WVU outlasts Texas 38-20
West Virginia (5-4, 2-4) turned four critical turnovers into 24-points as the Mountaineers outlasted Texas (4-6, 3-4) 38 to 20 Saturday afternoon in front of 56,736.
It's the second consecutive victory for West Virginia after the month of October saw the Mountaineers drop four consecutive games after starting the season undefeated in the non-conference slate. Three fumbles and an interception by a usually mistake-free Longhorns team led directly to points for West Virginia including a 42-yard return for a score. In total Texas turned the ball over five times.
The Mountaineers were led by junior Wendell Smallwood, who eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark on the season rushing for 165 yards on 24 carries good for 6.9 per pop. Junior quarterback Skyler Howard tossed a pair of touchdowns while rushing for another and completed 10 of his 12 attempts through the air in directing the offense to 379 total yards.
The Longhorns ran for 277 yards led by D'Onta Foreman who accounted for 147 and a touchdown, while using both Jerrod Heard and Tyrone Swoopes in the backfield.
Texas won the toss but elected to defer giving West Virginia the football to open the game and a touchback placed the ball at the 25-yard line. The Mountaineers would quickly move the football to the 48-yard line but on the first third down of the game, Howard would throw the ball behind his wide receiver right into the arms of the Texas defensive back Davante Davis to set up the Longhorns near midfield on their first drive of the game.
It would be short drive for the Longhorns as they would fail to convert on third down giving the football back to the West Virginia offense at the 20-yard line without any damage done to the Mountaineers on the heels of Howard's ninth interception since the start of Big 12 Conference play.
The Mountaineers would record their first three and out after a poor offensive series and a poor punt would set up the Longhorns in good field position again at their own 41-yard line. The Longhorns would strike with a 30-yard pass play to Caleb Bluiett and from there the Texas offense would put Nick Rose in position for a 31-yard field goal to put them on the board at 3-0 with 7:31 left in the first quarter.
West Virginia would fail to do anything on their next possession, kicking the ball back to the Longhorns but this time O'Toole would flip the field giving Texas the ball at their own seven yard line following a 51-yard boot from the senior.
Heard would connect with a 37-yard pass play down the field to Burt on third down to put the Longhorns at midfield after busting the coverage on the back end, however, on the ensuing play a Foreman fumble would be scooped up by Jared Barber and returned 42-yards to put the Mountaineers ahead 7-3 with 3:39 left in the first quarter. It was the first defensive touchdown since the Liberty Bowl.
It would take Texas all of one play to seize back the momentum as Foreman would redeem himself taking the ball 65-yards to the house to put the Longhorns back in front 10-7. The ten first quarter points matched what Texas had scored for the entire season in true road games.
West Virginia would move the ball to midfield as Smallwood continued to grind out yards on the ground but after converting one third down, the offense was unsuccessful on 3rd and 7 and were forced to punt the football back into the hands of the Longhorn offense but another good punt by O'Toole backed them up at their own two-yard line. The West Virginia defense would allow one first down but force a punt giving the offense the ball at their own 44-yard line to start the drive with 11:08 left in the half.
Howard and the West Virginia offense would put together their best drive of the game traveling 56-yards in eight plays including punching it in from the one yard line with Elijah Wellman to put the Mountaineers back out front 14-10. It would take 2:51 on the drive as Howard connected with Ka'Raun White for an 18-yard catch while Smallwood continues to grind out yards on the ground.
The Longhorns would take an 11-play, 54-yard drive that would eat up 6:12 off the clock as junior Tyrone Swoopes took over at quarterback bringing a physical rushing style and punishing the Mountaineers defenders. And after converting a fourth down earlier in the drive, the Longhorns were set up with a third and six deep in West Virginia territory but Swoopes would fumble the football giving the Mountaineers the ball back with 1:48 left in the first half.
The Mountaineers would use three straight rushes by Smallwood, to put him over 100-yards in the first half but would strike for the big play on a 53-yard touchdown pass to Jovon Durante down the left sideline to give West Virginia a 21-10 lead with exactly a minute left in the half. It was the second time that the Mountaineers cashed Longhorns turnovers into points in the first half. And Texas would be content to run the football and take the game into halftime with an 11-point deficit.
Texas would open the second half with the football inside their own 25-yard line and the Longhorns would convert four third downs on the drive including a five-yard touchdown pass from Heard to Daje Johnson to cap off a 15-play drive that spanned 80-yards in 6:21. The touchdown would cut the lead to 21-17 West Virginia with 8:33 remaining in the third. West Virginia would proceed to go three and out on the ensuing possession, giving the Longhorns the football back with 6:47 remaining in the quarter.
However, this time the West Virginia defense would make a stop on third and 9 from the Longhorns 21-yard line giving the Mountaineers favorable field position at their own 44-yard line. After sitting out the first drive, Smallwood would reenter the game and rip off a 27-yard run to set the Mountaineers up deep in Texas territory and on 3rd down and 3 from the Texas eight yard line Howard would drop in another nice touch ball to Shorts for a touchdown. West Virginia would move back ahead 28-17 with 1:48 left in the third quarter and recapture the momentum they had lost to open the quarter.
Texas would fumble the ensuing kickoff and West Virginia would take over at the Longhorns 22-yard line but the Mountaineers would be unable to punch the ball into the end zone instead settling for a 19-yard field goal to push the lead out to 31-17. The Longhorns would move the ball to the West Virginia side of the field at the 33-yard line and on fourth and six, cornerback Daryl Worley would pick off the pass down the sideline to give the football back to the Mountaineers with 12:33 left on the clock.
The West Virginia offense would go three and out with running only a minute off the clock and a poor punt set Texas back up at the 37-yard line of the Mountaineers. While they would be unable to punch the ball into the end zone another Rose field goal to cut the lead to 31-20 with 9:24 left.
For the second consecutive drive, West Virginia would go three and out taking only a little more than two minutes off the clock and another poor punt put the ball at the Longhorns 43-yard line. But on the first play of the drive, Nick Kwiatkoski would making a leaping interception on a Heard pass to give the football back to the offense. And the Mountaineers would cash in again bleeding the clock in the process and capping it off with a three-yard touchdown run by Howard to put the score at 38-20 with only 3:30 remaining in the game.
The Mountaineers would force Texas into a three and out on their final drive, while West Virginia would run out the remainder of the clock with the Longhorns conceding defeat.
West Virginia travels to Kansas next weekend for a noon kickoff.