The 16th-ranked West Virginia Mountaineers hit the road to the iconic Austin, Texas to take on the improving Texas Longhorns in front of a large and rowdy crowd.
In a contest that may have made hair fall out and emergency room trips a necessity, the Mountaineers stood tall and held on for a dramatic 24-20 win despite committing four turnovers.
Early on, the game was physical and clean for the most part.
Texas (5-5, 3-4) got the ball first and drove it down the field and looked relatively comfortable when true freshman Shane Buechele scrambled for an 8-yard run then two plays later he found Dorian Leonard for 29 yards. D’Onta Foreman, Texas’ All-American running back coming off a 341 yard performance last week, had a big run as well. But the Mountaineer defense stepped up late in the drive and forced a 27-yard Trent Domanigue field goal and the Longhorns took a 3-0 lead early.
West Virginia (8-1, 5-1 Big 12) then got the football and almost mirrored what the Texas offense did.
They started fast with Kennedy McKoy’s 10-yard run and then the freshman running back gained 11 more on his next three carries. Ka’Raun White had a 15-yard catch late in the series, but Skyler Howard was sacked for a big loss and Mike Molina matched the Longhorns with a 44-yard field goal, his longest of his career. After the kick, the score was tied at 3-3.
The Mountaineers then would miss a golden opportunity when Foreman fumbled on the ensuing drive and Al-Rasheed Benton pounced on it.
But on the second play following the takeaway, Justin Crawford was fighting for extra yardage and then fumbled the ball right back to the Longhorns.
The defense stepped up to the challenge by forcing a three-and-out and then WVU got down to business.
Shelton Gibson caught a 15-yarder then made an acrobatic 10-yard catch on the next play that also left him on the turf injured for a few minutes. Three plays later, on 3rd-and-11, Howard fired a strike to Daikiel Shorts for 17 yards and a key conversion. McKoy sealed the nine play, 66-yard drive with an 8-yard touchdown run and a 10-3 Mountaineer lead.
A sack of Buechele by Justin Arndt and Kyzir White got the WVU defense off the field quickly and the Mountaineer offense struck again.
After a 36-yard pass to Jovon Durante, Howard hit White in the back of the end zone with the receiver laying flat on his back, but he caught it for a circus like 29-yard touchdown. West Virginia then led 17-3 with 14:11 remaining.
That’s when the dropped passes started haunting WVU. Instead of a possible solid 17-20 point lead at the break, they led just 17-13 as the Longhorns used a massive 21-play, 78-yard drive to conclude the half with a field goal.
The drive before that, Buechele scored on a 10-yard keeper play around the edge.
After a Howard interception, the Longhorns took the ball, momentum and everything else that was there for the taking. However, a nice march down the field was halted when WVU’s Christian Brown blocked a Dominigue field goal and gave that momentum right back to West Virginia.
The positive thing for Dana Holgorsen’s team this time is that they decided to keep that momentum. Howard had a nice 17-yard run on a draw play. White then had a couple nice catches. On two separate third downs, Shorts had an incredible 7-yard catch, McKoy gained five on a third-and-four and then Gibson caught a 23-yard catch over the middle on third-and-nine. All that set up a 3-yard scoring run from McKoy and a 24-13 Mountaineer lead.
On the ensuing Texas possession, Rasul Douglas made his nation leading sixth interception of the season in impressive fashion when he wrestled the ball away from John Burt.
But WVU failed to convert anything out of it again as Howard threw a pick as well.
This time Texas did what the Mountaineers could not; Take advantage. Another long drive down the field was capped by Collin Johnson’s 20-yard touchdown catch as the Longhorns cut the deficit to 24-20.
Each team traded turnovers again, but it was the Texas side that proved to be bigger. On third down, Buechele dropped back and was absolutely blindsided by Kyzir White. Officials reviewed the play and determined that the Texas QB had lost the ball on the way down and White recovered it while on the ground. That play gave the ball back to West Virginia and prevented Texas from putting three points on the board.
Both offenses went to sleep and part of that was due to the defense. For the Mountaineers, it was all about the defense.
Arndt and David Long each had huge sacks to kill drives and Douglas stopped a fourth down play two yards short.
But the offense again could not convert even though all they needed was one first down to seal the deal and the defense was called upon one last time.
Leonard had an incredible 28-yard catch and Mountaineer fans everywhere had the “here we go again” attitude. But after Holgorsen’s shouting match at the officials over a controversial timeout call, the Longhorns had one play left. Buechele heaved it to the end zone and Douglas, Jeremy Tyler and a host of other Mountaineers knocked the ball down and WVU survived.
Texas outgained West Virginia 536-383.
Howard was just 21-35 for 269 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions. McKoy was held to 73 yards on 25 carries.
White led the receiving corps with six receptions and 82 yards and a score. Shorts had five for 75 yards and Gibson contributed four catches and 65 yards.
Foreman got 167 yards, but was held out of the end zone.