Takeaways, tough running help West Virginia blow by Horns

West Virginia linebacker Justin Arndt pounces on a kick-return fumble during Saturday afternoon’s 38-20 win over Texas. It was one of five takeaways for the Mountaineers.

 

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Wendell Smallwood ran for 165 yards, Skyler Howard delivered clutch touchdowns, and West Virginia kept swiping the ball from turnover-prone Texas during a 38-20 victory Saturday.

Jovon Durante made a 53-yard touchdown catch and Daikiel Shorts added an 8-yarder for the Mountaineers (5-4, 2-4), who can become bowl-eligible by beating winless Kansas next week.

“Name of the game? Turnovers,” said coach Dana Holgorsen after West Virginia forced five takeaways. “I think us knocking the heck out of them had something to do with it.”

Smallwood’s stellar day put him over 1,000 yards and West Virginia’s 51 runs softened up the Texas defense for a few big plays from Howard, who completed 10-of-12 for 122 yards. In the fourth quarter, when the offense ran it 17 straight times without attempting a pass, Howard sealed the win with a late 2-yard touchdown run.

“Dana said he was going to run the ball and keep giving it to us,” Smallwood said. “The O-line was taking advantage of getting physical setting the line of scrimmage.”

Despite running for 277 yards and piling up 439 overall, the Longhorns (4-6, 3-4) were loose with the ball and saw quarterback Jerrod Heard’s 29-yard touchdown keeper negated by a holding flag.

“We were moving the football and they weren’t stopping us—we were only stopping ourselves,” said Texas coach Charlie Strong. “That’s what’s frustrating, when you turn the ball over so many times.”

Longhorns freshman D’onta Foreman ran for 147 yards on 18 carries. He ripped off a 65-yard touchdown but also lost a fumble that linebacker Jared Barber returned 42 yards for West Virginia’s first score.

Barber hadn’t scored since he was an eighth-grade running back, but the most excited person looked to be Smallwood, who received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for leaving the bench to join the end zone celebration.

“I wasn’t thinking. I ran down the sideline with him and ran on the field—didn’t have my helmet on or nothing,” Smallwood said. “I didn’t even notice it until Dana grabbed me.”

Texas lost three fumbles, one after Nick Kwiatkoski stripped short-yardage quarterback Tyrone Swoopes at the WVU 26. The Mountaineers subsequently went 87 yards in four plays, capped by Durante’s first touchdown since Oct. 3, to lead 21-10 at half.

West Virginia also tacked on a field goal after recovering a fumble by Texas kick returner Kris Boyd.

Heard tossed a 5-yard touchdown to Daje Johnson but was picked off twice in the fourth quarter—by Daryl Worley on a fourth-down bomb and then on a poor throw grabbed by the leaping Kwiatkoski.

“(Kwiatkoski) bit up on the play-action and I don’t think the quarterback saw him when he started to drop,” said WVU defensive coordinator Tony Gibson. “He just went up and made a hell of a play.

“They put up some yards, but who cares? It’s the Big 12 right now, so let’s get some wins.”





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