draft.
Patterson didn’t allow Reagor or any players to talk to reporters after the game.
“They’re not very happy with me right now, and I’m not very happy with them to be honest with you,” the coach said. “I feel sorry for my seniors, I didn’t get them back to a bowl game. Simple as that.”
West Virginia: The Mountaineers’ only other touchdown came on their opening drive, when they only had to go 14 yards after Tykee Smith’s interception and 39-yard return. Doege threw a 3-yard TD pass to running back Leddie Brown, who was wide open coming out of the backfield.
TCU: The Frogs had last missed a bowl game in 2013. TCU had two more possessions after West Virginia’s go-ahead score. After one first down, Duggan had four incompletions in a row at his own 33. TCU used all three of its timeouts and got the ball back. Duggan hit Reagor for 18 yards before clocking the ball and then throwing three more incompletions.
West Virginia goes into the offseason, and will open the 2020 season Sept. 5 against Florida State in Atlanta.
TCU goes into a longer than usual offseason with no bowl game. The Horned Frogs open the 2020 season Sept. 5 at California.