BEVO BEAT

Third and Longhorns: Inside Texas 28, West Virginia 14

Posted November 18th, 2017

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A deeper look inside Texas’ 28-14 win over West Virginia:

Why Texas (6-5, 5-3 Big 12) won

In short, things couldn’t have worked out better for the Longhorns. The rains in Morgantown had an impact on the West Virginia offense, though probably not as much as the Mountaineers losing their starting quarterback early. Texas’ defense certainly made the road trip. There was a big goal-line stand that ended with Will Grier suffering a game-ending finger injury and turning a touchdown into a fumble/touchback. And perhaps an even bigger third-down fumble thanks to Malcolm Roach and Gary Johnson that Chris Nelson recovered inside the 5-yard line, turning a tightening 21-14 lead into a 28-14 advantage with five minutes left. Sam Ehlinger was electric in the first half but then reminded us he’s a freshman in the second. The running game had some moments and Connor Williams’ return was a big lift.

Why West Virginia (7-4, 5-3) lost

It’s easy to point to the loss of Grier — one of the country’s top quarterbacks and the driver of the West Virginia offense — as the biggest reason. Perhaps because it was. The Mountaineers looked neutered without him. It’s hard for Gary Jennings, Ka’Raun White and Davis Sills V to make big plays when the ball isn’t getting to them. Jennings certainly had the catches — 10 of them — but they went for only 78 yards, an average of 7.8 yards per catch. White had six catches, Sills two. There were some 30-yard gains in there, but nothing that hurt the Longhorns too much.

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The Eyes of Texas

The Longhorns kept their eyes on three specific Mountaineers — Grier, the nation’s third-leading passer who’d thrown the second most touchdowns in the country; running back Justin Crawford, who opened the season with five straight 100-yard games; and linebacker Al-Rasheed Benton, West Virginia’s leading tackler and second on the team in sacks and interceptions.

How’d they do?

Grier was 6 of 8 for 50 yards and had one carry for 1 yard. And it was a costly carry; he seemed to suffer a badly dislocated or broken middle finger of his throwing hand while diving for the pylon in the first quarter; he left the game and didn’t return.

Crawford had 15 carries for 64 yards. He had a relatively quiet afternoon.

Benton tied for the team lead with 10 tackles. Eight of those were solo stops.

Game balls

OFFENSE

Sam Ehlinger ran hot and cold, but the hot generally outweighed the cold. The big negative, obviously, was the pick-six on a throw he shouldn’t have tried. But he really gave the offense a big spark in the first half.

Kendall Moore was one of 10 Longhorns who caught a pass, and he only had one catch, and it went for only 4 yards. But it also was Texas’ first touchdown of the day and it helped relieve worries over the loss of freshman tight end Cade Brewer, who suffered a knee injury during practice on Thursday.

And welcome back, Connor Williams. Back on the field for the first time since the USC game, most of the Longhorns’ big plays went to his left side of the field. He pancaked a Mountaineers lineman on Texas’ very first snap and he was seen testing the knee late in the game as some Texas players danced on the sideline.

DEFENSE

Gary Johnson tied for the team lead with seven tackles and also produced two important plays — a quarterback hurry that forced Chris Chukonov into overthrowing an open Jennings in the end zone and a forced fumble on a sack that Texas recovered inside West Virginia’s 5-yard line late in the game.

DeShon Elliott also produced two big ones — Texas’ big goal-line stand in the first quarter started with him stopping Crawford 1 yard short of the goal line, and he also broke up a touchdown pass in the end zone on a fourth-down play in the fourth quarter.

Jason Hall had two pass breakups, including one on third down that also was the biggest hit of the game, and also blocked a pass at the line of scrimmage on third down, forcing a punt.

This and that

… from Kirk Bohls’ seat in the press box:

Horns up

Texas’ defense, with West Virginia facing a second-and-goal from the 1 midway through the first quarter, locked down the Mountaineers with two stops, including a Brandon Jones tackle on a diving Will Grier to dislodge the ball, denying West Virginia a touchdown and injuring the quarterback’s finger.
Freshman Sam Ehlinger came off the bench on the third series of the game and engineered two electric drives of 91 and 87 yards for touchdowns and a 14-0 halftime lead.

Horns down

Ehlinger also shows up in this category with an inexplicably silly mistake when he tried to complete a pass as he was being tackled, and West Virginia’s Kenny Robinson picked off the floater and returned it 94 yards to cut Texas’ lead to one touchdown in the third quarter.
Texas made two drive-killing penalties in the first quarter when Moore was called for offensive pass interference on a big gain — the third in as many games — and offensive guard Jake McMillon was flagged for holding.

Offensive play of the game

Playing in a driving rain in a scoreless game, Ehlinger completed a 50-yard pass to Reggie Hemphill-Mapps — the team’s second-longest reception of the year — on the opening play of the second quarter to key the Longhorns’ first scoring drive.

Defensive play of the game

See above. Brandon Jones stopped Will Grier on a dive attempt into the end zone, denying West Virginia of a touchdown and hurting the finger of the Mountaineers starting quarterback.

Texcetera

Texas improved to 3-4 all-time vs. West Virginia, but also 2-1 at Milan Puskar Stadium. … West Virginia was averaging 39.0 points and 513.9 yards per game. The Longhorns held the Mountaineers to 15 points and 218 yards below those marks. … Ehlinger, who produced 204 total yards and two touchdowns, now has 1,632 passing yards on the season; that ranks fifth for the most ever by a UT freshman. … Collin Johnson’s first catch, for 11 yards, put him over the 1,000-yard mark for his career. … Michael Dickson had seven punts, averaging 43.0 yards. Four of his kicks were downed inside the 20, three were inside the 15, two were inside the 10 and one was inside the 5. His longest kick was 59 yards.

On deck: Texas Tech

Nov. 24, Royal-Memorial Stadium, 7 p.m., Fox

This one won’t be for a bowl game, but it will be Senior Night for the Longhorns and the chance to finish with a 7-5 regular season. That rolls off the tongue a lot easier than 6-6.

The post Third and Longhorns: Inside Texas 28, West Virginia 14 appeared first on Hook ‘Em.

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