It's not as easy to appreciate when you come out on the losing end, but West Virginia's 48-45 win over the Longhorns was a highly entertaining, interesting football game. Credit goes to the Mountaineers for pulling out the impressive road win, and especially to Dana Holgorsen, whose game plan and in-game adjustments were, I thought, decisive.
The difference in the final score may have come down to Texas' lone missed opportunity in the red zone, when Anthony Fera missed a 41-yard field goal attempt following a botched snap to David Ash. But the final score doesn't tell the full story of this game, which did not at all unfold how most of us expected it would.
|8 of 14||3rd Down Conversions||3 of 8|
|1 of 3||4th Down Conversions||5 of 5|
|6 of 7||Red Zone Trips-Scores||7 of 7|
|5 / 1||Red Zone TDs / FGs||5 / 2|
The most surprising/interesting/disappointing aspect of tonight's game was the manner in which West Virginia won by beating Texas at its own game. The Mountaineers limited Texas to just 68 offensive plays, while carving up the Longhorns defense on the ground. Excluding sacks, West Virginia racked up a ridiculous 230 yards rushing on 38 rushes, good for 6.1 yards per rush; even when we absolutely knew the Mountaineers were going to rush the ball on the game-clinching drive, we couldn't stop them, as West Virginia marched down the field on an 8-play, 76-yard touchdown drive, of which 7 plays and 73 yards came on the ground. When it was all said and done, Andrew Buie, their No. 2 running back, rolled the Longhorns defense for 207 yards on 31 carries (6.7 per rush).
While I'm happy to concede that there were things Bryan Harsin could have done better, if we're going to blame a coordinator and his playcalling for the loss, the bulk of my frustration tonight was once again with Manny Diaz. I was happy with the effort of the players on defense, and we saw some things to like, but Diaz took a shotgun to our foot time and again with a confusing grab bag of looks. When he rolled out six defensive backs, good things happened for the Texas defense, but even after we started to find success with our dime package, Diaz kept returning to nickel packages just as often.
And Dana Holgorsen made us pay for it, time and time again. Whether it was taking advantage of a running back matched up with Tevin Jackson in coverage, or all-too-easy read routes that Smith, Austin, and Bailey can execute in their sleep, or teeing off on us running inside zone for 7 yards a pop, Holgorsen was ready every time we put ourselves in a position to fail by presenting an opportunity to punish our primary weakness. What makes it all the more disheartening is the fact that, even setting aside what was clear during the game itself, we knew coming in that this defense is critically deficient at the linebacker position.
That's how you allow 48 points on just 77 plays, and why I think Wescott has it exactly backwards: while the offense nearly made enough plays to win the game, the biggest problems were on the defensive side of the ball, which was sunk by uninspired playcalling.
More on the rest of the game tomorrow.