Horns Illustrated

Defense lifts Longhorns to 17-13 win over West Virginia, No. 21 AP ranking

Wide receiver Tarik Black and the Texas Longhorns did just enough to survive a defensive slugfest with West Virginia, 17-13 (photo courtesy of University of Texas Athletics).

Make no mistake about it: the Texas defense won this game. It stopped the Mountaineers twice on fourth downs inside its own 17 in the fourth quarter and twice made them settle for field goals in the red zone in the third quarter.

It had a bend-but-don’t-break feel about it in the second half, but the UT defense got the job done and that’s all that matters. The resulting 17-13 victory boosted Texas (5-2 overall, 4-2 in games against Big 12 opponents) back into the race for a spot in the Big 12 championship, and lifted the Longhorns to No. 21 in the new Associated Press top 25 rankings.

As a whole, Texas kept the Mountaineers to 360 yards of offense, which in today’s age of Big 12 football is phenomenal. The Longhorns' run defense was exceptional, making the West Virginia rushing game non-existent by holding the Mountaineers to 43 yards on 26 carries. Following Leddie Brown’s 12-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, the Mountaineers had no notable plays on the ground.

Linebackers Juwan Mitchell and DeMarvion Overshown had... (cont. Page 2)

Linebackers Juwan Mitchell and DeMarvion Overshown had great games, as did the entire defensive line.

Overall, the Horns deserve huge credit for gutting out a win, and the majority of that goes to the defensive side of the ball.

This was not West Virginia boss Neal Brown’s finest game as a coach, nor was it a great game for the West Virginia receivers.

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Brown twice passed on easy field goals in the fourth quarter. While the second time was understandable, the first wasn’t as the Mountaineers trailed 17-13 with plenty of time left. Kick two field goals and it’s a completely different game.

It wasn’t an easy catch, but West Virginia tight end Mike O’Laughlin dropped a potential touchdown pass early in the fourth to give Texas the ball on downs at the WVU 16.

Late in the third, Texas caught...(cont Next Page)

Late in the third, Texas caught a break when West Virginia wideout Winston Wright Jr. couldn’t corral a wide-open 9-yard touchdown pass. On the next play, Overshown sacked Jarret Doege on a blitz to force the Mountaineers to settle for a field goal.

Good teams take advantage of poor decisions and mistakes, and Texas did that, but it’s worth pointing out the Mountaineers had some key miscues.  

Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger clearly was playing hurt, but he made a brilliant pass to wide receiver Jake Smith on what turned out to be the game-winning 33-yard touchdown pass midway through the third. He bided his time in the pocket, wasn’t affected by pressure and threw a perfect pass. This came two plays after he floated a ball to an open Brennan Eagles in the end zone that was broken up late and was another sign Ehlinger was playing hurt.

The Smith touchdown was the perfect response to West Virginia’s drive to open the half that resulted in a field goal.

It never will be known what would have happened regarding the coaching staff had Texas lost this game, but Ehlinger’s play in crucial moments today, against Oklahoma State and in the comeback against Texas Tech is a big reason the heat hasn’t been severely turned up on Tom Herman.

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At 4-2 in Big 12 play, the Longhorns enter the bye week on a three-game winning streak and completely in the running for the conference championship game. The break could not come at a better time as it allows Ehlinger and other players to get healthy.

UT's punting issues may be a thing of the past. Ryan Bujcevski had no issues and, frankly, was great today as he pinned the Mountaineers inside their own 20 three times and averaged more than 43 yards over six kicks.

Tarik Black dropped a long pass early in the fourth that would have set Texas up inside the WVU 20. He was looking into the sun, but that’s a reception that needs to be made as open as he was and as close as this game was.

Texas may have caught a huge break when officials said Kai Money didn’t fumble early in the fourth quarter and it was instead an incomplete forward pass. The play on which the quarterback rolls out with the option to run or pass, with the pass being a lateral within 10 yards is risky, and it almost was costly to Texas there.

Defensive lineman T’Vondre Sweat had a huge play to bat down Jarret Doege’s third-down pass inside the Texas 10 to force the Mountaineers into a field goal. West Virginia looked stellar on the opening drive of the second half and keeping them to three points turned out to be monumental for the Longhorns.

Listen to What Coach Herman Had To Say About The Game

Coach Herman Post-Game Press Conference

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