Surging Longhorns invade WVU for 1st time
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — They are seemingly headed in opposite directions, but Texas and West Virginia have reached a point where their first meeting in Morgantown carries huge meaning.
WVU enters the game off its first road victory of the year, at TCU, putting it back in contention to qualify for a bowl.
But this matchup is even more crucial for the Longhorns, who have shaken off a 1-2 start to win five straight Big 12 games, leaving them tied for the league lead at 5-0.
Texas closes against Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Baylor, and those three games could determine coach Mack Brown's fate, as new athletic director Steve Patterson will have to make a decision whether to keep the veteran coach.
Texas never has beaten WVU, losing its only two meetings, including 48-45 last year in Austin.
Texas' problems early this season were on defense, forcing Brown to bring in veteran defensive coordinator Greg Robinson.
“They have simplified things,” WVU coach Dana Holgorsen said. “Before, they would try different things on third down by getting into different fronts. It comes down to getting off blocks, holding your gaps, playing with effort, being physical and making tackles.
“They have gotten better in all those things.”
They did it by relying on superior athletes rather than by trying to fool opponents.
“The scheme has not changed much,” Holgorsen said.
Added WVU quarterback Clint Trickett: “They made a defensive coaching change. Since then, they are pretty basic. They are pretty much playing man coverage all the time, which is pretty smart because they have some pretty good cover guys.
“As a whole, these guys match up pretty well. They are highly recruited, highly talented guys.”
What has changed is WVU's offensive approach. With Trickett having won the quarterback spot after transferring from Florida State — but not yet having grasped the extent of Holgorsen's offense — WVU has had to limit what he does.
That has led the Mountaineers to run the ball more, which has put versatile running back Charles Sims into the key role. Sims is WVU's leading rusher, beginning to push toward a 1,000-yard season, and the second-leading receiver, one shy of the team lead.
The running attack was solid against TCU and seems to be the direction WVU is headed in, especially since Texas ranks third in pass defense in the Big 12.
Bob Hertzel is a freelance writer.