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Texas-West Virginia: Thoughts From The Hip

Quick reactions from the disappointing loss to West Virginia.

Ronald Martinez - Getty Images

1. Not the ideal start for Anthony Fera

When kicker Anthony Fera transferred from Penn State just before the start of fall camp, he was supposed to have solved the placekicking problems that surfaced during the spring.

It was not an ideal debut for Fear with his high-pressure miss late after the fumbled snap. After going 11-for-11 last season from inside 40 yards and 3-for-5 between 40 and 49 yards, Fera missed wide right from 41 yards out.

A small sample size to be sure, but Fera wasn't the solution on Saturday that he was supposed to be in late-game situations. On his first field goal attempt as a Longhorn, he was responsible for the biggest miss in the Mack Brown era.

2. Game decided in the redzone

The key coming into the game was always for the Longhorns to stop West Virginia in the redzone. And while the Mountaineers scored every game they got deep into Texas territory, the Longhorns managed to force two field goals, one of which was blocked.

The problems came on the offense side of the ball. Bryan Harsin's offense had been superb this season converting those opportunities into touchdowns, but had to settle for two field goal attempts in the second half.

A major reason why? Uninspired playcalling. Harsin has been mostly beyond reproach in his efforts this season, especially in developing sophomore quarterback David Ash and putting him in position to be successful. But running the ball on first and second down in the redzone hurt Texas, highlighted by the decision to run the ball from the jumbo package with two extra offensive lineman on the game-changing possession following the forced fumble late.

The package didn't work all game and resulted in a one-yard gain that left Texas in a third-and-long situation, a familiar position during the game.

Whether the fumbled snap was on Ash or Dominic Espinosa, the drive was already essentially killed by that point because of the calls on first and second down.

3. Or on fourth down

While the Longhorns were successful stopping West Virginia on third down, holding the Mountaineers to three conversions on 12 attempts, but the five fourth-down conversions were huge and among the biggest reasons that Texas lost the game.

Keeping Geno Smith and that offense from picking up 10 yards in three plays in a difficult task, but doing so that extra play is even more difficult.

On the other side, the Longhorns only managed to convert one out of three, with Joe Bergeron dropping a pass intended for Mike Davis in the first half and the overthrown pass to Davis late in the game before the forced fumble that should have allowed Texas to at least tie the game. While being risk-averse has helped Ash this season, his worst play of the game was probably airmailing that throw and not giving his receiver a chance to make a play on the ball.

4. Texas couldn't stop the run

Texas Tech under Mike Leach was always the most dangerous when they were running the football effectively. West Virginia is no different.

Even with top running back Shawne Alston out, the Mountaineers ran for nearly 200 yards, including sacks, with Andrew Buie gaining 207 yards on 31 carries. Holgorsen obviously saw something on film that he could exploit and kept after it, running the ball on all but one play on the game-winning touchdown drive following the missed field goal.

Texas needed to make West Virginia one-dimensional to win the game and couldn't do so.

5. The defense nearly made enough plays

Giving up 460 yards yards isn't a successful day for any defense against any offense, but the Longhorns nearly played well enough to win the game. The defensive line was dominant at times despite being some uncalled holds on West Virginia, with the defense tackles having one of their best performances of the season.

True freshman Malcom Brown saw extended action for the first time in his career and was disruptive with several plays made behind the line of scrimmage.

And the two forced fumbles in the shadow of the West Virginia endzone were huge plays that had DKR rocking. Against an offense like West Virginia, sometimes it's about making those game-changing plays, even with the poor run defense. In that regard, the defense came through.

6. Where was the passing game?

The Mountaineers were 119th in the country in yards per attempt against them through the air, but Texas ran the ball 39 times to 29 passes, with seven of those attempts coming on the final Longhorns drive when the game was already essentially out of reach. It seemed like Harsin was calling plays for the 2011 version of Ash instead of the capable 2012 version.

Like most opponents this season, West Virginia clearly made it a priority to stop the Texas running game, providing favorable match-ups on the outside. At least on the initial viewing, Harsin didn't do enough to exploit those opportunities.

7. What's the deal with Nick Rose?

The Longhorns made the questionable decision of kicking to West Virginia star Tavon Austin on the first two kickoffs of the game before deciding to squib kick everything after that.

All that a week after the Longhorns gave up serious yardage against Oklahoma State by sky-kicking late in the game to keep the ball away from Justin Gilbert.

It raises the question of why Rose isn't being allowed to kick the ball out of the endzone after doing so consistently this season when given the opportunity.

8. The crowd responded to the challenge

Mack Brown commended the crowd after the game for being raucous throughout the entire game. In the biggest home game in five years, the crowd responded to being called out by Kenny Vaccaro several weeks ago by maintaining a serious level of noise throughout the game.

After the forced fumble that was recovered in the endzone, the stadium was as loud as it has been in years. The team may not have gotten it done on the field, ultimately, but the fans made for an incredible environment.