Texas Football: 10 Things We Learned from the Longhorns' Loss to West Virginia
The Texas Longhorns (4-1, 1-1), suffered their first loss of the season Saturday night, and there is much to be taken from the 48-45 defeat to West Virginia (5-0, 2-0).
In a game that figured to be a high-scoring affair, the Longhorns really struggled with Geno Smith and the Mountaineers' offense. The front four, however, played about as well as possible and got the Horns in positions to take leads.
Offensively, Texas was there, but a couple of miscues late played a big role in the loss.
Here are 10 things we learned about Texas in its loss to West Virginia.
Texas Is Not Very Good Against the Run
Against a West Virginia team that had been linked to a poor running game, the Longhorns really struggled to stop Andrew Buie from eating up his share of big yards.
Too often did defenders fail to shed blocks and miss tackles, allowing Buie to slip free. Poor tackling, however, was not the root cause, rather poor positioning to make the play.
It is a harsh truth, but the Longhorns are really missing something on defense that can bring some urgency on every series.
Buie finished the night with 207 yards and two touchdowns on 31 carries, torching the Texas defense for nearly seven yards per carry.
Johnathan Gray Could Use More Touches, But...
True freshman Johnathan Gray had himself a quality game with 87 yards on 14 carries. His role in replacing Malcolm Brown was successfully showcased, and he is a special talent capable of big plays down the road.
His 49-yard scamper that set up a Joe Bergeron touchdown was his season highlight so far, but he will need more of that as long as Brown is sidelined.
That only begs the question of when Brown does return, what happens to Gray's touches?
Texas Misses Malcolm Brown Very Much
As successful as the Gray-Bergeron combination was, with a solid outing from the freshman and a four-touchdown performance from the sophomore, Brown's presence is missed.
Bergeron is the true bruiser, and Gray is the slippery one. But Brown is the healthy dose of both, as his ability to make the cut and burst through the hole with power is a skill set that does justice for the Texas running game.
His tenacity and finishing on his runs was an aspect that Texas surely wished it had against West Virginia, but that is ancient history now.
The running game will celebrate Brown's return.
Texas Misses Jordan Hicks Much More
Frankly, as much as the Horns' ground game missed Malcolm Brown, the Texas defense sorely missed Jordan Hicks even more.
On a night when the Mountaineers' running game, a forced hand or not, was successful, the Longhorns very much would have loved to see Hicks controlling the middle of the defense.
The longer the junior is sidelined, the more that Steve Edmond, Kendall Thompson, Demarco Cobbs and Co. are forced to grow up.
The Secondary Needs Big Help
Fortunately for the Longhorns, they probably will not see a pair of receivers as talented as the duo of Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey.
Combined with the exploits of quarterback Geno Smith, Texas will not face an offense as experienced and as chemically sound as West Virginia's.
Having said that, there is simply something missing from the Texas' secondary that has it well behind its defensive moniker as DBU.
Poor tackling and loose coverage are the biggest issues, but the entire unit lacks a smoothness in the way it executes and makes plays.
Mike Davis Disappeared
When Mike Davis showcased his talent last weekend with a late-game catch against Oklahoma State, many believed his time had finally arrived.
Yet, against West Virginia, Davis had a huge lapse in production.
Davis caught his first ball on the first play of the game for Texas, but did not make another catch until there were under two minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Jaxon Shipley got his, but the Longhorns really missed Davis' deep-threat potential Saturday.
The Kicking Game Breathes Life
Anthony Fera made his debut for the Longhorns, but went 1-for-2 in his field goal attempts.
Granted, his 41-yard miss came on the heels of a bad snap that probably would not have had Fera take a field goal at all.
But when Fera set the scene by warming up before the game, the Texas faithful had to have breathed a sigh of relief knowing that experience was coming.
Just as the Longhorns gave Nick Jordan some time, Fera will get his time as well.
David Ash Can Be a Game Manager and Win
Texas lost, but the important note is that it was there at the end of the game.
David Ash performed far less spectacularly than he did last weekend, but his final numbers of 22-of-29 for 269 yards and a touchdown are quality stats for someone who hardly took the big chance.
That being said, Ash's role as a game manager is a successful approach.
The Longhorns were able to ride their running game and some timely defensive plays to be in a position to win. But those offensive miscues were too much to overcome in a time of desperation.
Texas Can Be out-Toughed
For much of the game, Texas looked overpowered.
Against the run, the Longhorns really suffered from a physical standpoint. Similarly early on, Texas barely managed to establish the run, but naturally that struggle turned into success late.
Nevertheless, the Longhorns were consistently in a position where West Virginia looked threatening. Whether by play design or physical tools, Texas could not stop a Mountaineers' offense that was very potent.
Texas Will Respond Strong Against Oklahoma
If there is one thing for certain about Texas, it will build off of this loss and head up to Dallas with a brand new agenda.
A loss is always humbling, and the Longhorns have to be upset that they had an opportunity to take a late lead and lean on their defense to win.
But at the end of the day, there were miscues across the board that will force the Longhorns to re-address their weaknesses heading into a matchup with their biggest rival on the schedule.