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October 4, 2012

Game Preview: WVU vs. Texas

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Game Preview: WVU vs. Texas

Series: West Virginia 1-0

Last meeting: 1956: WVU 7, UT 6 F

Television: 7 p.m., FOX (Gus Johnson - play-by-play, Charles Davis - analyst, Julie Alexandria - sideline)

Line: + 6.5 West Virginia


No. 7/8 West Virginia (4-0, 1-0) will face its most difficult challenge to date when the Mountaineers hit the road for the first true road game of the season against No. 9/11 Texas (4-0, 1-0) in a prime-time Big 12 Conference matchup.

After a wild 70-63 shootout with Baylor a week ago where West Virginia set a long-list of offensive records, things won't get any easier for the Mountaineers as the eyes of Texas look down upon them.

The Longhorns are coming off an impressive 41-36 conference opening road victory over defending Big 12 champion Oklahoma State, and this weekend's matchup will be the first meeting of top ten teams at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium since 2008.

It will mark the first conference matchup between the two schools, but not the first ever meeting, as West Virginia defeated the Longhorns 7-6 in 1956.

Texas has been one of the premier programs in the country and head coach Mack Brown has guided the Longhorns to a record of 145-39 (.788) over the last 15-years including the 2005 national championship. Brown has matched up with Dana Holgorsen a number of times as an assistant coach at Texas Tech and Oklahoma State, but has only went up against West Virginia once as the coach at North Carolina in the 1997 Gator Bowl, winning 20-13.

The Longhorns are currently ranked 9th in the FBS in scoring offense at 47.3 points per game and 23rd in total offense with just under 500-yards per contest. Texas will present a very balanced attack, rushing for 228-yards per game and 267-yards per game through the air.

The development of sophomore quarterback David Ash, who's been one of the most efficient signal callers in the country. Ash is completing 78-percent of his passes and is coming off a 30-37 for 304 yards and three touchdown performance against the Cowboys a week ago.

Unlike Baylor, Texas will attempt to run the football and is one of the best teams in the country at converting third downs and moving the chains.

Like the Mountaineers, Longhorns are very good in department of turnover margin, forcing eight and only giving away two, and Texas has won 58-straight games when winning the turnover battle. The Longhorn defense is giving up 21-points per game and has been very successful on third downs, holding opponents to converting only 33-percent of their attempts.

The game is set for 7 p.m.

Injuries to watch for West Virginia all eyes will be on the health of running backs Shawne Alston and Ryan Clarke. Both didn't play against Baylor and it will be a huge boost if either is ready to return. Free safety Travis Bell also didn't play against the Bears and is one to watch. For Texas, running back Malcolm Brown has already been declared out and linebacker Jordan Hicks hasn't played the past couple weeks due to injuries.


West Virginia Depth Chart:

OFFENSE:

QB - 12 Geno Smith, 14 Paul Millard, 7 Ford Childress
RB (A) - 20 Shawne Alston, 13 Andrew Buie, 29 Dustin Garrison
FB (B) - 32 Ryan Clarke, 88 Cody Clay, 30 Donovan Miles
WR (X) - 3 Stedman Bailey, 19 KJ Myers
WR (Z) - 81 J.D. Woods, 5 Ivan McCartney, 80 Ryan Nehlen
IR (H) - 10 Jordan Thompson, 15 Dante Campbell
IR (Y) - 1 Tavon Austin, 83 Connor Arila
LT - 67 Quinton Spain, 79 Nick Kindler
LG - 77 Josh Jenkins, 73 Russell Haughton-James
C - 74 Joe Madsen, 60 John Bassler
RG - 57 Jeff Braun, 73 Russell Haughton-James
RT - 76 Pat Eger, 62 Curtis Feigt


DEFENSE:

DT - 99 Jorge Wright, 45 Eric Kinsey
NT - 90 Shaq Rowell, 95 Christian Brown
DE - 98 Will Clarke, 93 Kyle Rose
BUCK - 4 Josh Francis, 53 Tyler Anderson, 59 Chidoziem Ezemma
STAR - 28 Terence Garvin, 37 Wes Tonkery
WILL - 47 Doug Rigg, 36 Shaq Petteway, 35 Nick Kwiatkoski
SAM - 31 Isaiah Bruce, 56 Jewone Snow, 33 Jared Barber
FCB - 23 Brodrick Jenkins, 34 Ishmael Banks 24 Cecil Level
FS - 8 Karl Joseph, 26 Travis Bell
BS - 25 Darwin Cook, 9 KJ Dillon
BCB - 6 Pat Miller, 7 Nana Kyeremeh, 15 Ricky Rumph


SPECIAL TEAMS:

PK - 40 Tyler Bitancurt
P - 44 Corey Smith
KO - 44 Corey Smith
LS -87 John DePalma, 86 Jerry Cooper
H - 48 Michael Molinari
PR - 1 Tavon Austin, 10 Jordan Thompson
KR - 1 Tavon Austin, 3 Stedman Bailey

Ten true freshmen saw action in one of the first two games this season: DL Christian Brown, LS John DePalma, S K.J. Dillon, DL Korey Harris, LB Garrett Hope, S Karl Joseph, DL Eric Kinsey, CB Nana Kyeremeh, CB Ricky Rumph and WR Jordan Thompson. In all 21 first-time players saw action with LB Isaiah Bruce, WR Dante Campbell, FB Cody Clay, LS Jerry Cooper, LB Dozie Ezemma, OL Russell Haughton-James, OL Brandon Jackson, LB Nick Kwiatkoski, WR K.J. Myers, DL Kyle Rose and CB Ishmail Showell.

Six Mountaineers have earned their first career start this season: Tyler Anderson (BUCK), Isaiah Bruce (LB), Cody Clay (FB), Karl Joseph (FS), Shaq Rowell (DL) and Jordan Thompson (WR).

Notable changes:

Redshirt freshman Cody Clay is now listed at second on the depth chart at fullback, after starting last week's game with both Ryan Clarke and Donovan Miles battling injuries.

Redshirt sophomore Jewone Snow is now listed as the backup SAM linebacker after missing the first three games of the season. Jared Barber slides into the third spot on the depth chart at the position.

Jordan Thompson, a true freshman, is now listed as the backup punt returner behind Tavon Austin.

Points to click:


West Virginia's offense line and how they can control the line of scrimmage, while protecting Geno Smith. The Texas defense will be the biggest challenge to date for the Mountaineers, especially on the edge with their ability to make plays with their pass rushers. Being able to effectively run the football will only help the Mountaineers from being one dimensional.

Get offensive. Even with a talented defense lining up in front of them, West Virginia must continue to do what they do and take advantage of what the defense will give them. The Mountaineers must keep the momentum rolling on the offensive side of the ball. Last week, Oklahoma State, which runs the same offense, scored 41-points on Texas and the Mountaineers will surely be watching that film.


Rebound. To say West Virginia's defense struggled against Baylor would be quite the understatement, but the unit has to put that performance behind them and be prepared to play a very balanced Texas offense. This matchup should play more into the Mountaineers favor over the up-tempo vertical attack of Baylor, but the group must rebound.


Make Ash uncomfortable. David Ash has been one of the biggest surprises of the early season with the way he's controlled the Texas offense and the efficiency he's played with through four games. West Virginia must make Ash uncomfortable and can't afford to let him sit in the pocket for long periods of time to make potential plays down the field. Also due to his ability to use his legs, West Virginia must wrap him up when they bring a blitz.


Third downs. It's something Texas has been very good at early in the season on both sides of the football. Offensively, the Mountaineers must move the chains and score points, while on the defensive side, West Virginia can't allow Texas to control the football and keep their offense off the field.

Stop the run. Even with an injury to Malcolm Brown, Texas has a deep stable of running backs and will turn to them early and often. West Virginia must prevent any big gains on the ground and make the Longhorns work out of their comfort zone behind the chains. The best way to attack Texas is to try to make them one dimensional and take away the balance they strive for, so stuffing the run will be a key. Crisp tackling will be especially important to avoid any cutbacks for big plays.

Turnovers. It's a stat that never goes overlooked. West Virginia must take care of the football and try to force turnovers, and the team that comes out with the victory in this category will most likely leave 2-0 in conference play.

Win one-on-ones. Texas will use their corners very physically on the outside and play up on receivers and it will be up to the Mountaineers wide outs to win those battles on the outside and make plays down the field. It will be a long day, if West Virginia's wide receiver group can't win those matchups when they present themselves.

Handle the hoopla. West Virginia has played well on the big stage, and this weekend will be no different in the Mountaineers first Big 12 Conference road game. The team must block out and distractions and be ready to play.

Special teams. It's something that often goes overlooked, but always has an impact on a football game. West Virginia hasn't been bad in this phase, but it can't let any special teams mistakes be the decider in a game that's expected to be highly contested.


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