West Virginia vs. Texas: Final Game Grades and Analyis for the Mountaineers
In a back-and-forth battle for the ages, No. 8 West Virginia proved its worth in the Big 12 Conference, upsetting No. 11 Texas 48-45 in Austin on the heels of a career game from running back Andrew Buie.
After a rough three quarters on defense, the Mountaineers came through with two huge defensive stops when it mattered, setting up the game-winning drive.
Despite a lack of protection, quarterback Geno Smith had yet another strong performance as he continues to make his case in the race for the Heisman Trophy.
Let us know your thoughts on the game in the comment section below.
Geno Smith didn't have his best performance of the season.
He was pressured often and made some uncharacteristically poor plays. However, in the end, he was more than good enough to win.
Smith ended up 25-of-35 for 269 yards, four touchdowns and, most importantly, zero interceptions.
He had two fumbles on sacks that were very costly, but those were more on the offensive line than on Smith. Despite all the pressure, Smith was very poised and strong in the face of the rush, allowing him to make some big plays.
His play on fourth down was also huge, as WVU ended up converting on fourth down five times.
The senior was also hurt by a few drops from his receivers, but he was able to battle his way through a rough game all around and put up a solid performance.
His fourth-quarter drive ended up being one of the deciding factors in this game. On that drive he was razor-sharp eventually hitting Bailey for the touchdown.
This performance, though far from perfect, was another testament for Smith's Heisman campaign.
Running Backs: A+
Is there a grade higher than A-plus? If there is, Andrew Buie deserves it.
He ended up being the biggest difference maker in this game. It wasn't always pretty and he was tackled in the backfield more than a few times thanks to some great penetration by Texas.
It was easy to think throughout the game that West Virginia was running the ball too often, however, it's impossible to argue with the results.
The sophomore ended up rushing 31 times for 208 and two touchdowns. He averaged 6.7 yards per carry, a higher average than any of the vaunted Texas running backs.
He also was great on screen plays, registering three receptions for 66 yards at an average of 22 yards per reception.
His longest was one of West Virginia's most impressive offensive plays of the game. Geno Smith hit Buie off of a double play action pass and No. 13 took it for 26 yards, setting up a touchdown pass to Stedman Bailey.
In the end, Buie delivered the dagger on West Virginia's final drive, running seven times for 63 yards and the game-sealing touchdown.
Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey were brilliant as usual and yet again proved why they're the best receiving tandem in the country.
The WVU receiving corps went up against arguably the best trio of defensive backs they'll see all year in Carrington Byndom, Quandre Diggs and Kenny Vaccaro.
Austin led the way with 10 receptions, 102 yards and one 40-yard touchdown reception.
Bailey, meanwhile just seems to have a knack for finding the end zone, which he proved in this one hauling in eight receptions for 75 yards and three touchdowns.
He now has 13 touchdown receptions on the year, which broke WVU's single-season touchdown reception record, set by none other than Stedman Bailey just last year.
After five games, he is now on pace to have 31 touchdown receptions this year.
WVU's third option J.D. Woods struggled with some drops in this game after recording a career game last week. He had just two catches for 24 yards.
Offensive Line: C+
West Virginia suffered from some terrible pass blocking in this game.
Smith was sacked four times in total, two of which led to fumbles. He was heavily pressured which disrupted the tempo at times early in the game.
Also in the first half, Texas generated some excellent penetration, not only against the pass, but against the run as well, which hampered WVU in both facets of its offense early.
There are a couple of things that save the grade for the WVU line, however.
The pass blocking picked up a bit in the second half, which allowed Smith and the WVU offense to dart down the field for three drives vital touchdown drives.
Another savior for this line was Andrew Buie's performance and the blocking by Cody Clay at fullback.
As a team, WVU ended up rushing for 4.6 yards per carry. Buie himself ran for 6.7 and Smith's sacks ended up altering the team total quite a bit.
The pass blocking could have been much better, but it was also against one of the best defensive end tandems in the nation and probably the toughest defensive line WVU will face this year.
Defensive Line: A-
As expected, Texas ran it, ran it, and ran it some more—a total of 39 times on the night.
Despite the best efforts by the bruising UT rushing attack, the WVU defensive line held strong.
The Longhorns averaged just 3.5 yards per carry and none of their backs equaled the total yards or average yards attained by Buie.
The Mountaineers struggled to tackle Bergeron at times, especially near the goal line and also didn't generate a whole lot of pressure on Ash, sacking him just once.
However, this defensive front has to be applauded for holding strong from start to finish. Oklahoma State failed to do this last week, as Bergeron and Gray won it with tough running in the end.
This week, WVU held strong and came up with huge stops in the fourth quarter, as the Mountaineers pulled off the upset.
The tackling wasn't great from WVU particularly when Texas was able to move past five yards or more past the line of scrimmage.
Texas was able to hit a few huge screen passes that gouged West Virginia early on. In fact, the leading receiver for the Longhorns was a running back, Jeremy Hills.
The WVU linebackers also failed to pick up receivers on some intermediate routes and wheel routes. Of course, much of this was out of respect for the running ability of Ash and the Texas backs.
Josh Francis had another monster game, netting nine tackles, three for a loss and WVU's only sack.
Additionally, Doug Rigg and Isaiah Bruce led the team combining for 21 tackles.
In run defense, the linebackers were great, but that wasn't the case against the pass.
Defensive Backs: C
Pat Miller, what are we to do with you?
West Virginia's senior corner has spent the season as a punchline of WVU secondary jokes, but he came up huge in this one.
He had two enormous pass breakups in the fourth quarter, which played a huge part in sealing this victory.
If you want to talk about making plays when it matters the most, Miller did just that.
If it weren't for some huge plays late in the game, this secondary might have earned a failing grade.
David Ash went 22-of-29 on the night, going for 269 yards, which is much better that WVU has been against the pass this year.
Darwin Cook had a couple of boneheaded personal foul penalties, which was another smudge on the resume of the secondary against Texas.
However, when it comes down to it, defense is all about making plays when it matters—and that's what this defense did.
Special Teams: B+
Tavon Austin set the tone early with two great kick returns. After that, Texas elected to squib every one of its kickoffs.
WVU's kick coverage, meanwhile, was about as bad as it has been all year long. Marquise Goodwin ripped through the Mountaineer coverage numerous times, setting up drives for UT.
The punting blunders continued, as kicker Tyler Bitancurt was tried out at punter, only to have his attempt blocked.
Bitancurt also had a field goal blocked in the first quarter, though that was mostly to his fault, as he just booted a very low kick right into the Texas defenders.
In the end, Bitancurt saved the special teams unit by nailing two field goals.
When a team wins by three points, some major kudos have to go to the kicker. So, props to Bitancurt who saved his special teams unit by hitting one more field goal than Texas kicker Anthony Fera.
West Virginia stuck to the ground game throughout the night. It wasn't always pretty, but Buie ended up having the game of his life and generating some huge offense for WVU.
It kept the Texas defense honest and opened up the pass in the end.
Another enormous factor for the Mountaineers in this one was their success on fourth down. After the special teams struggles, Holgorsen elected to go for it on fourth down five times, succeeding all five times.
Some of WVU's run calls throughout were downright head-scraching, but you just can't argue with the result.
When a running back who isn't the regular starter goes for over 200 yards in an upset win, you did something right. It was a real nail-biter for West Virginia, but at 5-0, it's hard to complain.