Football

West Virginia 24, Texas 20: These .500 Horns keep spinning their wheels

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Story highlights
  • Texas left tackle Connor Williams: “Of course it hurts.”
  • Longhorns have forced 16 turnovers in last six games with just 24 points to show for it.
  • Coach Charlie Strong's team must beat Kansas or TCU to become bowl eligible.

Posted November 12th, 2016

The Longhorns have come to the full realization they are a .500 football team just spinning their wheels.

Their comments after Saturday’s 24-20 loss to 16th-ranked West Virginia were indicative of a team that believes it should be much better than its 5-5 record indicates.

Texas tallied up 536 total yards, freshman quarterback Shane Buechele threw for a season-high 318 yards and the defense forced four turnovers. Yet it still wasn’t enough on a sun-splashed day at Royal-Memorial Stadium.

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“That’s just one of those you wish you could go start over and get it back again,” receiver Dorian Leonard said.

Said left tackle Connor Williams, “Of course it hurts.”

Now the Longhorns have two games left where anything’s possible. Texas can still become bowl-eligible with a win against Kansas or TCU. Or coach Charlie Strong could oversee the program’s third consecutive losing season, which would be the first time for that since the 1930s.

“It’s heartbreaking,” linebacker Edwin Freeman said, “but we’ve got to keep pushing and keep moving forward and go get these last two games.”

Strong appears to solve individual problems only to see new ones sprout. The defense struggled early this season, so the head coach took over the play-calling duties. Now the unit is generating plenty of turnovers, but the offense can’t cash in on opponents’ mistakes.

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Since Strong took over the defense, the Longhorns have generated 16 takeaways with only three touchdowns and one field goal to show for it. That’s simply not winning football in a league built around getting stops and forcing turnovers just to survive defensively.

“That was a good defensive football team. I don’t want to take anything away from them,” Strong said. “But it was there for us. We just didn’t take advantage of it.”

In a 3-3 game, Anthony Wheeler held up West Virginia’s Justin Crawford long enough for Kris Boyd to strip the ball loose. The Longhorns responded by going three-and-out.

P.J. Locke III had an impressive interception to start the second half. Texas drove 11 plays to the West Virginia 20, but kicker Trent Domingue’s 37-yard field goal attempt was blocked. Then the Mountaineers went 79 yards the other way and Kennedy McKoy punched it in from 3 yards out, giving the visitors at 24-13 lead.

Texas safety Dylan Haines had two interceptions later in the third quarter. He caught a ball in the end zone for a touchback. The Horns turned that gift into a nine-play scoring drive capped by Collin Johnson’s 20-yard catch.

Texas safegy Dylan Haines pulls in an interception agaiinst West Virginia at Darrell K Royal - Texas Memorial Stadium on Saturday, November 12, 2016.
Texas safety Dylan Haines pulls in an interception against West Virginia at Royal-Memorial Stadium on Saturday, November 12, 2016.

Haines then intercepted Skyler Howard by going low at the Texas 46. But on UT’s ensuing possession, Kyzir White just absolutely rocked Buechele at the West Virginia 20-yard line and forced a fumble.

“I was good,” Buechele said of the hardest hit he’s taken all season. “I just got hit, got popped. Had to get up from it.”

Trailing by four, Texas got one final shot with 1:25 remaining. But Buechele’s last-gasp Hail Mary fell incomplete.

Running back D’Onta Foreman had 167 yards in his 11th consecutive 100-yard game, tying the 39-year-old school record set by Earl Campbell. The 1977 Heisman winner was there at halftime to congratulate Foreman, too. Foreman said he wanted to go for it a few times on fourth down, but he insisted he’s a team guy.

“The defense played really great in my eyes,” Foreman said. “We just didn’t execute.”

Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email bdavis@statesman.com.

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