Mountaineers Seek Revenge Against Longhorns

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Mountaineers Seek Revenge
File photo. Will Grier #7 of the West Virginia Mountaineers passes against the Baylor Bears at Mountaineer Field on October 25, 2018 in Morgantown, West Virginia. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Last week, the Mountaineers bounced back in a big way against the Baylor Bears. All three units turned in solid performances, and West Virginia held the Bears to only 287 total yards on the day. Now, the Mountaineers seek revenge against the Longhorns this Saturday in Austin. That game will be televised on FOX at 3:30 p.m. Eastern.

The Celebrations Return

During its bye week, West Virginia recovered from its disappointing loss to Iowa State. As we wrote here, however, the team seemed to move on from the loss pretty quickly, propping up fellow teammates and displaying the same level of camaraderie that has followed this team since the Spring, when Head Coach Dana Holgorsen accelerated his efforts to build a winning culture in Morgantown.

The effort poured onto the field quickly, as the Mountaineers jumped out to a 41-0 lead at the half, overwhelming the Bears in all aspects of the game. The team enjoyed some more celebrations, too.

Like this one, where Kenny Bigelow and Will Grier celebrated the team’s first points of the night:

Or this one, where the team celebrates Toyous Avery’s first collegiate interception:

And it’s hard to get better than the sheer warmth of this celebration following former walk-on Shea Campbell’s¬†first interception (particularly as he has been absolutely pivotal in helping the defense recover from its numerous linebacker injuries).

The character of this team is apparent. The young men appear to love each other as much as they love playing the game of football. As a result, they showed resilience after their first loss to emerge 6-1, ranked 12th in the AP Poll, 10th in the Coaches’ Poll, and 10th in our own poll here.

On to Texas

Now, the Mountaineers move on to play 15th-ranked Texas in Austin in their second top-25 showdown of the season.

Match-up History

West Virginia and Texas have developed a bit of history since the Mountaineers joined the Big 12. In 2012, the Mountaineers won a 48-45 thriller in Austin. Then, a couple of years ago, controversial Texas linebacker Breckyn Hager said of his experience in Morgantown, “It’s a bunch of hillbillies drinking moonshine.” Hager later explained that he meant the statement as a compliment. “I love them,” he later added.

Last season, Grier dislocated a finger on his throwing hand diving for the end zone in the first quarter, effectively ending the Mountaineers’ 2017 campaign. Texas won that game, though West Virginia holds the series advantage 4-3.

This Season

Last week, the Longhorns suffered an upset at the hands of Oklahoma State. Tensions were clearly high, as Hager rushed into the backfield during the Cowboys’ victory formation and Head Coach Tom Herman rushed onto the field. The scene resulted in unsportsmanlike conduct penalties on both Hager and Herman.

Importantly, Texas has shown resilience this season. They bounced back immediately after a disappointing season-opening loss to Maryland. And they nearly overcame an uncharacteristically slow start against the Cowboys. Also, like the Mountaineers, the players support each other on the field and off. In short, Texas may not quite be “back” in the way long-term faithful had hoped, but they are not far from it. They have the look of a 9- or 10-win regular-season team.

The loss to the Cowboys makes a solid Texas team dangerous. Led by dual-threat signal-caller Sam Ehlinger, the Texas offense is methodical and capable. And both Keaontay Ingram and Lil’Jordan Humphrey are proven¬†playmakers.

Defensively, the Longhorns have been solid, but not great. They are surrendering over seven yards per play through the air, and they are yielding first downs on nearly half of their critical down plays. Overall, Texas’ defense is not flashy, but it is fundamentally sound. Opposing teams have earned their points. The big playmakers on that side of the ball for the Longhorns are defensive backs Brandon Jones, Cade Sterns, and Kris Boyd, linebacker Gary Johnson, and linemen Charles Omenihu and Chris Nelson.

The Mountaineers Seek Revenge

This is the toughest Mountaineer game to predict so far this season. Three of the six games between these teams have been decided by one score or less. The largest margin of victory for either team was eighteen points. And both teams play fundamentally-sound, physical football. Ehlinger creates a potential matchup problem for the Mountaineers, as they have struggled most against mobile quarterbacks. And Grier presents problems for the Longhorns. That said, the Mountaineers have more momentum, will have had a couple extra days of rest, and seem ready to prove they can contend for the Big 12 title. Look for the Mountaineers to pull away late, 31-20.

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