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10 Takeaways: West Virginia Tops Texas In A Thriller

The game turned into a shootout that not many were expecting, and a two point conversion by the Mountaineers sealed it in the end.

Getty Images - Tim Warner

In a game that might have just decided who will play in the Big 12 championship, West Virginia and Texas exchange scores for four quarter in Austin, TX in an afternoon thriller. In the end, the Mountaineers managed to make a big play in the most crucial moment of a game where over 80 points were scored.

After getting the ball with just over two minutes, the Mountaineers drove down and scored on a deep pass down the sideline with seconds left. Instead of kicking the PAT, West Virginia went for two and ended up winning 42-41.

THERE WAS NOT A LOT OF DEFENSE PLAYED IN THIS GAME

At least not in the first half. Both teams combined for 55 points in a game where the over/under was 58 going in. Texas and West Virginia punted only once each, and both squads traded scores for eight straight possessions.

The third quarter slowed things down quite a bit, as only a field goal would be scored in the third quarter. In the fourth, however, this contest seemed to revert back to a classic Big 12 game, with the team with the ball last winning on a big play downfield.

THE MOUNTAINEERS CAN WIN BIG GAMES

Give credit to Dana Holgorsen for having the gusto to go for the two point conversion when the Mountaineers scored with 16 seconds left. It was the kind of game-winning decision that has West Virginia in control of their Big 12 destiny.

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There was a lot of discussion coming into 2018 about whether or not West Virginia would be able to play like a Big 12 title contender. That’s exactly what the Mountaineers did in Austin, winning a close road game by making the game winning touchdown drive with 2:34 left in the game.

The score at the end of that drive was a perfect pass and catch from Grier to Gary Jennings, a deep shot that paid off big for West Virginia:

WEST VIRGINIA’S PASS COVERAGE MIGHT NEED SOME WORK

West Virginia struggled to stop the Texas passing attack on Saturday, giving up 354 yards through the air. That’s the highest number that the Mountaineers have given up this season, and many of the biggest gains came because Texas found holes in coverage.

That’s probably not a comforting thought for a squad that still has a couple of potent passing teams on their schedule. That’s especially true when you take an example of the big plays give up:

WEST VIRGINIA’S OFFENSIVE LINE IS ONE OF THE BEST IN THE CONFERENCE

The offensive line for West Virginia is probably not going to get enough credit for their efforts today, but their performance was pivotal for this win. They provided great protection for Will Grier all day, and were repeatedly able to get to the second level and take Texas’ linebackers out of the play.

Controlling the line of scrimmage was always going to be a major key for the Mountaineers to win this game, and they managed to do just that. Even when starting lineman Yodney Cajuste was ejected early on a curious unsportsmanlike conduct, the offensive line for the Mountaineers continued to get push up front.

THE MOUNTAINEERS CAN WIN ON THE GROUND IF THEY NEED TO

West Virginia ran the ball to the tune of 232 yards, racking up their most yardage yet against a Division I defense. Kennedy McKoy and Martell Pettaway had a majority of those gains, many of which were big enough to help the Mountaineers keep the chains moving at a good clip.

Their performance kept Texas from being able to do whatever they wanted defensively. Coming into the game, West Virginia was in the bottom half of the conference in rushing offense. You wouldn’t know it by watching the Mountaineers in Austin, though:

THE LONGHORNS ARE IN NEED OF A PASS RUSH

While the Longhorns were able to have some success stemming the Mountaineers’ deep passing attack, they were rarely able to get pressure on Will Grier. Texas often opted to rush only three or four and drop back into coverage, and they finished the day with zero sacks.

Granted, it could be argued that the loss of defensive end Breckyn Hager hurt the Longhorns’ ability to get to the quarterback. In a game decided by one point, though, you have to think that being able to affect the passer more would have made an impact.

TEXAS NEEDS TO GO BACK TO WORK ON ITS RUN DEFENSE

West Virginia has one of the best offenses in the country, but Texas defenders struggled to tackle the Mountaineers all day on Saturday. The Longhorns were absolutely gashed to the tune of seven yards per rush, almost double the 3.7 per carry that Texas had been averaging coming into this game.

Many of the long runs by West Virginia running backs were made possible by missed tackles by the Texas defense. The Longhorn linebackers were also repeatedly out of position in trying to read running plays, something that Texas will want to work on headed into their next contest:

SAM EHLINGER IS TURNING INTO QUITE THE QUARTERBACK

Despite the final result, sophomore Sam Ehlinger might have had his best game yet against the Mountaineers. His set a Big 12 with most consecutive passes attempted without an interception, having now thrown the ball 246 times in a row without a pick.

The young signal has improved decidedly since his freshman year. He threw for 354 yards and three touchdowns against a West Virginia defense that is no slouch and put up a 179.5 quarterback rating. The Longhorns seem to be set behind center:

TEXAS DID NOT LOSE THIS GAME BECAUSE OF THEIR OFFENSE

Texas put up 520 total yards on Saturday, about 70 yards more than their season average. Besides scoring 41 points, they looked unstoppable for most of the game.

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There were some opportunities that they missed, including a turnover on downs at the West Virginia five yard line. Nonetheless, the Longhorns put up more points on the Mountaineers than any other team all season, so it’s difficult to ask much more out of a unit.

THE BIG 12 CHAMPIONSHIP RACE IS COMING MORE INTO FOCUS 

For now, Oklahoma and West Virginia are the leaders in the clubhouse to get to the title game in Arlington. Their post-Thanksgiving showdown in Morgantown looms large that last week of the season, which could be the prelude to the championship game the next week.

The Mountaineers probably should be somewhat worried about their defense headed into that stretch, as Texas probably isn’t the best offense West Virginia will face the rest of the way.

The Longhorns, meanwhile, no longer control their own destiny. Curiously, they need West Virginia to win from here on out in order to have maybe their best shot of getting to Jerry World. That would set up an interesting rematch, indeed.

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