Thursday, December 8, 2016

Meet WVU’s opponents: Time to take on the Longhorns

This week, the Mountaineers travel to Austin, Texas to take on the 5-4 Texas Longhorns. The Longhorns are just one win away from bowl eligibility after knocking down previously unbeaten Baylor and most recently, Texas Tech. The Mountaineers need to secure a win over Texas on Saturday afternoon to advance to 8-1, and their best record in November since joining the Big 12.

The Longhorns, under the leadership of Coach Charlie Strong are “hitting their stride” after a season-opening upset over Notre Dame. After victories over Notre Dame and UTEP, the Longhorns slid to a 2-3 record before taking down Iowa State, losing to Kansas State and then topping the Bears and Red Raiders to bring them into the last few weeks of the season. Now, Coach Strong and his bevy of offensive capabilities looks to take down the Mountaineers just like they did last time the teams played in Austin, winning 33-16 at home in Austin.

Over the past few weeks, the Longhorns have become an offense worth mentioning. Freshman quarterback Shane Buechele has a completion percentage of 61.9% on the season, with 19 touchdowns, six interceptions and a QBR rating of 60.7. For a true freshman, Buechele has been able to help his offense make big plays, especially with Heisman hopeful D’Onta Foreman, and Malik Jefferson all doing their part this season.

D’Onta Foreman is paving his way toward being one of, if not the best, Texas running backs in Longhorn history. Foreman had 33 carries, 341 yards and three touchdowns in Saturday’s victory over Texas Teach. In one game. Basically, D’Onta Foreman is going to be a force to be reckoned with for the Mountaineers defense Saturday afternoon in Austin. As of Tuesday morning, Foreman become the Earl Campbell Player of the Week for the second week in a row. Coach Gibson has likely made his Dawgs well aware of this junior running back who is making an attempt at a late-season Heisman run after games like the victory over the Red Raiders.

On defense, the Longhorns have improved since the beginning of the season, as this too seems to have helped to save Coach Strong’s job from being a mid-season change up. Coach Strong demoted long-time defensive coordinator Vance Bedford at the beginning of October and assumed defensive play calling responsibilities. In the games since the Red River Shootout, the Texas defense is only giving up on average 23.5 points per game.

Skyler Howard the offense are going to need to make every series count on Saturday, and make sure to capitalize in the red zone on each visit. This Texas defense has made great strides since the beginning of October and is not one to be taken lightly with four games left in West Virginia’s season. In West Virginia’s one loss this season, the Mountaineers had three devastating turnovers. Turnovers will need to be kept at a minimum for the Mountaineer offense on Saturday as the Longhorns have improved on forcing turnovers in the last several weeks.

Over the past several weeks, Texas has made themselves out to be a team to fear. The Mountaineers are coming off a victory over Kansas, a team that played much better than many expected. The Mountaineers defense has been a stout force this season, but at the same time this West Virginia team has not had a bye week since the beginning of October. The Mountaineers will need to bring their A-game Saturday in Austin. Austin is not an easy place to come out unscathed, as a team or a fan, and the Mountaineers need this victory to stay in the upper echelon of the Big 12 and continue to climb the Playoff Committee’s rankings.

Stopping Charlie Strong and his improving Longhorns defense would put the Mountaineers at 8-1 going into their last three games of the season. While the Longhorns record is 5-4, this is not a team to take lightly. Both teams will be hungry for blood come Saturday and both teams will be looking to defeat the other. If the Mountaineers play their cards right, they could be sitting at a shiny 8-1 record when Oklahoma comes to Morgantown in a little over a week. But first; time to shut down the Longhorns.

 

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