The Big 12 showdown between No. 8 West Virginia and No. 11 Texas delivered on all the hype, as the Mountaineers won 48-45 in a shootout.
The offenses started rolling early as Geno Smith drove the Mountaineers down the field on the team's opening drive, capping off the series with a touchdown pass to Stedman Bailey. Fortunately for Texas, the West Virginia defense is not nearly as capable as its offense, and the Longhorns responded with a scoring drive of their own that ended with a two-yard Joe Bergeron run.
But speed kills, and WVU wide receiver Tavon Austin may be the deadliest player in the country. His 40-yard catch-and-run was the first of two consecutive touchdowns for the Mountaineers.
Trailing 21-7, the Texas front seven established itself as a force in this game. Bergeron's second short touchdown run pulled the Longhorns within a touchdown. Then Alex Okafor knocked the ball away from Geno Smith near the West Virginia goal line, and Jackson Jeffcoat recovered the fumble in the end zone to tie the game.
The second half featured far less fireworks, and the game remained close. Smith hit Bailey for a touchdown to take a 34-31 lead, but Bergeron scored his fourth touchdown of the game to regain the lead for the Longhorns.
Smith found Bailey in the end zone again for the Mountaineers' response, and with a three-point lead in the fourth quarter, the team's defense finally made an important stand. West Virginia stopped the Longhorns' offense after Smith fumbled deep in his own territory, giving the Longhorns the ball just 12 yards away from the end zone.
Hard running from Andrew Buie allowed the Mountaineers to move the ball and ran the clock down. A late touchdown pass from David Ash was not enough to prevent a loss for the Longhorns. West Virginia improved to 5-0, while Texas dropped to 4-1.
Tweets of the Night
Gregg Doyel of CBS Sports was extremely excited at the start of this game and was hoping for another insane performance from Geno Smith.
Two minutes in, WVU 7-0 vs. Texas. Geno Smith on pace for 600 yards and 30 TD's. Who's to say he won't get it?— Gregg Doyel (@GreggDoyelCBS) October 6, 2012
There are no words to adequately describe how fast Tavon Austin is, but Sporting News' Steve Greenberg made a valiant effort.
Holy mother of God, Tavon Austin is fast.— Steve Greenberg (@SN_Greenberg) October 6, 2012
Former Deadspin writer Pete Gaines noted that Texas' defense started having success against the Mountaineers' high-powered offense when it began playing angry.
Texas' defense played that series like Geno Smith personally insulted every single one of their grandmamas.— Pete Gaines (@petegaines) October 7, 2012
The Courrier-Journal's Kyle Tucker noted that all the offensive talent made this game exciting to watch, but the great Gus Johnson took the viewing experience to another level.
I cannot explain how much I wish Gus Johnson would narrate my life. I'll settle for this awesome WVU-Texas game.— Kyle Tucker (@KyleTucker_CJ) October 7, 2012
The Bleacher Report Twitter page shared this photo of Mack Brown, which says everything one needs to know about how he will be taking this loss.
Mack Brown struggle face after losing to WVU 48-45 twitter.com/BleacherReport…— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) October 7, 2012
Grades for Key West Virginia Players
Geno Smith: B+
The Heisman Trophy front-runner turned in another excellent performance, completing 25-of-35 passes for 269 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions.
But Smith also had a costly fumble near his own goal line that led to a touchdown for the Longhorns, in addition to another fumble deep in his own territory. Despite these rare blunders, Smith still proved that he is the most prolific passer in the country, and his arm is the biggest reason West Virginia won this game.
While the West Virginia passing game receives plenty of attention, Buie proved that the team can move the ball on the ground. He had 31 carries for 208 yards and two touchdowns.
His second touchdown was his team's final score of the game, and his running in the fourth quarter allowed the Mountaineers to close out this game.
West Virginia Defense: B-
The Mountaineers defense improved from its last performance against Baylor, and was far more stout in the second half of this game than it was during the first two quarters.
Still, after giving up 404 yards in total offense to Texas, it is still doing just enough to allow Smith and the offense to win the game. The unit deserves some credit for that, but not much.
Grades for Key Texas Players
David Ash: A
The Texas quarterback had no chance of being the story in this game, and appeared to have no problem with that. He played efficiently and within the offense, making no mistakes.
Ash completed 22-of-29 passes for 195 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. He put his team in position to win this game, but his counterpart was able to get the last laugh.
A running back who averages 2.6 yards per carry in a game usually has a tough time getting an impressive grade. But Bergeron had four rushing touchdowns in this matchup, and that ensured that he received top marks.
All of his scoring runs came within the five-yard line, and he was simply unstoppable in short-yardage situations. When he got near the goal line, the Mountaineers were powerless to keep him out of the end zone.
Texas Pass Rush: B
The Longhorns defense did everything it could to give its team a chance to win this game in the first half. Smith was sacked three times and the defense contributed a touchdown. If this game lasted only 30 minutes, the unit would have received an A.
But halftime adjustments from the Mountaineers limited the effectiveness of the pass rush for the remainder of the game, with the exception of the forced fumble in the fourth quarter. The Texas big men also failed to stop Buie in the running game.