In its third chance against a No. 4 team this season, West Virginia finally pulled off the upset. After its 41-27 win against Baylor, the Mountaineers were rewarded with the biggest jump in The Associated Press Top 25 released on Sunday. It is their first appearance in the poll in nearly two years, as they checked in at No. 22 — a nine-spot leap when considering their place in last week’s others receiving votes list.
The Mountaineers have been lurking outside the Top 25 all season, but they were lacking that signature win to vault them into the rankings. They had some chances, though — in the season opener, they hung with Alabama in the Georgia Dome before the Crimson Tide won by 10, and they were tied with Oklahoma at halftime before the Sooners pulled ahead in the third quarter and ended up winning by 12. But West Virginia also had some close calls against weaker teams, needing a Josh Lambert field goal in the final seconds to pull off wins against Maryland and Texas Tech.
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Now, West Virginia does have that signature win for the season, in the form of one of their biggest victories in recent years. The most recent win for West Virginia against a top-five team was when it beat No. 3 Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl to end the 2007 season. The Mountaineers were last ranked in the poll released on Oct. 28, 2012, and they had reached as high as No. 5 that season. At 5-2 this season, they have already surpassed their win total from 2015, when they went 4-8 and won just two Big 12 games.
Baylor came into Morgantown with the No. 1 offense in the country, but it was held to 27 points — its lowest output of the season, and well below its previous average of 52.7. The Bears were held to 318 total yards, almost 300 fewer than its season average. The Mountaineer defense also held the Bears to just 3 of 16 on their third-down conversion attempts. After the loss, Baylor fell eight spots to No. 12.
Clint Trickett led the way on offense for West Virginia, completing 23 of 35 passes for 322 yards (99 more than his counterpart, Bryce Petty) and three touchdowns. Two of those touchdown passes came crucially in the fourth quarter as the Mountaineers created some separation. Dating back to last season, Trickett has eight consecutive 300-yard passing games, and he is second in program history with nine total. He is third nationally with 360.7 passing yards per game.
It helps Trickett to have the national leader in receiving yards on his side in Kevin White. He is the only receiver to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark and leads the country with 145.7 yards per game. White had 132 yards on eight receptions with two touchdowns on Saturday.
The Mountaineers have plenty of chances to keep moving up in the rankings in the next few weeks. They travel to take on Oklahoma State on Saturday, with home matchups against No. 10 TCU and No. 11 Kansas State in two of the following three games. Whatever happens in those games, it is clear that the struggles of 2013 are distantly in the rear-view mirror for Dana Holgorsen’s Mountaineers. West Virginia is back.
Notes from the rest of the Top 25:
The SEC became the first conference to have four of the top five teams. … The top three of Mississippi State, Florida State and Mississippi stayed the same from last week … Notre Dame dropped from No. 5 to No. 7 and was jumped by Alabama, Auburn and Oregon. … Kansas State (No. 11), Arizona State (No. 14), Nebraska (No. 16) and Clemson (No. 21) all moved up three spots after wins. … LSU and UCLA joined the poll at Nos. 24 and 25, respectively.
Final in Morgantown. West Virginia upsets No. 4 Baylor! pic.twitter.com/Gn2XYwq7Gr
— WVU Football (@WVUfootball) October 18, 2014