WVU football: No. 8 WVU topples No. 11 Texas
AUSTIN, Texas -- West Virginia's widely praised offense got just enough help from its equally questioned defense and then just a little more from the respected opponent as No. 8/7 WVU defeated No. 11/9 Texas 48-45 at Texas Memorial Stadium Saturday.
Up 41-38, but trying to keep Texas out of the end zone, linebacker Josh Francis had his team's first sack of the game to set up a third-and-13 and cornerback Pat Miller followed by batting down a pass on fourth-and-13 to stop a potential scoring drive in WVU territory.
"Pat Miller is a huge reason why we won this game," defensive coordinator Joe DeForest said of the senior who had five tackles, one tackle for two pass breakups.
Two plays later, though, quarterback Geno Smith was sacked and lost his second fumble of the game as the Longhorns took over at WVU's 12-yard line with 7:46 to go. On third-and-6, the shotgun snap sailed past quarterback David Ash. Kicker Anthony Fera, a Penn State transfer playing in his first game this season, missed to the right on a 41-yard kick.
On the ensuing drive, Andrew Buie ran for 64 of his career-high 207 yards and ended things with a 5-yard run by Buie, his second score of the game. Buie offered superb relief of injured starter Shawne Alston, who missed a second straight game after playing but a few snaps three games ago against Maryland.
"I was hoping that would be the case and he averaged 6.7 yards a run," Coach Dana Holgorsen said. "What surprised me was he carried it 31 times. But we committed to the run. That's something we talked about early in the week and there weren't any tricks, either. We lined up and ran right at them and we felt like that was going to be a difference so we could alleviate some of the pressure on Geno."
The Mountaineers (5-0, 2-0 Big 12) ended a 12-game, 30-year losing streak in road games against top-10 teams and improved to 2-18 in games before a crowd of 75,000 or larger. WVU's last road win against a top-10 team was at No. 9 Oklahoma in 1982 -- which was the lone win before a crowd of 75,000 or more.
Saturday night's exploits came before a stadium record 101,851.
"It was rocking out there," receiver Stedman Bailey said. "A hundred thousand fans, you'd think it would be very loud out there, but I'd never heard a crowd so loud.
"But it was a big win against a great opponent like Texas and to do it on the road in front of 100,000 fans screaming and doing what they can do to help Texas beat us is a dream come true."
The Mountaineers will move up in the polls when they're released Sunday. LSU, Florida State and Georgia, ranked Nos. 3, 4, or 5 in both polls, all lost Saturday.
Buie added 66 yards on three receptions and one eight-yard return on a squib kick and finished with 281 all-purpose yards, the ninth-best total in team history.
Smith completed 25 of 35 passes for 268 yards and four touchdowns. He now has 24 touchdowns and no interceptions on 204 attempts this season. Three touchdowns went to Bailey, who had eight receptions for 75 yards. Tavon Austin added 10 receptions for 102 yards.
Ash, who was second nationally to Smith in passer efficiency, finished 22-for-29 for 269 yards and a touchdown. Jonathan Gray had 87 of his team's 135 yards rushing.
WVU set a stadium record for points scored by a Big 12 team despite two turnovers. Texas (4-1, 1-1) had one and had won 73 straight games when it won the turnover battle. The Mountaineers also prevailed despite a missed field goal, a blocked punt by the team's place kicker, a Texas defensive touchdown and just three conversions in 12 third down attempts -- and they had been leading the nation in third-down conversion percentage.
WVU fixed that by going 5-for-5 on fourth down, including a critical one on the touchdown drive that built a 41-38 lead.
The Mountaineers also trailed for 15 minutes, 53 seconds against the Longhorns after trailing just 9:09 this season -- and all against Baylor. Down 31-27 after Texas opened the second half with a 38-yard field goal, the Mountaineers regained the lead on a 9-yard pass from Smith to Bailey on third-and-3. It was WVU's fifth score in five red zone possessions, but came after field goals on the prior two trips. The Mountaineers finished 6-for-6.
The cushion lasted 4:03 and Texas regained the lead on a touchdown run by Joe Bergeron, but WVU responded with Smith's third touchdown pass to Bailey to take a 41-38 lead with 10:50 remaining in the game.
"There weren't a lot of times where we weren't draped all over the guy he was trying to throw the football to," Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said of Smith. "You have to give him a lot of credit, his receivers a lot of credit. When the play was there to be made, they made it."
The Mountaineers looked like they had the game under control with 12:06 left in the first half. It was a 21-7 lead and Austin and Bailey had caught touchdown passes from Smith and Buie had a touchdown and was nearing 100 yards rushing when freshman safety Karl Joseph forced a fumble the Mountaineers recovered to take possession at their 38-yard line.
After racking up 190 yards on four drives with standard stuff, Smith and Buie bumped into one another on a handoff on first down and Smith lost four yards. On second down, WVU looked to run the same play from the same formation and Buie took the handoff from Smith and pitched it back to Smith on a flea flicker.
Texas was on it and the play lost 13 yards. WVU ended up punting on a fourth-and-24. That was an adventure, though, as place kicker Tyler Bitancurt became the team's third punter of the season. On his first collegiate attempt, Texas cornerback Carrington Byndom partially blocked the ball and the Longhorns took over at the 50 -- or just four yards from where they'd started the prior drive that ended with the fumble.
On the next snap, Gray ran 49 yards to set up a touchdown. Gray's run was the 10th 40-yard play against the WVU defense this season and the second of the game for Texas.
Texas squibbed the next kickoff rather than let Austin return it after taking his first two attempts back 44 and 67 yards. It worked and Austin was only able to scoop the kick up at the 13, where he was tackled. Buie lost a yard on first down and a screen to Jordan Thompson lost three yards on second down before Smith was sacked by Alex Okafor, the Big 12's preseason defensive player of the year.
Smith, the conference's preseason offensive player of the year, fumbled and the other defensive end, Jackson Jeffcoat, recovered for a touchdown. The first turnover by WVU's first-team offense in 425 snaps and WVU's first turnover overall in 266 snaps tied the score 21-21 just 4:29 seconds after Joseph's forced fumble.
The Mountaineers got into the red zone on the next possession, but Smith threw behind J.D. Woods on a slant pass that could have been a touchdown, but was instead dropped. Smith was then sacked for the fourth time in the half on third-and-5. Bitancurt kicked a 37-yard field goal.
Texas swung right back and needed just seven plays to go 67 yards for a touchdown and a 28-24 lead. Ash completed 26- and 24-yard passes on wheel routes up the sideline on consecutive plays, which gave the Longhorns five 20-yard plays in the half and WVU's defense 28 in four games and half of a fifth.
WVU had 1:09 to work with and should have taken the lead. A pass from the Texas 43 to Buie was complete and Buie had no one between him and the end zone, but he tripped trying to recover from reaching for the pass. Bitancurt's 41-yard field goal ended the half.