Texas running back Keaontay Ingram, left, dives into the end zone for a touchdown in front of Oklahoma State defensive end Tyler Lacy (89) in the first half of an NCAA college football game in Stillwater, Okla., Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Football

Texas RB Keaontay Ingram out this week as Horns prep for West Virginia’s rugged defense

Horns will send Roschon Johnson, Bijan Robinson out to face nation’s 4th-best run defense

Posted November 3rd, 2020

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Story highlights
  • “The Stills brothers are great players. Great players,” Herman said. “But they’ve got some other guys up there as well.”
  • West Virginia may not have a spot in The Associated Press Top 25 poll, but Neal Brown’s club certainly has UT’s respect.
  • Given everything that’s happened this season, Herman was overdue for a calm meet-and-greet with the Fourth Estate.

Texas running back Keaontay Ingram will miss “a few weeks” with a high ankle sprain, coach Tom Herman said Tuesday.

Ingram suffered the injury on the play before his one-yard touchdown run against Oklahoma State. The Longhorns’ three-man tailback rotation is now down to two — Roschon Johnson and Bijan Robinson.

Facing West Virginia is not the ideal time to be thin at running back.

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“I’m going to read some stats to you I’m sure you guys know,” Herman told reporters on Tuesday. The coach then rattled off how the Mountaineers rank fourth nationally in total defense, fifth in pass defense, 10th in run defense and 17th in scoring defense. WVU is tied for sixth nationally in sacks and tied for ninth in tackles for loss.

No. 22 Texas and West Virginia have matching records in the win-loss column. Both are 4-2 overall, 3-2 in Big 12 play. But the Mountaineers have a much tougher defense, at least if the statistics can be believed.

“The Stills brothers are great players. Great players,” Herman said. “But they’ve got some other guys up there as well.”

West Virginia defensive lineman Darius Stills (56) reacts after making an interception against Kansas during an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020, in Morgantown, W.Va. (William Wotring/The Dominion-Post via AP)

Twin brothers Dante and Darius Stills, both defensive linemen, are certainly two centerpiece figures. Herman also touted redshirt freshman Jared Bartlett, who has 5.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks so far this season.

“What it has allowed them to do Is not have to sell the farm to stop the run or rush the passer,” Herman said.

Texas wasted no time digging into West Virginia prep work. Herman said the team started watching film on the Mountaineers on the flight home from Stillwater, Okla., after the team’s overtime win over Oklahoma State.

The Horns had their normal Sunday, but flip-flopped their Monday and Tuesday schedules. The team had a mandatory off day Tuesday so players could vote. While Herman couldn’t guarantee that every Longhorns athlete voted, he stressed that a majority of players either voted earlier or did it Tuesday.

“Our kids really responded,” he said. Texas athletics orchestrated a huge internal push to get all athletes registered to vote. “I’m really proud of the guys on our team who have voted or are going to vote (Tuesday).”

Come Wednesday, they’ll be back at it getting ready for West Virginia.

“Obviously, they’re doing some really good things on offense as well,” Herman said. “This is going to be a formidable challenge, and certainly one that got everybody’s attention in the locker room and throughout our program with their big win against Kansas State last week.”

Herman’s teams have been remarkably inconsistent when Texas is ranked and the opponent is not. The Horns are 11-7 under Herman in those situations. West Virginia may not have a spot in The Associated Press Top 25 poll, but Neal Brown’s club certainly has UT’s respect.

The Mountaineers badly want the Longhorns to consider them a rival. Last year in Morgantown, fans were wearing all sorts of Horns Down shirts and other assorted put-downs. “I don’t know in regards to a rivalry what we think about that,” quarterback Sam Ehlinger said, “but we know it’s another big Big 12 game and against a really good opponent.”

Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger (11) throws a touchdown pass in overtime of an NCAA college football game against Oklahoma State in Stillwater, Okla., Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Herman conceded Tuesday that Ehlinger is playing hurt. It’s clear from his deep throws that something is off. Herman would not detail Ehlinger’s medical status, but the quarterback is definitely playing this week and beyond.

“Sam’s hurt all the time,” Herman said. “This is a guy that plays the game very physically and he’s going to be banged up, bumps and bruises, body’s going to be sore and he doesn’t mind.”

Also on the injury front, receiver Brenden Schooler (knee) is expected to play this week. However, receiver Jordan Whittington still has not recovered from what Herman called a “small tear of his lateral meniscus.” As of now, Whittington could return after the bye week and play Kansas on Nov. 21.

Herman also said offensive lineman Isaiah Hookfin decided to have shoulder surgery and would start looking ahead to spring practice.

If all this seems dull, it’s because early November usually is. By this point, teams are set in their offensive and defensive ways, the personnel is well known to everybody and now it’s a matter of killing off the days between games.

The most noteworthy moment of Herman’s press conference was a point about Oklahoma State’s gamesmanship. Stadium officials put vertical lines on the stadium’s huge video board behind the goal post when UT’s Cameron Dicker was out to kick. Herman said he discussed that with Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby. “That has been addressed,” the coach said.

Given everything that’s happened this season, Herman was overdue for a calm meet-and-greet with the Fourth Estate.

“I said it post-game, but it bears repeating. I thank the fans that that did make the trip to Stillwater,” Herman said. “I know there wasn’t very many of you that were allowed in the stadium, but we do appreciate you guys being there, being loud, cheering for us.

“So we expect as many people as permissible in the stadium here on Saturday and excited to have an opportunity to go 1-0 again this week against West Virginia.”

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

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