Football

West Virginia 38, Texas 20: Turnovers, injuries lead to Horns' sixth loss

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Posted November 14th, 2015

MORGANTOWN, W.V. — After this latest loss, there were few questions, and even fewer answers.

Taylor Doyle addressed reporters for a grand total of 90 seconds, which was 10 more than Peter Jinkens held court. Desmond Jackson executed his interview by harping on, well, execution. Or lack of, anyway.

Ten games down, there’s not much left to say about Texas’ 2015 season other than to call it a dud.

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Though it’s no consolation to observers of this four-win team, at least Texas (4-6, 3-4) found a new way to lose on a chilly Saturday afternoon at West Virginia. This 38-20 setback featured three traps — turnovers, injuries and penalties — that the Longhorns had largely avoided in other losses.

But points aren’t given for originality, or for keeping it close — which Texas did, trailing by a manageable 11 points before an interception thrown by Jerrod Heard all but sealed it with seven minutes to go.

“We played well enough,” coach Charlie Strong said. “We just need to limit mistakes.”

With two games left, UT has to beat Texas Tech on Thanksgiving and then Baylor, in Waco, to salvage Strong’s second season with a bowl invitation. That coup, already unlikely, could be made to be even more difficult now that injuries are mounting. At one point in the second half, seven players had gone to the locker room, including running backs Johnathan Gray and D’Onta Foreman. It was an odd sight for a team that entered the day in pristine health.

Gray (ankle) and right guard Patrick Vahe (knee) did not return, and Strong didn’t have much to say about availabilities for the Thanksgiving date with Tech.

“The rest of the guys should be back,” Strong said.

Texas Longhorns(46) Malik Jefferson and (19) Peter Jinkens sack West Virginia (3) Skyler Howard in the second half of the game on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015 (RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
Texas Longhorns(46) Malik Jefferson and (19) Peter Jinkens sack West Virginia (3) Skyler Howard in the second half of the game on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015 (RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Turnovers, like injuries, spread over the team like a rash. Heard tossed two fourth-quarter interceptions, and Foreman, Tyrone Swoopes and Kris Boyd (kick return) all fumbled. Though not a turnover, a drive in the first half ended when Doyle snapped the ball prematurely. He and play-caller Jay Norvell said WVU players had simulated the snap, and Doyle started the play believing Heard had called for the ball.

“It’s supposed to be a penalty, but we have to continue to play through whatever environment there is,” Doyle said.

The five turnovers were two fewer than Texas, normally protective of the ball, had committed in its first nine games combined.

The first turnover of the bunch, Foreman’s mishandling of a handoff on a reverse play, ended with WVU’s Jared Barber standing in the end zone for a 7-3 lead. Foreman (18 carries, 147 yards) atoned for it on the next play, rumbling 65 yards to re-take the lead.

Swoopes’ fumble, on a second-effort run at WVU’s 25, took the wind out of a 12-play series in which Texas chewed up more than six minutes of the second quarter. Four plays later, the Horns trailed 21-10 when Davante Davis was beaten on Jovon Durante’s 53-yard touchdown catch from Skyler Howard. Strong didn’t want to blame safety Jason Hall, who was tardy helping out against the long ball.

“As a defense, it doesn’t matter where they put the ball, you’re supposed to stop them,” Jackson said. “We just didn’t execute.”

Texas committed seven penalties for 55 yards. Connor Williams was flagged twice for holding, one negating 29-yard touchdown run by Heard, and the Horns settled for a field goal.

WVU gashed the middle of Texas’ defensive line for 257 yards on 51 carries (a 5.0 average). Wendell Smallwood had 165 yards and crossed 1,000 yards on the season. Howard, who attempted only 12 passes but completed 10 of them, put the game out of reach on a short run with less than four minutes to play.

Hope remained for UT after Paul Boyette crushed Smallwood in the backfield to force a second straight punt in the fourth quarter. But linebacker Nick Kwiatkowski then scraped the sky and intercepted Heard, preserving WVU’s 31-20 lead.

“We’re not good enough to turn the ball over,” Norvell said.

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