By Dave Ackermann (the orchestrator)
The Big 12 WVU vs. Texas series stands at 2-2 with each team claiming one win at home and one win on the road. Lets take a short drive down memory lane:
In 2012, Geno Smith and his merry band of highwaymen escaped Austin TX with a well deserved 48-45 victory over legendary Texas Coach Mac Brown and his 11th ranked Longhorns. Geno threw 4 TD’s, three of which went to Steadman Bailey. Tavon Austin would grab the other for a 40 yard pass and run while he amassed 10 catches for 102 yards. Andrew Buie would scamper for 207 yards and two touchdowns on the day.
In the 2013 season, the Longhorns returned the favor while visiting Morgantown (known as Touchdown City in those days). WVU had taken a lead late into the third quarter, before the wheels fell off and the Longhorns rallied to tie the game at 40 all. In overtime, the Longhorns struck first to take a 47-40 lead. Paul Millard and the Mountaineers looked like they might force a second OT, but Millard’s pass into the end zone was intercepted sealing the comeback victory for the Horns.
2014 saw the Mountaineers play a very sloppy first half in Austin which led to a 3-24 deficit. The second half was somewhat better for a time, as the Mountaineers would score 13 straight points to get back in the game at 16-24 before imploding in the 4th quarter. WVU QB Clint Trickett was sacked in the end zone for a safety. Later, Holgorsen would be forced to go for it on 4th down from the Mountaineer 15 yard line. Trickett would again be sacked at the WVU 9 and Texas would score easily to end the game.
Last season, in 2015, the Mountaineers would finally soundly defeat the Longhorns at home 34-20. Skylar Howard would throw only 12 times in the entire game, but two went for TD’s to Jovon Durante and Daikiel Shorts. Wendell Smallwood would rush 24 times for 165 yards aided by Rushel Shell and Skylar Howard as the Mountaineers rushing total reached 268 yards. The defense claimed the day forcing 5 turnovers on two interceptions and 3 fumble recoveries, one of which was a 42 yard scoop and score by Jared Barber.
So then, in this case, just what is the Texas Two Step?
In general terms, knowing that only Texas has won back-to-back games in this Big 12 series, the Texas Two Step for WVU would be to win back-to-back games (following up last season’s home win with a road win this season)!
However, from a detailed point of view, to accomplish the “Texas Two Step” WVU will need to include many more steps:
1) Stop Texas Running Back D’Onta Foreman:
Foreman leads the conference in rushing with 1,446 yards on 206 carries for a nifty 7.0 yards per carry and 180.8 yards per game, He also leads the conference in scoring with 13 TD’s (all rushing) which averages out to 9.8 points per game.
2) WVU must also rush the ball successfully for 250 yards or more:
Crawford and Shell sit at 7th and 8th respectively in Big 12 conference rushing. Combined they total 1,090 yards with 9 TD’s and a 145.3 yards rushing total per game. That means WVU is going to need some help from young Kennedy McKoy and QB Skylar Don Howard as well!
3) The quarterbacks are very close statistically and could be a wash passing:
Big 12 stats show Howard (WVU) at 5th and Buechele (UT) at 6th in both Total Offense and Passing Average yards per game. Howard is 4th in Passing Efficiency while Buechele is 5th. WVU should have the edge in receivers as Shorts and Gibson are ranked 4th and 6th in the conference.
4) Special Teams are also very close as well:
Molina (WVU) has a slight edge in kicks made and scoring over Domingue (UT) but again it is very close. In punting, Texas has the slight edge as Dickson (UT) averages 48.2 yards per punt good for first in the conference. Kinney (WVU) is second in the conference with a 44.0 average per punt. So it looks like WVU will have to rely on Gibson for a return or two if they seek and advantage here.
5) The WVU defense must have a decided advantage to win this game:
The WVU stop unit must create turnovers and turn one into a score. UT looks strong in the Sacks category with 4 players in the top 15 in the conference, while WVU shows only Noble Nwhachukwu coming in at #20. Tackles for loss will be a must in order for WVU to get some three and outs.
In conclusion, there will be a full house in Austin (97,800 plus) and they will all be trying to do their own version of the “Two Step”. The game will air on Fox Sports 1 at 12 Noon EST (11 AM CST). The Mountaineers should have a strong showing of fans in attendance and hoping to sing Country Roads at the conclusion of the contest.
You know the old Mountaineer saying: If you hear Country Roads, its way too late!