AUSTIN, Texas — West Virginia figured Texas quarterback Tyrone Swoopes couldn’t win the game with his passing.
Thanks to Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown, he didn’t need to.
With Gray running for 101 yards and three touchdowns and Brown tacking on 90 yards more, the Longhorns rode their physical ground game to a 33-16 upset of the No. 24 Mountaineers.
UT’s first win over a ranked opponent this season was especially rewarding to Gray, who tore his Achilles tendon against West Virginia last year. And Brown was happy to share the running load, saying “We were finding holes everywhere.”
The outcome flummoxed West Virginia defensive coordinator Tony Gibson, who designed the week’s game plan around stopping the run.
“We knew the kid (Swoopes) couldn’t beat us with his arm. We knew the backs were their key to the game and we couldn’t stop them,” he said. “They controlled the line of scrimmage and did what they wanted to do.
“It wasn’t a big secret what they were going to do. They were going to get in double-tight end sets with the big backs and try to pound us. They controlled us up front, they ran through our linebackers and they ran through our DBs.”
Swoopes’ 11-of-29 passing day for 124 yards and an interception hardly glistened like the stat line of a winning quarterback. But with Texas averaging more than 8 yards per carry in the opening half, it operated the kind of offense popular when Darrell K Royal was the coach and not the stadium’s namesake.
West Virginia’s defense wasn’t up to the challenge, at least not early. The deficit was 24-3 at halftime.
“The first half we’d have been better off sitting on the bus,” Gibson said.
Gray rambled 39 yards for a touchdown by running through a scrum at the line before dodging safety Karl Joseph.
On the next drive, Gray tacked on a 40-yarder to set up another touchdown.
“It makes you want to puke,” Gibson said. “If we’re going to leave our feet and lunge at people, we just gave them 14 points.”
“Then we settled down and we played like we normally play in the second half and they didn’t do anything.”