Texas Rolls Over West Virginia, 33-16

Texas Rolls Over West Virginia, 33-16

You can bristle at the lack of offensive efficiency in the second half, you can scoff at the wildly under-thrown pass from Tyrone Swoopes that went for an interception, and you can hang your head and cry about the special teams play, but know this: Texas just beat a ranked opponent at home for the first time since 2008.

Remember 2008? Colt McCoy was picking apart defenses. Mack Brown was most recently the winner and not the loser of the BCS Championship. The iPhone 3 was a brand new device.

And while it wasn’t pretty at times—punter William Russ was removed from the game and replaced after two horrid line-drive punts, the double-headed rushing attack of Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray ground (mostly) to a halt after halftime—it’s a win, against a good team in West Virginia, and puts the Longhorns in a position to only have to win one of the final two games to make a bowl.

The first half looked like a cakewalk, and it’s because the offense caught up to the defense, executing in ways it hasn’t all year. On Texas’ first drive, Malcolm Brown looked like a stud, breaking successive runs of 14, 5, and 12 yards. That opened up the passing game for Tyrone Swoopes, who threw a touchdown pass to Geoff Swaim—yes, a touchdown pass to a tight end—to give the Longhorns a 7-0 lead.

“I told them, it’s going to take some time,” Coach Charlie Strong said of the frustration Brown and Gray had faced running behind an inexperienced offensive line all season. “But you’re going to have to trust these guys.” In the absence of injured center Dominic Espinoza, the running game had been paltry, as teams dared the sophomore Swoopes to throw all year.

Gray then broke his best run of the year, a 39-yard beauty that ended with the junior running back diving at the left pylon and the Longhorns going up 14-3. He scored his second of three on a goal line run minutes later. Rose hit a 39-yard field goal to put Texas up 24-3 over the Mountaineers. Then the second half started.

West Virginia, knowing Brown and Gray could gash their defense all day, loaded the box and dared Swoopes to throw. This adjustment proved to be fruitful: Texas’ first six drives of the second half went punt, punt, punt, punt, turnover on downs, interception. Without Cedric Reed having the game of his life, West Virginia may have come back to at least tie in the 4th quarter.

Reed notched three sacks, and only one of those was a boring, old, regular sack. One of them was in the end zone for a quick two points and the other was a strip sack that Texas failed to capitalize on. West Virginia came back to score two touchdowns, sucking some of the air out of the stadium, though the Mountaineers couldn’t convert either onside kick or their two-point conversion try. Gray put the nail in the coffin with his third touchdown run, a 15-yard burst to put the Longhorns up 33-16.

When the final cannon sounded, the feeling at DKR was generally positive, but mixed. A win is a win, and a win over a ranked team is even better, but the second half drop-off is a concern. Swoopes finished at 11-29 passing for 124 yards, with a touchdown and an interception.

Strong isn’t talking regression or looking to the prospect of playing in a bowl in his first season at the helm for the Longhorns, however, only focusing on the next one, a tough road game against Oklahoma State in Stillwater.

“We’re not concerned about the bowl right now,” Strong said after the game. “We just want to enjoy this one this evening, and get ready to go play Oklahoma State next week.”

Photo by Anna Donlan. Check out more photos from Saturday’s game here.

 

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