West Virginia vs. Texas: Live Game Grades & Player Analysis
The Longhorns fought valiantly, but ultimately fell just short as they dropped their first game of the season to Geno Smith and the Mountaineers. The 48-45 victory gives the Mountaineers a 5-0 record and a 2-0 start to their Big 12 career.
Let's have a look at the final grades and player analysis for the Longhorns after their first loss of the season.
In a matchup against the Heisman Trophy front-runner, sophomore quarterback had another nice game and did enough for Texas to get the win as he continues to improve.
Over the summer, if you had told a college football expert that West Virginia would put up 48 on Texas they probably would assume that it was a blowout due to Texas' shortcomings at quarterback. Well this game was not David Ash's fault in any way as he went completed 22 of his 29 passes in leading his team to 45 points.
Ash did not turn the ball over and never panicked as West Virginia marched up and down the field on Texas' formerly stout defense. In truth, Ash did not get enough chances to win the game with his arm and was effective on Texas' final drive of the game.
He may not have put up extraordinary numbers and may have missed on some of his throws, but this team was not designed for Ash to have to win a shootout. The sophomore signal-caller was more than adequate and continues to have a surprisingly good season for the 'Horns.
The Texas running backs continue to impress, and the improvement we are seeing in freshman Johnathan Gray is a bright spot from this heart-breaking loss.
For the second consecutive week the super-freshman Gray has led the team in rushing yards and is starting to look like the top recruit that he is. Gray did everything from run the Wild formation to pounding the ball up the middle on his way to 87 yards on fourteen carries, including a 49-yard run in the second quarter.
Gray's backfield mate Joe Bergeron also had a pretty solid game in running for four touchdowns on the night. Bergeron was only able to run for a 2.6 average, but he refused to be denied when the end zone was in sight and ran tough the whole night.
Senior Jeremy Hills quietly led this team in receiving yards and was a godsend as David Ash's safety valve in the second half. He and Gray filled the void left by Malcolm Brown's absence very nicely throughout the game.
In a game where big plays were needed to stay up with the competition, the running backs still found a way to make a major impact on the game. This goes without saying, but keep an eye on Johnathan Gray's improvement as he could end up being the best runner on this team before the year is over.
The West Virginia secondary is among the most vulnerable in the country but you could not tell from the output of these wide receivers, who underperformed to a certain degree against the Mountaineers.
Freshman Daje Johnson got this group off to a great start with his 46-yard reception in the first quarter. The young speed demon was also fairly successful in running the ball and is definitely harder to bring down than one might think.
Junior Jaxon Shipley also had a pretty decent outing as a possession receiver, but was never able to break loose against a secondary that gave up 581 yards to receivers last weekend. Marquise Goodwin also had an adequate night at receiver, highlighted by his toe-tap touchdown in the fourth that gave Texas a faint sense of hope.
This group suffers for two reasons. The first being their inability to break free against a porous secondary, and the second being the total disappearing act by junior Mike Davis.
Davis had been Texas' best receiver through its first four games, gashing opposing defenses for big play after big play. He should have been drooling at the chance to breakout in front of a national audience against a pitiful secondary, but was only able to muster 20 yards on three catches.
Not a bad game from this group, but we have come to expect much more.
In the second quarter the Texas tight ends looked as if they would be the difference in the game, but drifted out of the gameplan in the second half. I will not hold that against them.
West Virginia simply had no answer for the Texas tight ends in the second quarter. D.J. Grant had a catch for 26 yards and M.J. McFarland followed with a 24-yard reception that looked like it was going to set off a blowout.
More on this later, but there is no logic that backs up whatever reasoning led to these guys being left out of the Texas gameplan in the second half. Especially D.J. Grant, who has emerged as a legitimate downfield threat for this team these past two weeks.
Hopefully we see more of these guys as the season progresses.
For the second week in a row, the Texas offensive line was good but not great after dominating throughout non-conference play.
The line kept David Ash clean for most of the game and gave their young quarterback enough time to throw for most of the night. They left something to be desired in their run-blocking at times, but they did generate enough push for Joe Bergeron to score four touchdowns.
Center Dom Espinosa is going to take a lot of heat for the erratic snap that knocked Texas out of touchdown range in the fourth, but Anthony Fera should have made that 41-yard field goal. And the defense should be able to keep opponents from scoring 48 points.
This group is definitely good enough to get the job done, especially when they bring in Luke Poehlmann for the Wild and goal-line sets. And when a freshman like Johnathan Gray runs the ball like he has been, you have to give the line their due.
The defensive line may have failed in stopping Andrew Buie and a West Virginia running game that probably was the difference in the game, but this group also almost won the game for Texas.
Alex Okafor and Jackson Jeffcoat were spectacular in tonight's contest. Okafor had two sacks, hurried Geno Smith three times and forced both West Virginia turnovers on Smith, including one that should have at least allowed Texas to force overtime. As for Jeffcoat, he had half a sack and a fumble recovery for a touchdown that sent the Royal Memorial crowd into a total frenzy.
The defensive tackles also had very good games with Chris Whaley, Ashton Dorsey, Desmond Jackson and Brandon Moore each got into the backfield to force plays for a loss. The star of this group, however, was top freshman Malcom Brown as he made a living in the West Virginia backfield and emerged as yet another weapon on the defensive line.
This group's inability to stop the run hurts, but they have not squat helping them as far as the linebackers go. More on that coming up next.
Steve Edmond continues to make major strides from the middle linebacker position, but this linebacking corps still looks lost in the absence of Jordan Hicks.
The sophomore Edmond looked very comfortable on the field in communicating defensive adjustments and just making plays from his position. Kendall Thompson, normally back-up, also had a good game in racking up six tackles (one for a loss) and another half sack.
It is a totally different story for Tevin Jackson and Demarco Cobbs. Cobbs made a nice play in the first quarter but was totally invisible the rest of the night, and Jackson was only able to make two tackles on the night.
Texas got manhandled by Andrew Buie throughout the night, and the coaches' inability to trust Jackson and Cobbs meant that the team had to go nickel more than they probably would have liked. The result was 192 net rushing yards on the ground and 273 all-purpose yards by Buie.
Jordan Hicks cannot come back soon enough.
It may not look at it in the box score, but the Texas secondary had its been game in coverage of the season against the best passing attack this team will face all season.
All three West Virginia receivers were held well below their per-catch averages for the season, and only Tavon Austin was able to break 100 yards on the game. The most welcome sign here is that Carrington Byndom held his own against Stedman Bailey, whose touchdowns were mostly a product of perfect throws by Geno Smith.
Safeties Mykkele Thompson and Kenny Vaccaro each had very strong games in racking up 20 tackles between them. Thompson especially as he was all over the field trying to make plays for this defense.
Missed tackles are still an issue for this group, but they are having to tackle running backs in the open field way more than they should, as evidenced by the 20 combined tackles by Vaccaro and Thompson.
This defense will greatly improve when Hicks returns to the field of play and Vaccaro can stop having to pose as an undersized linebacker.
Special teams continues to be a major liability for this Texas team and are a major reason that the Longhorns were unable to pull off the victory over the Mountaineers.
This group started off giving up back-to-back big returns to Tavon Austin and finished with a missed 41-yard field goal that probably cost Texas a shot at forcing overtime. The return of Anthony Fera was supposed to cure the latter ailment, but did not prove to be the reliable leg we all had hoped as he was unable to connect on a 41-yarder that would have tied the game late in the fourth.
This unit did have a nice return and figured out how to neutralize Austin in the return game, but Fera missed a field goal and Texas lost by three. And that's all that matters.
It was the tale of two halves for a Texas coaching staff that has a lot of questions to answer this week after being outcoached in the second half.
The Texas defense seemed to be finally playing up to its potential in the second quarter. Geno Smith was getting clobbered in the backfield and Alex Okafor was able to force a turnover that led directly to a Texas touchdown.
The Mountaineers were on the ropes heading into halftime, and then they were standing over a knocked out Texas defense. Diaz was never able to find a formula for stopping Andrew Buie and was schooled on all five of West Virginia's fourth-down tries. Okafor was able to make another play late, but Diaz was outmarted by WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen all night.
Diaz will take more heat than offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin, but Harsin is equally to blame for the loss.
Daje Johnson touched the ball three times in the first quarter for 54 yards and never saw the field again. D.J. Monroe, who had three touchdowns coming into tonight's game, did not touch the ball. And Harsin elected to give Joe Bergeron, who was only averaging 2.6 yards per carry, the ball in the red zone rather than trust David Ash to throw it or let Johnathan Gray run the highly effective Wild formation.
Harsin got away from what was working and never gave his big-play threats much of a chance in the second half as West Virginia's big-play guys started asserting their will. The trust he showed in Ash and Gray during crunch time last week was nowhere to be found against West Virginia, and the team suffered for it. In a game that was this close, these decisions make a major difference.
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