Game Preview: WVU vs. Texas
Series: West Virginia 4-2
Last meeting: 2016: WVU 24 UT 20
Television: 12 p.m. ESPN, Beth Mowins (play-by-play), Anthony Becht (analyst), Rocky Boiman (sideline)
No. 24/25 West Virginia will look to close out the final game inside Milan Puskar Stadium for 20 seniors out on the right foot when the Mountaineers play host to Texas Saturday afternoon.
The Mountaineers are coming off a 28-23 win on the road at Kansas State and will look to stretch their winning streak to three games against a Texas team that currently sits at 5-5 but is full of talent.
The Longhorns are looking to become bowl eligible under first year head coach Tom Herman after beating Kansas a week ago and is looking for their second win in Morgantown all-time. Herman arrived at Texas after a successful stint at Houston compiling a 22-4 record during his two seasons there. During his three-year coaching career, Herman has a 6-4 record against top 25 teams and 2-1 against top five.
This will be the fifth meeting against a ranked team for Texas this season with four of those coming on the road. The Longhorns have lost all four of those previous games, but have competed in each of those.
This will be the seventh overall meeting between the two teams with West Virginia holding a 4-2 edge, including 3-2 since the two teams started meeting annually in the 2012 season. The Mountaineers are 1-1 in Morgantown winning the last meeting in 2015 38-20.
The Longhorns offense has the ability to spread it out as well as use power schemes, something that Texas has done of late resembling the schemes a season ago. The offense is averaging 409 yards per game on the year with 273 of that coming through the air and 135 on the ground.
Sophomore quarterback Shane Buechele has started the past three games and is expected to get the call against West Virginia as well, although freshman Sam Ehlinger is expected to see time as well. Buechele has thrown for 1,316 yards and six touchdowns against four interceptions. He also has rushed for 89 yards and a pair of scores on the season, but is much more apt as a passer.
Ehlinger is a better runner with 265 yards and a pair of touchdowns, but is capable throwing the football as well with 1,428 yards and seven touchdowns with four interceptions. Like Buechele, Ehlinger has appeared in six total games as the Longhorns have used both due to injuries.
Regardless who is tossing the football, Texas has a number of talented pass catchers with seven players that have caught at least 15 balls on the year. Sophomore Collin Johnson leads the Longhorns with 683 yards and a pair of scores, while two others have caught 30 passes with freshman Reggie Hemphill-Mapps with 32 grabs for 328 yards and sophomore Lil’Jordan Humphrey has 31 passes for 381 yards and a score. Texas has a mix of both tall pass catchers as well as slot wide receivers.
Texas will use four different running backs junior Chris Warren (314 yards, 6 touchdowns), sophomore Kyle Porter (169 yards, 3 touchdowns) and a pair of freshmen in Toneil Carter and Daniel Young.
The Longhorns have an offensive line has size and experience that is expected to get back its most talented player in left tackle Connor Williams.
The Texas defense is one of the more talented ones that West Virginia will see this season that has bounced back after giving up 51-points in the season opener against Maryland. The Longhorns are allowing only 18.7 points per game since then and overall rank 32nd in the nation in scoring defense allowing 21.9 points per game.
In regards to total defense, the Longhorns are allowing 367 yards per game and are especially stingy against the run yielding only 98.6 yards per game and holding half of their opponents on the schedule under the century mark in the first year under coordinator Todd Orlando.
The Longhorns will use predominantly a three-man front that can show multiple looks and Texas will bring a variety of blitzes from all over the field to create pressure and disruption. The unit is especially good on third down holding teams to 27.8-percent in those situations and leads the nation in defensive touchdowns with six through ten games into the season.
Kickoff is set for 12 p.m. and will be televised by ESPN.
West Virginia Depth Chart:
QB: 7 Will Grier, (r-Jr.), 11 Chris Chugunov, (r-So.)
RB: 25 Justin Crawford, (Sr.), 4 Kennedy McKoy, (So.), 32 Martell Pettaway, (So.)
HB: 28 Elijah Wellman, (r-Sr.), 81 Trevon Wesco, (r-Jr.)
X WR: 13 David Sills, V, (Jr.), 8 Marcus Simms (So.)
Y/H WR: 12 Gary Jennings, Jr., (Jr.), 85 Ricky Rogers, (r-Jr.)
Z WR: 2 Ka'Raun White, (r-Sr.), 6 Reggie Roberson, Jr., (Fr.)
LT: 55 Yodny Cajuste, (r-Jr.), 72 Kelby Wickline, (r-So.)
LG: 73 Josh Sills, (r-Fr.), 78 Jacob Buccigrossi, (r-Fr.)
C: 79 Matt Jones, (r-So.), 58 Ray Raulerson, (r-Jr.)
RG: 62 Kyle Bosch, (r-Sr.), 56 Grant Lingafelter, (r-Sr.)
RT: 53 Colton McKivitz, (r-So.), 65 Isaiah Hardy, (Jr.)
DE: 91 Ezekiel Rose, (Jr.), 88 Adam Shuler, (r-So.)
NT: 49 Lamonte McDougle, (Fr.), 94 Jalen Harvey, (r-Jr.)
DE: 46 Reese Donahue, (So.), 92 Jon Lewis, (r-Sr.)
SAM LB: 10 Dylan Tonkery, (r-Fr.), 33 Quondarius Qualls (Jr.), 5 Xavier Preston, (Sr.)
MIKE LB: 3 Al-Rasheed Benton, (r-Sr.), 44 Hodari Christian (r-Sr.)
WILL LB: 11 David Long, Jr. (r-So.), 45 Adam Hensley (So.)
SPUR: 8 Kyzir White, (Sr.), 18 Marvin Gross, Jr., (r-Sr.)
BS: 6 Dravon Askew-Henry, (r-Jr.), 16 Toyous Avery, (r-Jr.), 1 Derrek Pitts, Jr., (Fr.)
FS: 2 Kenny Robinson, (Fr.), 9 Jovanni Stewart, (So.)
LCB: 19 Elijah Battle, (Sr.), 29 Sean Mahone (r-Fr.)
RCB: 4 Mike Daniels, Jr., (Sr.), 24 Hakeem Bailey, (r-So.)
K: 48 Mike Molina, (r-Sr.), 30 Evan Staley (r-Fr.)
P: 15 Billy Kinney, (r-Jr.), 43 Luke Hogan, (r-Fr.)
LS: 52 Nick Meadows, (r-Sr.), 64 Rex Sunahara, (r-So.)
H: 15 Billy Kinney, (r-Jr.), 43 Luke Hogan, (r-Fr.)
KO: 30 Evan Staley, (r-Fr.), 43 Luke Hogan, (r-Fr.)
PR: 8 Marcus Simms (So.), 13 David Sills, V, (Jr.)
KOR: 8 Marcus Simms (So.) 12 Gary Jennings, Jr., (Jr.)
--This year marks the 126th year of West Virginia football with the Mountaineers currently sitting in 14th place all-time in wins in college football.
--WVU is 27-25 in Big 12 Conference Games, 13-13 on the road. West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen is 3-2 against Texas and has never matched up with Tom Herman. The Mountaineers are 173-64-4 all-time at Mountaineer Field after it opened in 1980.
--Since 2000, West Virginia is 112-15 when scoring more than 30 points and 57-4 when scoring more than 40 points in a game.
--The Mountaineers are 83-11 since 2002 when winning the turnover battle.
--In the Holgorsen era, WVU has produced 83 games with 300 or more yards, 63 games with 400 or more yards, 34 games with more than 500 yards and 17 with more than 600 yards.
--Under Holgorsen West Virginia has scored 30 or more points in 57 games, 40 or more points in 29 games, 50 or more points in 10 games and 60 or more points three times.
--The West Virginia offense has had 31 scoring drives of 70 yards or more, with 29 of those resulting in touchdowns. The offense has put together 14 touchdown drives of 80-yards or more.
--West Virginia is No. 24/25 in the national polls. The Mountaineers have been ranked in six of his seven seasons atop the program and in the top 25 on 41 different occasions.
--The 2017 roster consists of 121 players from 20 different states.
--Coaching staff assignments: AHC/DC/LB Tony Gibson (field), OC/QB Jake Spavital (field), CB Doug Belk (press box), WR Tyron Carrier (field), S Matt Caponi (field), RB Tony Dews (field), LB/ST Mark Scott (press box), DL Bruce Tall (press box), OL Joe Wickline (field)
--There are 34 Mountaineers who have seen their first WVU action during the 2017 season: Hakeem Bailey (CB), Chase Behrndt (OL), Dante Bonamico (S), Druw Bowen (WR), Tevin Bush (RB), Mitch Chugunov (WR), Elijah Drummond (FB), Brendan Ferns (LB), Will Grier (QB), Isaiah Hardy (OL), Jalen Harvey (DL), Osman Kamara (S), Jake Long (CB), Sean Mahone (CB), Dominique Maiden (WR), Alejando Marenco III (WR), Lamonte McDougle (DL), Quondarius Qualls (LB), Xavier Pegues (DL) Derrek Pitts Jr. (S), Jeffery Pooler (DL), Ray Raulerson (OL), Reggie Roberson Jr (WR), Kenny Robinson (CB), Ezekiel Rose (DL), Josh Sills (OL), Evan Staley (K), Darius Stills (DL), Rex Sunahara (LS), Logan Thimons (LB), Dylan Tonkery (LB), Kelby Wickline (OL), Corey Winfield (CB) and Jonn Young (P).
--West Virginia has run a total of 757 plays with 360 coming on the ground and 397 through the air. The rushing game has totaled 1,618 yards for an average of 4.5 per carry and 14 touchdowns. The passing attack has totaled 3,521 yards, 35 touchdowns and an average of 13.9 per completion.
--The Mountaineers have gained 94 first downs via the run and 138 with the pass. West Virginia has averaged 161.8 yards per game on the ground and 352.1 in the air for a total of 513.9 yards per game.
Injuries/Suspensions: Redshirt freshman linebacker Brendan Ferns will miss the remainder of the 2017 season after undergoing shoulder surgery. West Virginia was without a number of players against Kansas State including redshirt junior safety Toyous Avery, senior linebacker Xavier Preston, redshirt junior defensive lineman Jalen Harvey, redshirt senior cornerback Corey Winfield and redshirt senior kicker Mike Molina. At this stage it is unclear if any of those players will be able to play against the Longhorns with all being listed day-to-day.
Redshirts: Six true freshmen played in the season opener against Virginia Tech in Tevin Bush (RB), Lamonte McDougle (DL), Derrek Pitts Jr. (S), Reggie Roberson Jr. (WR), Kenny Robinson (CB) and Darius Stills (DL).
--A total of fifteen redshirt freshmen have seen action for the Mountaineers in 2017: Chase Behrndt (OL), Dante Bonamico (S), Druw Bowen (WR), Mitch Chugunov (WR), Elijah Drummond (HB), Brendan Ferns (LB), Osman Kamara (S), Jake Long (CB), Sean Mahone (CB), Jefferey Pooler (DL), Josh Sills (OL), Evan Staley (K), Logan Thimons (LB), Dylan Tonkery (LB), and Jonn Young (P).
--Others that have played and will not redshirt: Junior offensive lineman Isaiah Hardy, Junior wide receiver Dominique Maiden.
POINTS TO CLICK:
--Be prepared for it all. The thing with Texas is that you have to expect the unexpected and it’s hard to know how the talented Longhorns defense is going to attack the Mountaineers. At times they’ve shown two-high safety looks to keep things in front of them, others blitzed 85-percent of the snaps and everything in between depending on the opponent and sometimes series to series. There is a lot of confusion going against the Longhorns attack and it will be imperative for West Virginia to be ready to handle all of the possible looks they could get and first and foremost execute.
--Play four quarters on offense. For two consecutive weeks, the West Virginia offense has been shut out in the second half on the scoreboard after scoring at least 20 in the first half. The biggest issue has been being able to consistently string together drives whether it’s a dropped pass, a missed throw or an inability to effectively run the football. Against a talented Texas defense, West Virginia is going to need a complete effort for arguably the first time this year and is going to have to avoid some of the mistakes and penalties that have haunted this unit at times this season.
--It takes two. At this point there is no indication if Texas will continue to start sophomore Shane Buechele at quarterback or freshman Sam Ehlinger or the possibility of mixing in both. Unlike a week ago at Kansas State, the offense will change depending on which one is under center with Buechele being able to throw the football more effectively and Ehlinger being a better runner although each of them can handle their own in each department. The Mountaineers defense has had a resurgence down the stretch and being able to defend both of them will be a key for the defense.
--Tackle, tackle, tackle. West Virginia has been able to put together it’s best two defensive performances of the season in large part because the Mountaineers have been tackling better. That is going to be important against a Texas team that has big, athletic skill positions that can hurt you in open space. Along with tackling, being able to get off blocks and plug lanes will be key to stop the run game.
--Protect and deck. West Virginia has had success throwing the football against every team on the schedule to date but perhaps no defense could be as aggressive as what they will see against Texas. Now, the Longhorns could elect to drop back and keep things in front of them but if they do elect to bring heat the Mountaineers have to do a better job than they did a week ago against Kansas State. The Longhorns will have one of the best fronts that the Mountaineers will have seen all season and is going to likely provide pressure as well as more heat off the edge with linebackers.
--Special teams. Just go ahead and take out a space for this point every week, because it’s going to be there. Special teams have been a sore subject at times this year for West Virginia as the Mountaineers have struggled in different areas throughout the year. However, the unit has been gradually improving over the course of the season and will be key here as well. Special teams always loom large and West Virginia will need to continue to play well in the third phase.
--Turnovers. West Virginia is 83-11 since 2002 when winning the turnover battle which is a very telling sign. Turnovers have already cost the Mountaineers dearly this year and it won’t be any different against Texas which has the most defensive touchdowns in college football. The Mountaineers survived four turnovers a week ago, that isn’t a feat likely to repeat itself.