West Virginia completed a third of its season with a narrow win over Kansas in Lawrence. To the surprise of many, the Mountaineers own a 3-1 record going into the most challenging part of its schedule. If the Mountaineers are to climb to bowl eligibility, they may need a win at home this weekend to do it. As part of our series, we are previewing Texas here. Kickoff will happen at 3:30 on Saturday, October 5, in Morgantown. ABC will televise the game.
Mountaineers: Previewing Texas
The Longhorns come to Morgantown with a 3-1 record, though this is their first true road game of the early season. LSU owns the sole blemish on Texas’ season after handing the Longhorns a 45-38 loss in Austin.
In that span, Sam Ehlinger has played extremely well. Ehlinger has completed 73% of his passes, with 15 touchdowns to only one interception. Ehlinger adds mobility to the offense as well. He averages 4.5 yards on the ground, just enough to keep opposing linebackers honest.
Despite lingering injuries to both Collin Johnson and Jordan Whittington, the Longhorns’ remaining skill players have performed well. Devin Duvernay leads Texas with 377 receiving yards on 39 receptions. He has crossed the goal line four times. Brennan Eagles and Jake Smith have both added four touchdown receptions as well. Running backs Keaontay Ingram and Roschon Johnson both have over 100 rushing yards, while Ingram boasts over five yards per carry on the season. Ingram has rushed for three touchdowns.
Defensively, Texas has been strong up front, giving up under three-and-a-half yards per carry. Despite this, their secondary has been depleted by injury, and opponents average over 310 passing yards per game as a result. The Longhorns will travel to Morgantown with Cade Sterns, a member of our top five returning Big XII safeties. BJ Foster and Demarvion Overshown have both missed games, but both seem set to return to the field this Saturday. Foster, though, has been dealing with a lingering hamstring issue, so Tom Herman might limit his snap count to preserve him for the Longhorns’ October 12th date with Oklahoma.
Texas has also dealt with injuries to Jalen Green and Josh Thompson in its secondary, so it has asked its depth to step up to mixed results. Further, Oklahoma State was able to keep it close despite a shallow performance from Spencer Sanders. Therefore, Texas is certainly vulnerable.
How Do We Hold These Horns?
Last season, the Mountaineers prevailed in a thriller in Austin on a late two-point conversion. But the Mountaineers also came close to throwing that game away by taunting the crowd and flashing “Horns Down” after a couple of different scores. Unsportsmanlike conduct penalties ensued. Fortunately, Texas was unable to capitalize on those penalties. Asked about “horns down” by the media earlier this week, Head Coach Neal Brown said that the gesture was “much ado about nothing.”
Mountaineers’ fans social media accounts, however, are replete with the sign of “respect.” Infamously, Ehlinger said after the defeat last season, “I won’t forget any disrespect” Texas has been shown. The topic generates some interesting controversy. And while Brown may not condone the behavior, Mountaineers fans certainly do. Expect plenty of flashes of the horns-down sign from fans early in the game.
The Prediction: Previewing Texas
Unless the Mountaineers’ defense contains Ehlinger early fans can expect a tough outing from West Virginia. Texas has plenty of reason to return the favor in Morgantown and hand the Mountaineers a jarring defeat. In addition, they have the talent to do so. But the Mountaineers have shown the blue-collar toughness Brown seeks to invoke. As a result, this game will play closer than it should on paper. The Mountaineers could squeak out a closely-contested battle, but we think Texas gets the better of this matchup. The Longhorns simply have more experienced depth. 33-28 Texas.