Another Big XII game, another nail-biting finish. The Mountaineers won a major statement game this evening in Austin. This is what WVU wanted: to play a big team in a big atmosphere with National Championship ramifications. After watching the Mountaineers performance today, there is no doubt that this Mountaineers squad belongs in the top 5 and to be mentioned in the BCS Championship talks. Well, at least the offense belongs in that conversation.
The Mountaineers special teams had a rough go of it tonight. The edge blockers could not get a hand on Carringdon Bynum who subsequently blocked an early field goal and punt. The kick and punt protections were so shaky that the coaching staff abandoned the special teams for most of the evening.
The biggest problem with the special teams tonight lied in the kick off coverage. Seemingly every kick off was returned for big yardage by the Longhorns. The special teams didn’t do our defense any favors, leaving them with really short fields on too many occasions. It appeared as though the team was not disciplined in maintaining their lanes on the returns. The coverage got so bad that Corey Smith started going with pooch kicks to the upback to give the defense a little bit of a longer field to work with.
Speaking of the defense: they played pretty well, all things considered. They were asked to stop a really good offense on short fields. The defense did a pretty good job of keeping David Ash and the passing game bottled up. Ash threw for 269 yards and a last second touchdown. The cornerbacks, most notably the much maligned Pat Miller, made some impressive plays to break up passes in critical spots late in the game.
While the defense played well against the pass, they had a difficult time against the run. The defense got gashed for some long runs by both Grey and Bergeron. It seemed like every time a Longhorns rusher made contact, they were able to break a tackle or two and rumble on for 3 to 4 extra yards. Those extra yards led to a ton of Texas first downs and a few touchdowns.
In all, the defense made just enough plays to give Geno the opportunities he needed to keep WVU in the game.
And Geno looked great in the face of a killer pass rush. Texas end Okafor man-handled Pat Eger, making Geno’s night a challenge. Smith was cool under pressure and threw the ball well. Geno completed 71% of his passes for 268 yards and 4 scores. Geno threw three of his touchdown passes to Stedman Bailey (8 receptions for 75 yards). Geno first touchdown went to Tavon Austin (10 receptions for 102 yards). He wasn’t as spot on as he has been the whole season, throwing a few passes that could have resulted in his first interception of the season. Fortunately, those balls were not picked off, and Geno was able to make the most of his second chances.
Five times Coach Holgorsen asked Geno to orchestrate a huge conversion on fourth down. All five times, Geno and the offense responded with clutch passing. If that does not say Heisman, than nothing else will.
Geno’s night was great, but he was outshone by Andrew Buie tonight.
Buie was the key to the Mountaineers offense. The rushing game is usually relied on to balance the pass attack. Tonight, the rushing game more than balanced the offensive attack, the rushing game was a major component.
Buie was incredible at finding the openings in the Texas defensive front. He just had an uncanny ability to find space to operate and earned some tough yards after contact. With the game on the line, late in the fourth quarter, Holgorsen put the game in Buie’s hands. Buie marched the Mountaineers down the field, ultimately punching it into the endzone for the clinching touchdown. Buie finished the evening with his career best rushing performance: 31 carries for 207 yards and 2 touchdowns.
With their first road win of the season, the Mountaineers now have to get focused for a trap game in Lubbock next week. WVU is going to need to put in a concerted effort against the Red Raiders and not look ahead to a looming top 5 match-up with Kansas State.
– In terms of fan experience, the fans of Texas are incredible hosts. The tailgating scene is somewhat tame, but the fans are easily the nicest bunch you could ever hope to meet. Leaving the stadium, the Longhorns fans had nothing but congratulations for the Mountaineers. That is a far cry from the hostile atmospheres we had become accustomed to in the Big East.
– The announced attendance at Darrell K. Royal Stadium was 101,861. That sets a new record for game attendance. It’s not that surprising considering the throngs of Mountaineer fans in the stands. It might be conservative to estimate that 10,000 fans made the trip to Austin.
– Sixth Street is a mad house after home games. Literally, the entire street is blocked off and it operates essentially as one giant block party. It is a great atmosphere to celebrate a Mountaineers road win.