Following a big upset win over Oklahoma State, the Longhorns find themselves back in the thick of the Big 12 race as they prepare to host West Virginia in Austin. The Mountaineers are coming off a big win at home against Kansas State and boast a defense playing at an extremely high level. Here’s what to expect from the Mountaineers on Saturday afternoon:
In Morgantown last year, Texas faced a West Virginia offense that was not very good. Austin Kendall was at the helm and tossed 4 interceptions. A few games later, Neal Brown made a quarterback switch to Jarret Doege, who has started every game since. Doege has done a good job of taking care of the football and spreading it around to their talented wide receivers. He will not be used as a runner, but the Longhorns defense should not expect any of the gifts they received from Spencer Sanders last week.
Leddie Brown is averaging 5.5 yards per carry as the leading back for the Mountaineers. West Virginia is very committed to running the football and Brown will get the bulk of the carries. Alec Sinkfield will also see touches and is a home-run threat with great speed.
Texas fans are familiar with TJ Simmons and Sam James, who combined for 13 catches and a pair of TD’s in the matchup last season in Morgantown. The duo has been joined this season by Winston Wright and Bryce Ford-Wheaton to form a solid group of receivers. Ford-Wheaton had over 100 yards last week against Kansas State and Wright leads the team with 32 receptions.
The West Virginia offensive line was not very good this year but has taken a step forward in 2020. Both starting tackles are in their first year as full time starters and have held their own, but Joseph Ossai will be their biggest test to date. The Mountaineers are likely to build a gameplan around the short passing game to protect Doege and get the ball out quickly, similar to what Texas Tech attacked Texas with earlier this season.
West Virginia is widely considered the second best defense in the Big 12 behind Oklahoma State, who Texas struggled to move the ball against a week ago. For the Mountaineers, it all starts up front with Darius and Dante Stills, who hold down the defensive tackle spots. The brothers had their way with the Texas offensive line in 2019 and have been nearly unstoppable at times this year. The interior of the Texas offensive line has looked lost at times this year on stunts and twists, which West Virginia will surely run a lot of on Saturday afternoon.
At linebacker, Arizona transfer Tony Fields leads the team in tackles with 53. Fields was pursued by Texas before choosing West Virginia and has fit in very nicely at the middle linebacker spot. It is tough to get a real read on the backend of the West Virginia defense considering the quality of quarterbacks they have faced. They have faced backup quarterbacks from Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Kansas while also getting the luxury of facing Charlie Brewer and Jalon Daniels. CB Dreshun Miller has been impressive the last few games and will provide another test for the outside receivers of Texas
This game has the makings of a defensive struggle. The Longhorns were fortunate to be gifted with several short fields and a special teams TD against Oklahoma State, which masked the problems the offense had moving the ball. On the other hand, the Texas defense continues to improve weekly under Chris Ash and should be able to hold the West Virginia offense in check. If Texas is able to sustain a handful of drives and limit turnovers for the second consecutive week, they will put themselves in great position to secure a win.
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