Welcome to the scariest week West Virginia football has had so far this season, y’all.
The Mountaineers are coming off an absolute domination of the Baylor Bears where Will Grier was 17 of 27 for 353 yards with three touchdowns. Backup QB Jack Allison even played a few snaps, and was 4 of 4 for 43 yards and one touchdown. The run game improved, running 33 times for a total of 172 yards, averaging 5.2 yards per carry. The offense showed definitive improvement after being shut down by Iowa State.
The defense showed out, racking up 12 tackles for loss and three interceptions. After Charlie Brewer’s dismission, backup QB Jalan McCledon completed 16 of 21 passes, but only did so for 183 yards and no touchdowns. A performance that was much needed.
However, that doesn’t mean this week is going to be the same. The Mountaineers head to Austin to take on the No. 17 Texas Longhorns. While it’s been easy to say ‘Texas is back’ after their notable performance vs. Oklahoma, the Longhorns are coming off a 38-35 loss at Oklahoma State. Granted, Texas is still sitting pretty, tied for first in the Big 12, with a 4-1 conference record.
Many Mountaineer fans, myself included, are scared. Mainly because of the infamous Texas game last year. You know, the one with the season-ending broken finger? Yeah, let’s not talk about it.
This years’ matchup in Austin is officially sold out. This is only the second sellout of the season for the Longhorns, and they’re a perfect 4-0 this season at home. However, the Longhorns are just a 2-point favorite over the Mountaineers.
So, what’s at stake here?
Big 12 Championship implications, of course, but a loss in Austin could put head coach Dana Holgorsen on the hot seat.
Holgorsen is 7-18 against ranked teams. This includes a 9-game losing streak against top 25 teams from 2014-2017, and Holgorsen hasn’t beaten a team that finished the season ranked since 2014, when the Mountaineers upset No. 4 Baylor at home. Holgorsen is also 2-4 in bowl games.
A win in Austin is vital, not only for the Mountaineers’ conference title hopes, but also for Holgorsen’s future at West Virginia.
So, how do they beat the Longhorns?
Stop Sam Ehlinger.
The sophomore QB has 21 touchdowns and just two interceptions this season. In Texas’ loss at Oklahoma State, he threw for two touchdowns and ran for two more. He will be a true test for the Mountaineer defense and stopping him will be key to victory.
Perform offensively similar to last week’s game.
The Mountaineers just put up 58 points on a Baylor team who only allowed 23 points vs. Texas. The offense will need to get ahead early, as playing from behind was what lead to the Longhorns’ loss against Oklahoma State.
Keep the same energy throughout all four quarters.
This has been a problem throughout the entire season. The Mountaineers must come out after the half with the same mentality as the first quarter. This Texas team will not pump the brakes, and it is critical that West Virginia comes to play an entire game, regardless of the score at halftime.
The Mountaineers face the Longhorns Saturday, November 3rd. Kickoff is set for 3:30 PM EST on FOX.
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