MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Proud owners of a two-game winning streak, West Virginia climbed above .500 with a 38-20 win due in no small part to five Texas turnovers.
The Mountaineers (5-4, 2-4) can become bowl-eligible by winning at Kansas next week. Texas (4-6, 3-4) needs to beat Texas Tech and Baylor to reach the postseason, unless a shortage of qualifying teams allows for a 5-7 team to go bowling.
Per gameday tradition, the live blog was humming from high above Mountaineer Field. Here’s a recap:
— Unable to capitalize, Texas went three-and-out and did it in ugly fashion. The third-down snap from senior center Taylor Doyle surprised Jerrod Heard, resulting in a 4-yard loss. Charlie Strong looked pretty darn animated after that mistake.
— A dropped first-down swing pass by William Crest put WVU behind the sticks and led to a three-and-out.
FIELD GOAL: Nick Rose 31-yard kick (7:31) Texas leads 3-0: The score was set up by Heard’s 30-yard pass to tight end Caleb Blueitt. A play later, Heard broke outside for a 29-yard touchdown that was erased by a holding flag on freshman left tackle Connor Williams. (Looked questionable from here. Williams seemed to be manhandling outsized cornerback Daryl Worley, as you’d expect.) WVU did a better job defending Blueitt in the red zone, with tight coverage by Shaq Petteway and Worley leading to a tipped ball that Jarrod Harper nearly intercepted. (Drive: 8 plays, 46 yards in 3:16)
— WVU gets a 13-yard run by Smallwood off a huge inside zone run, but then punts.
TOUCHDOWN: Jared Barber 42-yard fumble return (3:39) WVU leads 7-3: D’Onta Foreman mishandled the exchange, an unforced error that wound up at Barber’s feet, and the middle linebacker had an unimpeded path.
TOUCHDOWN: Foreman 65-yard run (3:24) Texas leads 10-7: The freshman Foreman made immediate amends, blasting up the middle for an explosive run. The powerful-looking back had a 93-yarder against Kansas last week and reminded everyone that he ran a 4.4 in preseason camp. (Drive: 1 play, 65 yards in 0:09)
— Smallwood went for 10 yards and Daikiel Shorts gained 16 on third-and-10. Then WVU showed a rare four-wide same-side look that netted only 4 yards to White on third-and-7. After a deliberate delay of game, Nick O’Toole came on to punt as the quarter ended.
— Texas started from its own 1 after Rasul Douglas tight-roped the goal line to retract O’Toole’s bounding punt. Thanks to Johnathan Gray and that big O-line, Texas surged out to the 20 before punting.
TOUCHDOWN: Elijah Wellman 1-yard run (8:17) WVU leads 14-10: Softened up by Smallwood’s running, Texas gave up 18 on a Howard-to-White slant. Smallwood added a 9-yarder to set up Wellman’s first carry. (Drive: 10 plays, 56 yards in 2:51)
— Swoopes, utilized in the bulked-up “18 wheeler” package, gained 19 on a third-and-2. (That’s what the 244-pound QB does best.) After a holding call on Blueitt threatened to stall things, Texas out-schemed WVU on a fourth-and-7 option play that saw Foreman pick up an easy 8. Ultimately, Texas was undone by mistakes—a third-and-1 false start made for long yardage before Swoopes was stripped by Kwiatkoski. Worley recovered at the WVU 26.
TOUCHDOWN: Jovon Durante 53-yard pass from Howard (1:00) WVU leads 21-10: Smallwood had three carries for 34 yards, eclipsing the 100-yard mark, and it looked like Holgorsen was going to run into field-goal range before the half. At least until Howard took a deep shot to Durante. It was the freshman’s first TD since Oklahoma on Oct. 3. He gained more yards on that score than in his last four games combined (32). (Drive: 4 plays, 87 yards in 0:48)
HALFTIME STATS: Texas outgained WVU 273-236 so far, but Mountaineers have scored 14 points off turnovers. … Smallwood is averaging 9.5 per carry (105 yards on 11 rushes). … Skyler Howard has rebounded from early interception to go 7-of-9 for 105 yards, though his keepers aren’t doing much. … Foreman has 103 yards on 10 carries while Gray stands at 51 yards on 11 carries. Texas is basically gashing WVU like it did last year in Austin, only the Horns weren’t fumbling then.
TOUCHDOWN: Johnson 5-yard pass from Heard (8:33) WVU leads 21-17: Mainly the drive featured the run game—and why not. Even third-stringer Chris Warren got in the act with a 22-yarder. But Heard’s passing helped Texas go 4-for-4 on third downs. He converted two on short passes to Johnson and tight end Alex De La Torre, and then the redshirt freshman quarterback scrambled for a first down on third-and-8 in the red zone. On the scoring play—which followed Foreman leaving with a gross-looking pinky injury—Heard found Johnson uncovered in the flat. (Drive: 15 plays, 80 yards in 6:21)
— WVU can’t pick up a first down on its opening drive of the second half. Two Shell runs set up a third-and-3 pass to Shorts that gained only 2. Punt time.
— After O’Toole’s 51-yard punt and a penalty, Texas starts at its 8-yard and grinds out a first down before punting.
TOUCHDOWN: Shorts 8-yard pass from Howard (1:48) WVU leads 28-17: Great recognition and a perfect throw by the maligned Howard gave the Mountaineers a huge third-down red-zone conversion. Shorts started in the slot and beat safety Jason Hall to the corner. Smallwood set up the score with a 27-yard run. (Drive: 7 plays, 56 yards in 2:15)
— Texas kick returner Kris Boyd was stripped at the 22 by Nana Kyeremeh and reserve linebacer Justin Arndt recovered. The Longhorns can’t seem to get a grip today.
FIELD GOAL: Josh Lambert 19-yard kick (14:57) WVU leads 31-17: The Mountaineers likely would have buried Texas with a short-field touchdown, but the Texas defense stiffened after the turnover. Howard’s third-and-goal run from the 3 netted only 1. (Drive: 5 plays, 20 yards in 1:44)
— After Heard hit Johnson for 36 yards, Texas faced fourth-and-6 at the WVU 33. No other choice but to go for it, which Texas did, and Worley ran deep with Armanto Freeman for an end zone interception.
—WVU goes three-and-out, killing only 2 minutes in the process. Then O’Toole was revisited by the shanks on a 27-yard punt.
FIELD GOAL: Rose 34-yard kick (9:24) WVU leads 31-20: Texas had first-and-goal after a 36-yard hookup from Heard to Johnson. But Noble Nwachukwu’s sack essentially prevented Texas from using its running game in the redzone. (Drive: 5 plays, 21 yards in 1:14)
— Three-and-out for the Mountaineers nets only 1 yard.
— Heard threw his second interception, this one to a leaping Kwiatkoski at the Texas 48. The freshman looked OK throwing when UT wanted to but not so much when UT had to.
TOUCHDOWN: Howard 2-yard run (3:30) WVU leads 38-20: West Virginia iced the game with a run-only drive. Shell ripped off a physical 16-yard run and Smallwood tacked on a 13-yarder, but WVU’s top runner couldn’t crack the goal line on two chances. That left it up to Howard on the keeper. (Drive: 8 plays, 48 yards in 3:42)
Pregame updates: Marcell Lazard is going to make his second start, warming up with the first unit at right tackle. Yodny Cajuste (foot) didn’t dress, so the tackles are thin for WVU. … The Mountaineers also announcing that sophomore Ka’Raun White will start at outside receiver. … Weird times for Malik Jefferson, the five-star freshman linebacker who’s a future star. He hasn’t started the past two games while dealing with what UT called a stomach illness. Then today he’s reportedly showing signs of another stomach illness. Man, this is a serious case of the butterflies.
Better than their record? After scouting game film, Dana Holgorsen said Texas didn’t look like a 4-5 team.
“I couldn’t believe what I’m watching, because they look really, really good on defense,” he said.
Watch early: Most games aren’t won or lost in the first quarter, but in the case of the fragile, young Longhorns sometimes they are. Texas has been outscored 51-0 in the opening quarters of three road losses.
Oh, and they’re 0-11 under Charlie Strong when the opponent scores first.
Texas tat: WVU walk-on Khairi Sharif, who recently emerged on special teams and as a reserve in the secondary, sports a Longhorn tattoo on his calf. The junior college transfer probably didn’t plan on becoming a Mountaineer when he was growing up in Houston.
“With a lot of guys from Texas that’s just part of it,” Holgorsen said.
Prediction: Mine was West Virginia 23-16. Would love to see your best guess.