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WVU's special teams gaffes prove costly

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- West Virginia struggled with more than one area of special teams Saturday.

Obviously, the field goal unit was the most glaring disappointment. Redshirt junior kicker Tyler Bitancurt missed a field goal and had another blocked, which swung the momentum in Louisville's favor.

But the punt team didn't do too well, either.

"We all felt pretty good about the punt team prior to today," West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said following the loss to Louisville.

West Virginia punter Michael Molinari averaged just 20.7 yards on his three punts in Saturday's loss to Louisville. He kicked punts of 39, 12 and 11 yards.

Molinari, a redshirt freshman, replaced redshirt junior Corey Smith four games ago after Smith was dealing with consistency issues. Molinari entered the game averaging 40.9 yards per punt on 16 punts and had placed eight of them inside the opponents' 20.

"If we would have punted again, I would have put the other guy in there," Holgorsen said.

Yards in bunches

It might be surprising to see West Virginia lost if you just look at the box score.

The Mountaineers' had 533 total yards and averaged 6.8 yards per play, but West Virginia converted only 4 of 6 red zone chances.

"I've made a lot of statements about how I really don't care much about yards," Holgorsen said. "We have yards. Our yards per play were good. Our third down (conversion rate) was right at about 60 percent.

"We moved it down and got the ball in the red zone and put ourselves in a position to go 6 for 6, and we just didn't execute that."

Quarterback Geno Smith accounted for a lot of those yards. He completed 31 of 44 passes for 410 yards and three touchdowns.

With 3,125 yards this season, Smith has already surpassed his total from last season (2,763) in just nine games. He also ranks No. 2 on West Virginia's career passing yards list with 6,197.

"Personal accomplishments have never meant anything to me, and never will," Smith said. "It's about winning and losing, and right now, we just lost."

One drive away

For the second week in a row, West Virginia's defense was dominant -- for the most part -- in the second half.

The line manhandled Louisville's front five, but the final drive ended West Virginia's chances for a win.

"We had some opportunities on the last series, and we don't get the guy on the ground," defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel said. "Those things happen, and we just have to keep working."

Of Louisville's 121 second-half yards, 66 came on its final drive as the Cardinals converted a pair of third downs and a critical fourth-and-1.

"It's real frustrating," senior linebacker Najee Goode said. "We moved guys around and were able to stop them through the third and fourth quarter. The main frustrating thing is when we needed to make plays, we couldn't do it."

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