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Game Preview: #15 Texas vs. #12 West Virginia

Texas looks to defeat West Virginia and remain in the mix for the Big 12 Championship

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USA TODAY Sports

The Texas Longhorns and West Virginia Mountaineers will meet for the eighth time in history on Saturday with plenty on the line for both teams. Fighting for the advantage in a current 3-way tie for first place in the Big 12 standings along with Oklahoma, both teams bring a Top-25 ranking into the matchup. The Longhorns have fared well against ranked opponents this season, defeating #22 USC, #17 TCU at home and #7 Oklahoma at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. Texas head coach Tom Herman is 10-4 all-time against Top 25 opponents, but West Virginia is 1-0 against Texas when both teams are ranked.

The Mountaineers hold a 4-3 record all-time over the Longhorns, but Texas owns a one-game win streak over Dana Holgorsen’s team, winning in Morgantown last season 28-14.

Texas is coming off a 38-35 loss to Oklahoma State while West Virginia drubbed Baylor on a Thursday night ESPN game 58-14. While the narrow loss in Stillwater snapped the Longhorns’ six-game win streak, Tom Herman said it serves as a “needed reminder” of where the program is at and that the team’s “best is needed every week.”

Frank Denius will be honored during the coin toss of Saturday’s game. Denius, a highly decorated WWII veteran and staunch supporter of the University of Texas’ athletic and academic programs, passed away in July at the age of 93.

The game will be televised on FOX and will feature Gus Johnson (play-by-play), Joel Klatt (analyst) and Jenny Taft (sideline reporter).

 

What:  Texas Longhorns (6-2, 4-1 Big 12) vs. West Virginia Mountaineers (6-1, 4-1 Big-12)
When:  Saturday, November 3, 2018
Time:  2:30 PM CST
Venue:  Darrell K. Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium
Location: Austin, Texas
Television: FOX
The Line: Texas -2.5

THE COACHES

West Virginia Mountaineers

Head Coach:  Dana Holgorsen
Head Coaching Experience: 8th year as a head coach
Years as Head Coach at West Virginia:  8
Career Record:  59-38
Career Record at West Virginia:  59-38

Texas Longhorns

Head Coach:  Tom Herman
Head Coaching Experience: 4th year as a head coach
Years as Head Coach at Texas:  2
Career Record:  35-12
Career Record at Texas:  13-8

Home Field Advantage

Texas is a perfect 4-0 inside the friendly confines of Darrell K. Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium, which marks the best home record for the Longhorns since the 2009 season.  West Virginia is 3-1 in Austin, defeating the Longhorns by a total of eight points in those three victories. With a win over West Virginia, Texas would be one game away from an undefeated season at home — something they haven’t accomplished since the 2009 season.

West Virginia’s Offense

Led by Heisman Trophy Candidate Will Grier, the West Virginia offense ranks 15th nationally. Grier has thrown for 2,272 yards and 25 touchdowns to 7 interceptions and is averaging 325 passing yards per game. The Mountaineers use a cadre of running backs to get the job done, with junior Kennedy McCoy leading the team in rushing with 366 yards. Leddie Brown and Martel Pettaway are equally talented tailbacks that shoulder the load along with McCoy. On the receiving side Grier spreads it around nicely, with his favorite targets being senior David Sills V, junior Marcus Simms and senior Gary Jennings Jr.  All three have surpassed the 500-yard mark in receiving this year.

In order to minimize the damage Grier is capable of, Texas needs to apply pressure early and often, something Iowa State did effectively against the Mountaineers. Tom Herman took notice of that.

“They did a really good job of mixing coverage with pressure and when they covered, they covered. It may have only been a three-man rush but we are going to cover your guys and when they pressured, it was, you know, some things that they had not shown on video, and I think, you know, the element of surprise was there.”

Grier has a quick release, which makes the task more difficult, but Texas will develop a game plan that looks to limit his success.

“The best way to stop an offense like West Virginia’s is keep them off the field and don’t let them get started. But we’ve also got to score points, too. I don’t think anybody is kidding themselves thinking this is going to be, you know, a 10-3 ballgame,” Herman said.

Injuries for Texas

  • Defensive tackle Chris Nelson will miss the game after sustaining an ankle injury in practice on Tuesday. With Nelson out, expect to see junior Gerald Wilbon start in his place, with supplemental help from DeAndre Christmas-Giles and Jamari Chisholm as needed.
  • Starting B-Backer Malcolm Roach has been cleared to play a limited number of plays against WVU. Roach fractured his foot in the USC game and has been out since.
  • Wide receiver Josh Moore underwent shoulder surgery and will be out for a substantial period of time.
  • D’Shawn Jamison had a mid foot sprain against OSU, but practiced all week and should be good to go against WVU.
  • Breckyn Hager suffered a sternoclavicular joint sprain but practiced Wednesday and Thursday. Hager will play on Saturday.
  • Anthony Wheeler will be suspended the first series after getting his weightlifting days mixed up. Herman said Jeffrey McCulloch will start in his place.

Summary

Iowa State excluded, Will Grier and the Mountaineer offense have put up impressive numbers in every game played. The Texas defense was gouged for 502 total yards last week in Stillwater, with the secondary giving up 321 yards in the air. Todd Orlando’s defensive game plan is the key to victory for Texas, as Ehlinger and the offense will have a tough time matching West Virginia score-for-score without help on the defensive side.

Saturday’s contest has Big 12 Championship Game implications, which makes the game even more important this late in the season.

Statistical Comparison

WEST VIRGINIACATEGORYTEXAS
39.9Scoring Offense31.2
19.6Scoring Defense24.9
161First Downs187
141First Downs Allowed154
147.9Rushing Yards/Game154.0
132.9Rushing Defense/Game133.2
333.1Passing Yards/Game255.4
216.6Passing Defense/Game245.2
479.1Total Offense/Game409.4
394.4Total Defense/Game378.5
17.7Kick Return Average20.2
8.7Punt Return Average12.2
53-516Penalties - Yards64-523
7-11Field Goals - Attempts10-15
28:24Avg. Time of Possession31:32
35/78 (45%)3rd Down Offense51/119 (43%)
34/95 (36%)3rd Down Defense48/123 (39%)
2/3 (67%)4th Down Offense6/8 (75%)
9/15 (60%)4th Down Defense10/16 (62%)
25/28 (89%)Red Zone Offense22/28 (79%)
19/22 (86%)Red Zone Defense22/32 (72%)
-3Turnover Margin+5

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Aaron Carrara is the founder and publisher of HornSports and has covered University of Texas athletics since 2011. Aaron is a member of the Football Writer's Association of America and the U.S. Basketball Writer's Association and is a proud father to three boys.

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