— But whether it was his kicks or the protection in front of him, something went wrong on all three, including a very manageable 36-yarder in overtime that could have won the game if it hadn’t been blocked by an untouched edge rusher.
Then there’s the punting game. Bitancurt, who has recently taken over those duties, as well, becoming the third punter WVU has tried this season, averaged 39.5 yards per boot. That’s certainly not great, but it’s not terrible, either.
But there was one punt, or at least punt attempt, that drastically changed the game.
Ahead 24-14 with fewer than 10 minutes to play in the third quarter, Bitancurt came on to punt it away.
The snap was a little low, but it was one he should have been able to control. Instead, he couldn’t find the handle and was unable to even eat the ball and take a sack. The ball bounced on the turf until Dominic Merka scooped it up and ran 15 yards into the end zone, turning a 10-point Mountaineer advantage into a 3-point WVU lead at the blink of an eye.
Joe DeForest, WVU’s first-year defensive coordinator, was brought in, in part, because of his reputation as a special teams guru. But four field goal misses and a botched punt attempt, things that shouldn’t be happening eight games into the season, cost the Mountaineers a win.
Holgorsen also didn’t have much bad to say about DeForest’s group.
“I can’t say enough about what our defensive staff has accomplished over the last two weeks,” he said in the moments following the game. “We stayed the course, and we got a lot of things corrected.”
He was right. The Mountaineer defense, which came into Saturday’s game ranked 114th out of 121 Football Bowl Subdivision football teams in total defense, was much better.