West Virginia Football: Winners, Losers from Mountaineers' Week 6 Win vs. Texas
On Friday night, I dreamt that West Virginia lost to Texas, 60-38.
Saturday morning, I woke up and vowed not to speak of the dream. I made predictions and talked with friends and colleagues about expectations for the game all day long. Saturday night, I wrote and tweeted throughout the game.
Remarkably, I managed to abstain from tweeting or at all mentioning my dream to anyone, in fear of the potential jinx. I'm not going to say that I altered the outcome in anyway, but obviously the dream didn't come true.
Instead, the Mountaineers pulled off a thrilling 48-45 upset in Austin thanks to an exemplary team effort.
The win even vaulted WVU to No. 5 in the Associated Press poll and No. 4 in the USA Today coaches' poll.
Here are the winners and losers from West Virginia's win over Texas:
Winner: Andrew Buie
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Running back Andrew Buie was without a doubt the player of the game for West Virginia.
The Mountaineers kept an unwavering commitment to the run throughout the game in hopes of taking pressure off of Geno Smith and the passing game to help reduce the opportunities for the Texas defensive ends to make plays.
The sophomore runner delivered in a huge way.
He nearly matched his production from this entire season on the ground, netting 207 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 6.7 yards per carry.
The West Virginia ground game was an afterthought going into this one, especially in comparison to the heralded Texas running backs.
However, all of them combined couldn't even hold a candle to Buie's production.
On top of his gains on the ground, he also had three receptions for 66 yards.
If the Mountaineers can have this much success on the ground on a regular basis, they will be far and away the best offense in the nation at season's end.
Winner: Pat Miller
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Cornerback Pat Miller spent the first five weeks as the punchline of jokes about the West Virginia secondary. The "Faux Dana Holgorsen" Twitter account berated Miller on a daily basis, with jabs like this:
After last week's awful performance against Baylor, I gave the secondary a failing grade. Now "Not Dana Holgorsen" and I are eating our words after Miller's performance against Texas.
The senior came through in a huge way with three huge plays in the fourth quarter. He was the first one to make it to Texas quarterback David Ash, tackling him for a 16-yard loss after an errant snap.
More importantly, he came up with two enormous pass breakups in the fourth quarter, one of which came on fourth down.
For that, he definitely earned at least one week's worth of immunity from any and all kinds of criticism.
Draw: Pass Protection
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I was very close to tabbing the pass protection as a loss for the game.
Geno Smith was pressured often, sacked four times and even fumbled twice in the pocket, both of which were recovered by Texas.
On the surface, that looks like an absolute loss.
However, considering what the offensive line was up against, they certainly earned at least a push in this game.
Jackson Jeffcoat and Alex Okafor are both big-time NFL draft prospects and will undoubtedly be in the league with Bruce Irvin sacking Aaron Rodgers within a year or two.
This line won't face as tough of a challenge up front as the one presented by Texas for the rest of the season.
It wasn't pretty. WVU was forced to stick to the ground and use some creativity to keep the pressure off, but this line held tough. Smith threw for 268 yards and four touchdowns while still preserving his unblemished interception record.
For that, this line has to be applauded with at least a modest golf clap.
Winner: Josh Francis
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West Virginia fans have to be thrilled about the way Josh Francis has developed over the course of this season.
He came to Morgantown with a ton of hype, as he was labeled as the next Bruce Irvin. He didn't pan out last year, and it didn't look like he was going to pan out this year either.
Through the fall, he still hadn't earned a starting spot on the depth chart.
However, he has really flourished in the 3-4 defense this season. This game was just another in a line of strong performances from Francis this season, as he was WVU's best pass-rushing threat throughout the game.
He was named defensive champion by the WVU coaching staff (via WVUSports.com) after netting nine tackles, three tackles for a loss, one sack and two quarterback hurries.
On the season, he has amassed a team-high 9.5 tackles for a loss, 30 total tackles, three sacks, four hurries and a forced fumble.
Winners: Cody Clay and the WVU Run Blocking
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On the heels of an excellent game from running back Andrew Buie, fullback Cody Clay and the WVU run blocking deserve some serious credit as well.
WVU has been decimated at fullback thanks to injuries its No. 1 and 2 players at the position, Ryan Clarke and Donovan Miles. Because of this, Clay was moved from tight end to fullback just two weeks ago, where he has absolutely thrived, as predicted by Bleacher Report's Michael Walker.
Buie was quick to credit the blocking in front of him after the game (via BlueGoldNews.com):
The line did a phenomenal job opening up creases and my fullback also did an awesome job leading up in there and springing me out. Those guys did a phenomenal job, if it wasn’t for them I don’t think any of this stuff would be possible.
West Virginia's ability to create a push up front for Buie truly changed the course of this game.
Loser: J.D. Woods
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Wide receiver J.D. Woods had a breakout performance last week against Baylor, netting 13 receptions for 114 yards and a touchdown in what was by far the best game of his career.
However, he regressed a bit this week.
Of course, he didn't have nearly as many opportunities this week, as WVU attempted 16 fewer passes against Texas than it did against Baylor.
Total attempts aside, Woods simply had the drops this week.
He was targeted seven times but ended up with just two receptions for 23 yards.
A couple of the incompletions were a result of nice plays by the Texas secondary and hurries by the Texas pass rush, but 2-of-7 is bad no matter how you slice it.
WVU fans have to be hoping that the Woods they saw last week will return soon.
Winners: Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey
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West Virginia's dexterous duo came through with another big game, again proving why they are the most skilled receiving tandem in the country.
The numbers weren't quite up to par with last week, but there was no shortage of big plays this week from this pair.
Austin led the way with 10 catches for 102 yards and a 40-yard touchdown reception, which was WVU's longest play offensive of the day. He also had a great day returning kicks, taking UT's first two kickoffs back for gains of 44 and 67 yards, forcing the Longhorns to squib all of their remaining kicks.
Bailey had another excellent game, catching eight passes for 75 yards and three touchdowns.
He did, however, record a drop for the first time in recent memory.
The only catch was that it was actually a catch.
He did bobble the ball a bit but managed to regain control with one foot still in bounds. However, the play happened on the Texas sideline, so 100-plus people in burnt orange felt obliged to assist the referee in making the incorrect call.
Losers: 2011 Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey
Austin and Bailey at the Orange Bowl
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Last season, Austin and Bailey put together arguable the two best performances by any receivers in West Virginia history.
Bailey set the school record with 1,279 receiving yards, while Austin was just behind with 1,186. This season, they are both already more than halfway to those numbers with 710 and 662 yards apiece.
Even worse for Austin and Bailey of the past, are their touchdown numbers. In 2011, Bailey set the school record with 12 touchdown receptions.
Through five games, Bailey already has 13, beating his 2011 mark and putting him on pace for 31 during this regular season.
Austin hauled in eight touchdowns in 2011 after catching an additional eight in 2010.
This year, he has already hit his eight-touchdown quota after five games.
However, something tells me he won't stop there, so you can include 2010 Tavon as a loser too.
Winner: Tyler Bitancurt
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Kicker Tyler Bitancurt showed some real heart in this game.
He was plugged in at punter to help eradicate some the blunders WVU has had this year in that category, only to have his attempt blocked.
The senior also hit a very low field-goal attempt right into the Texas defensive line for another block.
However, he didn't stay down.
In fact, he rebounded to go 6-of-6 on extra points and 2-of-3 on field goals, hitting from 41 and 37.
Texas kicker Anthony Fera finished just 1-of-2.
Advantage: Bitancurt. And in a three-point win, that's huge.
Loser: My WVU Preseason Prediction
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In my preseason Big 12 Conference predictions, I tabbed this game in Austin as a loss for WVU.
It was the only loss I predicted for West Virginia for the year, and I was wrong. This outcome is good news for West Virginia, of course, especially if the rest of my predictions play out.
Before the season (and all the way leading up to Saturday's game), I thought WVU would struggle against the Texas defense, especially its secondary and pass rush. While this wasn't a completely inaccurate prediction, I seriously underestimated the heart and toughness of this West Virginia team.
Even though Smith struggled a bit against the UT pass-rushers, the players around him stepped up in a big way as the Mountaineers did what they had to do to come away with the win—which is exactly what good teams do no matter the opponent, no matter the venue, no matter the sport.
Hats off to them for proving me wrong.
Also, if you want to look at those picks and harass me as my predictions continue to go awry this season (like Iowa State potentially flipping the 3-9 record I predicted), please do.