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Defense struggles to slow Texas passing game

West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith runs with the ball as Texas defenders close in during the first quarter Saturday in Austin, Texas. (AP)

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Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

AUSTIN, Texas — West Virginia's defense struggled against another good offense Saturday night.

Without a consistent pass rush, the Mountaineers are vulnerable through the air. And when their cornerbacks don't crowd the line of scrimmage, it's an open invitation for opponents to throw.

Texas led, 28-27, at halftime because West Virginia couldn't stop the pass.

The Mountaineers were particularly vulnerable on three wheel routes that totaled 77 yards, including completions to wide-open receivers on consecutive plays on the same drive.

The three passes covered two separate drives, and the Longhorns scored touchdowns both times. On each occasion, Texas scored immediately after a Mountaineers score.

Getting a good look

A season-high 10 NFL teams scouted West Virginia during the Texas game.

The contingent of scouts and front-office personnel featured the Houston Texans, Oakland Raiders, Indianapolis Colts, San Francisco 49ers, Buffalo Bills, Washington Redskins, New England Patriots, Detroit Lions and New York Jets, who sent two scouts.

Speculation already has surfaced regarding the Jets locking in on West Virginia senior Geno Smith as a potential solution to their quarterback woes.

Ex-PSU kicker finally plays

Junior kicker Anthony Fera was expected to win the starting job at Texas this season after transferring from Penn State.

Listed behind freshmen Nick Jordan and Nick Rose on depth chart, Fera didn't see action until Saturday night, when he drilled his first five extra points and made a 38-yard field goal in third quarter.

Odds and ends

West Virginia's halftime deficit was its first of the season. Mountaineers also trailed after three quarters for the first time in 2012. ... The Mountaineers were 0 for 4 on fourth down this season before converting twice on the same drive in the first quarter against the Longhorns. Included was a 40-yard touchdown pass from Geno Smith to Tavon Austin. ... Entering Saturday night, West Virginia had played 135 games against ranked opponents, with 40 resulting in wins. Since 2001, the Mountaineers have 16 wins over ranked teams, including their past three meetings. Texas is the second ranked team West Virginia has faced this season.

John Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at

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