Game Preview: WVU vs. Texas
Series: WVU 2-0
Last meeting: 2012: WVU 48, UT 45 F
Television: 7 p.m., FOX (Craig Bolerjack - play-by-play, Joey Harrington - analysis, Ryan Niece - analysis)
Line: +7 West Virginia
West Virginia (4-5, 2-4) will play host to Texas (6-2, 5-0) in a primetime Big 12 Conference matchup Saturday night at Mountaineer Field.
The Longhorns will be making their first ever trip to Morgantown and have reeled off five consecutive Big 12 Conference wins after starting the 1-2. Over that span, the Longhorns have been propelled by a physical offense and a stout defense that had an early season turnaround after a disastrous start that called for the firing of Manny Diaz.
"Texas is coming in on a roll. We know that they have won the last five. We can talk about their early season struggles if you want, but what I do is look at their last game and go back from there. This shows what kind of improvements they have made and how their team has changed," head coach Dana Holgorsen said.
It will mark the second conference matchup between the two schools after last season's thrilling 48-45 West Virginia win in front of a record crowd of 101,851 inside Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. The previous matchup was another West Virginia win, when the Mountaineers beat 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 156-45 (.776) over the last 16-years including the 2005 national championship. Outside of last season's meeting, Brown has matched up with Dana Holgorsen a number of times as an assistant coach at both Texas Tech and Oklahoma State.
Texas is led offensively by quarterback Case McCoy, who is filling in for an injured David Ash. McCoy has led the Longhorns to a balanced offensive attack with Texas averaging 32.9 points per game, 203 yards rushing per game, 243.6 yards passing per game and 446.6 yards of total offense per contest. McCoy has completed 60 percent of his passes for 1,188 yards and five touchdowns against five interceptions.
The Texas ground game is the bread and butter of the Longhorns attack ranking 29th nationally in yards per game. Four running backs have been used this season with Jonathan Gray leading the way with 724 yards and 4 touchdowns, followed by Malcolm Brown (353 yards, 7 touchdowns) and Joe Bergeron (175 yards and 2 touchdowns).
The skill positions also pose a threat on the outside with Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley.
Under new defensive coordinator Greg Robison the Longhorns have experienced a renaissance after struggles against BYU and Ole Miss earlier in the season. The unit ranks 63rd nationally, but in recent weeks has played exceptionally well allowing only three offensive touchdowns in the past three games including a victory over Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry.
Since Oct. 5, the Longhorns have went from the 108th ranked total defense to the 63rd ranked unit allowing almost 70-yards less per game with an experienced defense that is playing with effort.
The special teams unit for the Longhorns are also very solid, representing again another difficult matchup for the Mountaineers.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
West Virginia Depth Chart:
QB - 9 Clint Trickett (r-Jr), 14 Paul Millard (Jr), 7 Ford Childress (r-Fr)
RB (A) - 3 Charles Sims (r-Sr), 4 Wendell Smallwood (Fr), 2 Dreamius Smith (Jr), 29 Dustin Garrison (Jr)
FB (B) - 88 Cody Clay (r-So), 42 Garrett Hope (So)
WR (X) - 5 Mario Alford (Jr), 19 KJ Myers (r-So)
WR (Z) - 85 Ivan McCartney (Sr.), 11 Kevin White (Jr)
IR (Y) - 6 Daikiel Shorts (Fr), 10 Jordan Thompson (So)
LT - 79 Nick Kindler (r-Sr), 63 Mike Calicchio (r-Jr)
LG - 67 Quinton Spain (r-Jr), 78 Marquis Lucas (r-So)
C - 76 Pat Eger (r-Sr), 65 Tyler Orlosky (r-Fr)
RG - 64 Mark Glowinski (r-Jr), 78 Marquis Lucas (r-So)
RT - 62 Curtis Feigt (r-Sr), 57 Adam Pankey (r-Fr)
DT - 98 Will Clarke (r-Sr), 97 Noble Nwachukwu (r-Fr)
NT - 90 Shaq Rowell (r-Sr), 49 Darrien Howard (Fr)
DE - 93 Kyle Rose (r-So), 45 Eric Kinsey (So)
BUCK - 2 Brandon Golson (Jr), 18 Marvin Gross (Fr)
SPUR - 9 K.J. Dillon (So.), 31 Isaiah Bruce (r-So)
WILL - 33 Jared Barber (Jr), 53 Tyler Anderson(r-Sr)
SAM - 35 Nick Kwiatkoski (r-So), 11 Sean Walters (r-Fr)
FCB - 34 Ishmael Banks (r-Jr), 20 Brandon Napoleon (r-Fr)
FS - 8 Karl Joseph (So), 43 Jarrod Harper (r-Fr)
BS - 25 Darwin Cook (r-Sr), 41 Ricky Rumph (So)
BCB - 26 Travis Bell (r-Jr), 7 Daryl Worley (Fr)
PK - 86 Josh Lambert (r-Fr)
P - 91 Nick O'Toole (So)
KO - 48 Michael Molinari (r-Jr)
LS -87 John DePalma (So)
H - 48 Michael Molinari (r-Jr)
PR - 12 Ronald Carswell (So), 10 Jordan Thompson (So)
KR - 7 Daryl Worley (Fr), 4 Wendell Smallwood (Fr)
Sixteen Mountaineers earned their first career starts this season with Mario Alford (WR), Ronald Carswell (WR), Ford Childress (QB), Mark Glowinski (RG), Brandon Golson (BUCK), Marquis Lucas (LG), Paul Millard (QB), KJ Myers (WR), Tyler Orlosky (C), WR Daikiel Shorts (WR), Charles Sims (RB), Dreamius Smith (RB), Clint Trickett (QB), Daryl Worley (CB), Josh Lambert (K), Nick O'Toole (P).
True freshmen that have played include: Marvin Gross (LB), Darrien Howard (DL), Carlton Nash (CB), Wendell Smallwood (RB), Daikiel Shorts (WR), Jeremy Tyler (S) and Daryl Worley (CB).
In total, 31 Mountaineers saw their first game action this season including Mario Alford (WR), Justin Arndt (LB), Michael Calicchio (OL), Ronald Carswell (WR), Ford Childress (QB), James Gayeski (DL), Brandon Golson (BUCK), Mark Glowinski (RG), Jarrod Harper (S), Darrien Howard (DL), Dontrill Hyman (DE), Josh Lambert (K), Devonte Mathis (WR), Logan Moore (WR), Carlton Nash (CB), Brandon Napoleon (CB), Noble Nwachukwu (DE), Tyler Orlosky (C), Nick O'Toole (P), Adam Pankey (OL) Daikiel Shorts (WR), Charles Sims (RB), Wendell Smallwood (RB), Dreamius Smith (RB), Clint Trickett (QB), Jeremy Tyler (S), Sean Walters (LB), Kevin White (WR), Daryl Worley (CB) and Maurice Zereoue (RB).
Injuries: Several players are considered day to day, Daryl Worley (shin), Dontrill Hyman (ankle) and Ricky Rumph (foot). Senior linebacker Doug Rigg has been ruled out with a concussion, while Junior running back Dustin Garrison has been ruled out with a hamstring injury. Redshirt freshman Ford Childress remains out with a torn pectoral muscle. Redshirt junior Wes Tonkery will be out for the remainder of the season with a shoulder surgery. Sophomore Christian Brown is out for the remainder of the season with a foot injury and will receive a medical redshirt. Redshirt senior and back up BUCK linebacker Dozie Ezemma broke his lower leg and foot against William & Mary and will miss the remainder of the season. West Virginia also will be without junior linebacker Shaq Petteway who will miss the entire season with a torn ACL. Sophomore cornerback Nana Kyeremeh also will miss the entirety of the season with a shoulder injury.
Redshirts: Players that will be redshirting this season include: junior running back Andrew Buie, sophomore defensive lineman Christian Brown, junior linebacker Shaq Petteway, sophomore running back Rushel Shell, junior offensive lineman Stone Underwood, freshman wide receiver Shelton Gibson, freshmen linebacker Al-Rasheed Benton, freshman fullback Elijah Wellman, freshman safety Isaac McDonald, freshman wide receiver Jacky Marcellus, freshman linebacker Hodari Christian, freshman safety Malik Greaves, freshman offensive lineman Marcell Lazard, freshman offensive lineman Tyler Tezeno and freshman offensive lineman Grant Lingafelter.
Points to click:
* Texas travels to Morgantown for the first time ever Saturday which means, West Virginia will certainly have the home field advantage. Texas will be playing in the eastern time zone for the first time since 2007 and will also have to deal with cold temperatures for the first time this season. That certainly sways in the favor of WVU.
* Make Case McCoy uncomfortable. Against Baylor, Texas Tech and even Kansas State, the WVU defense failed to make Bryce Petty, Davis Webb or Daniel Sams and Jake Waters uncomfortable. Last week against TCU, during the West Virginia's Casey Pachall was clearly uncomfortable. Will Clarke, Noble Nwachukwu and Brandon Golson all had sacks last week. Another performance like that and WVU may have enough to beat Texas.
* West Virginia needs to give the ball to its best player in running back Charles Sims. Last year against Texas, Andrew Buie totaled 207 yards on the ground. This year, Sims needs to be WVU's focal point offensively. By giving Sims the football early and often, Dana Holgorsen will force Texas' hand. It'll make Texas' new defensive coordinator Greg Robinson creep up safety Adrian Phillips, which in turn will open up the WVU passing attack, and even give Holgorsen more option off of play action.
* Hand in hand with giving Charles Sims the football that much, it is necessary for WVU to win the battle upfront. Since Quinton Spain has moved to guard and Pat Eger has filled the role of anchor of the offensive line at center, Ron Crook's unit has played their best football over the past couple of weeks. With a good Texas defensive line on the other side, the WVU offensive line has to fire off the ball and establish the line of scrimmage.
* Protect the football and capitalize on Texas' mistakes. West Virginia beat TCU last week because they dominated the turnover battle, forcing four and only giving away one. Then on top of that the offense scored on three straight possessions after the defense forced those turnovers. That has to happen this week for WVU to get a victory over the Longhorns.