In this Sept. 26, 2015 file photo, after scoring a touchdown, West Virginia running back Wendell Smallwood (4) celebrates with his teammate West Virginia running back Rushel Shell (7) during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Maryland, in Morgantown, W.Va. The Mountaineers (3-0) will play three of its first four conference games on the road, all are against ranked opponents, starting Saturday, Oct. 3 at No. 15 Oklahoma (3-0).(AP Photo/Raymond Thompson)

Football

Breaking down Texas’ 2016 schedule: West Virginia

Posted August 28th, 2016

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To open a pivotal third season, Charlie Strong‘s Texas Longhorns face three opponents who won 10 or more games a year ago, including one CFP semifinalist. And that’s just in the first five games.

In a near perfect world, Texas would take two out of three games against Notre Dame, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. In reality, the Longhorns probably would settle for a single win and move into a more workable patch of the schedule.

Indeed, the narrative of this season, good or bad, could be determined by the halfway point of the schedule.

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We’re breaking down all 12 opponents, divided into four separate phases of the schedule:

For Starters — non-conference. Texas vs. Notre Dame (Sept. 4), vs. UTEP (Sept. 10) and at Cal (Sept. 17).

The Early Tests — three team-defining games to open Big 12 play. Texas at Oklahoma State (Oct. 1), vs. Oklahoma in Dallas (Oct. 8) and vs. Iowa State (Oct. 15).

The Tossups — three winnable (and losable) games. Texas at Kansas State (Oct. 22), vs. Baylor (Oct. 29) and at Texas Tech (Nov. 5).

The Home Stretch — the final three games of the season. Texas vs. West Virginia (Nov. 12), at Kansas (Nov. 19) and vs. TCU the day after Thanksgiving (Nov. 25).

THE HOME STRETCH: The three final games of the season

Game 10: West Virginia

West Virginia quarterback Skyler Howard (3) looks to pass as Arizona State defensive lineman JoJo Wicker (1) pursues during the second half of the Cactus Bowl NCAA college football game, Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
West Virginia quarterback Skyler Howard (3) looks to pass as Arizona State defensive lineman JoJo Wicker (1) pursues during the second half of the Cactus Bowl NCAA college football game, Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

If there’s a coach on Texas’ schedule with a seat hotter than Strong’s, it’s West Virginia’s Dana Holgorsen, who failed in the offseason to strike a deal with administrators on a contract extension. In February, negotiations ended and both parties tabled the conversation.

In five years, Holgorsen is 36-28 but only 20-23 in the Big 12. Strong is 11-14 in two , seasons.

So there’s a chance that a job or two may be on the line here.

WVU ditched the pass in last year’s meeting, running the ball on 51 of 63 plays and exposing a soft interior of UT’s defense. Wendell Smallwood (165 yards) is gone, but the Mountaineers still have Rushel Shell (54 yards) to go with underrated quarterback Skyler Howard.

West Virginia, at a glance

2015: 8-5, 4-5 in the Big 12 (tied for 5th). Beat Arizona State in the Cactus Bowl, 43-42.

Triplets: QB Skyler Howard (221-403-3,145 yards, 26 TDs/14 INTs), who was mostly inconsistent in his first year as a full-time starter but finished strong, throwing for 532 yards and five touchdowns in the bowl win; RB Rushel Shell (161-708-8), whom Holgorsen said would have rushed for 1,000 yards last year if not for Smallwood’s breakout season; and WR Shelton Gibson (37-887-9), who averaged 24 yards a catch last season and was a top return man, too.

Last time: West Virginia, 38-20 (2015)

The last five Texas-West Virginia matchups:

2015 — West Virginia 38, Texas 20 (Morgantown)

2014 — Texas 33, West Virginia 16 (Austin)

2013 — Texas 47, West Virginia 40 (Morgantown)

2012 — West Virginia 48, Texas 45 (Austin)

1956 — West Virginia 7, Texas 6 (Austin)

Last year: It was a sloppy loss in Morgantown — five turnovers, by way of three fumbles and two interceptions, led to 24 West Virginia points in a 38-20 loss to the Mountaineers. D’Onta Foreman rushed for 147 yards, his fourth 100-yard game of the season. Jerrod Heard, who was 11 of 18 for 162 yards and a touchdown, threw both of the picks. Texas outgained West Virginia, 439 yards to 379. Johnathan Gray injured his foot, an injury which would lead to Chris Warren III‘s ascension to starter. Of note: Just a few hours after the game, Lewisville guard Denzel Okafor tweeted that he had committed to the Longhorns.

Our 2015 coverage:  Our game story (“Turnovers, injuries lead to Horns’ sixth loss”); Cedric Golden’s column (“Horns offense isn’t built to overcome poor QB play“); Kirk Bohls’ column (“Squinting for progress in yet another loss on the road“); and an expanded boxscore.

Next game on the schedule: At Kansas

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