WVU vs. Texas Football: How the Longhorns Defense Will Shut Down Geno Smith
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This Saturday, the Texas Longhorns host the West Virginia Mountaineers in a go-ahead game for two of the conference's leading contenders in the race to win the Big 12. The game will be called by the FOX Sports broadcasting duo of Gus Johnson and Charles Davis.
So, yes, fireworks will fly. And so will the football.
The Longhorns survived a prolific passing attack by Oklahoma State last week, winning 41-36, and all that remains in its wake is a controversial call and crushed Cowboy fans.
If Texas struggled to beat an offense without its starting quarterback, Wes Lunt, how is it going to shut down Mountaineer starting quarterback Geno Smith? The guy who's the front-runner in the Heisman race.
Yeah, that guy.
The fact remains that the Longhorns defense couldn't shut down the Cowboys' running or passing game last week, giving up 275 rushing yards and 301 passing yards. They left the middle of the field riddled with vacant zones. They didn't wrap up tackles. They were out of position and took bad angles.
In short, the Longhorns defense looked completely overwhelmed against Oklahoma State. Yet they won.
Geno Smith will no doubt have a great day against Texas. He's in the zone. Texas will have to play zone coverage to try and keep receivers like Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey in front of them, not flying by them down the sidelines at warp speed.
But Smith has been stopped before. You'd have to go back to last year's game against Syracuse to see how the Orange did it.
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Syracuse's defense pressured Smith all day long, at one point sacking him on two consecutive plays. Its blitzing, which forced Smith to throw ill-advised passes, resulted in two interceptions. The Orange went on to win 49-23.
Louisville also beat West Virginia last year and it too put heavy pressure on Smith; the Cardinals sacked him three times and forced a Smith fumble near midfield.
Of course, when you blitz against West Virginia, you take a huge gamble in that Smith will find an uncovered receiver. The key is to make sure that the blitzing defenders get to Smith within a few seconds, but at the same time, the rest of the defense contains the outside if he takes off running.
Unfortunately, it appears as though the return of linebacker Jordan Hicks (hip)—which would have been a huge boost—won't be happening this week.
How the Longhorns' scout team prepares for Smith will be interesting—I'm not sure the team has a player even close to resembling Geno Smith and his abilities. And to be honest here, this shouldn't be all on the defense's shoulders.
The Longhorns offense is going to have to find a way to keep Smith's prolific offense off the field.
How many times will Geno Smith get sacked?
Syracuse ran the ball for 194 yards against West Virginia last year. The Orange also won the battle for time of possession, 35:55 vs 24.05.
Texas is among the best rushing teams in the country, averaging 228 yards per game after only four games. Quarterback David Ash has a great arm, but going for the big play will only hurt the Longhorns. Ash has to chew up the clock with long, time-consuming, methodical drives. This could be a difficult task with running back Malcolm Brown out (ankle) for this Saturday's game.
Two long drives averaging five to six minutes on the ground chew up two-thirds or more of a quarter. Do the math. Your offense is only giving Smith one or two chances per quarter to score points. That's manageable, taking everything into consideration.
The Longhorns won't ever be able to completely shut down Smith, but they can give him less time to work. And in the limited time they do give him, the defense has to get in Smith's face and force him to throw the ball early. Defensive ends Alex Okafor and Jackson Jeffcoat have to play the game of their lives.
The secondary has to keep West Virginia's receivers in front of it. The defensive backs can't give up the big play. They've got to take better angles and they have to wrap up.
The offense has to run the ball to the point of bringing even Ohio State fans to tears.
Run, run, run.
And when in doubt, run it again.
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