A lot went wrong for the Texas Longhorns on Saturday evening in what ultimately ended as a last-second, 42-41 loss to the West Virginia Mountaineers.
The rush defense was nothing short of atrocious, as West Virginia scampered all over a depleted Longhorns defense to the tune of 232 yards and two scores on seven yards per carry — West Virginia’s rushing attack entered Saturday ranked 89th nationally. And of course, Heisman candidate quarterback Will Grier dicing Texas’ secondary up for nearly 350 yards and three scores, including the 33-yard touchdown strike to Gary Jennings Jr. that set up Grier’s game-winning two-point conversion scramble, wasn’t exactly ideal, but to an extent, West Virginia’s aerial success was to be expected.
When it was all said and done, West Virginia’s offense did what it almost always does; pouring on 40-plus points. But among the many things Texas will wish it had back when the Longhorns watch the film on Sunday is the several points they left on the field, which ultimately allowed a loss to overshadow Texas registering its second-best offensive showing of the season and pouring on 40-plus points of its own against the best scoring defense in the Big 12 (19.8).
After entering halftime with a narrow 28-27 lead, the Longhorns opened the third quarter with a methodical drive to reach West Virginia’s red zone courtesy of a 28-yard strike to Lil’Jordan Humphrey. With a 1st and 10 from the Mountaineers’ 14-yard line, Ehlinger nearly connected with Andrew Beck up the seam for what would have been a touchdown strike to lift Texas’ lead to 35-27, but Beck wasn’t ready for the pitch and it bounced off of his hands.
Two plays later, facing a 3rd and 4, Ehlinger connected with Johnson just shy of the first-down marker, though it likely should have been reviewed. Nevertheless, the Longhorns were facing a 4th and 1 from the five-yard line and in a typical Tom Herman binder move, the Texas offense stayed on the field — understandably so considering how well the offense performed throughout the first half.
An Ehlinger rush to the left was initially ruled to be enough for a fresh set of downs, and the ruling was reaffirmed after a measurement revealed that the Longhorns crossed the sticks by about two inches. However, after Ehlinger was forced to the sidelines for one play after his helmet came off, the spot of the ball was reviewed and following that lengthy review, it was determined that per the rules, the play ends once Ehlinger’s helmet came off and thus, Texas was just shy of the marker and turned the ball over on downs.
“My understanding is that there needs to be indisputable evidence to overturn a call,” Herman said of the Longhorns first-down conversion being overturned and ruled short due to Ehlinger’s helmet coming off. “To be honest with you, the officials told me the call had nothing to do with his helmet.”
Texas QB Sam Ehlinger said he’s “pretty sure” his helmet was “pulled off” when was part of an important 4th down play #HookEm— Joe Cook (@josephcook89) November 4, 2018
Regardless of how controversial the reviewed fourth-down call was, the reality is it didn’t end in Texas’ favor and thus, what was initially ruled a 1st and Goal from the four-yard line with a prime opportunity for Texas to add seven points saw the Longhorns offense head back to the sidelines empty-handed.
Texas fell victim to the same fate on the following drive, although not due to a controversial call this time around.
Once again, Ehlinger heaved a prayer to Humphrey, who came down with it for a 28-yard gain to push Texas to West Virginia’s nine-yard line with a chance to once again build upon a one-point lead. With a 1st and Goal from the nine-yard line, Ehlinger connected with Devin Duvernay for a quick eight-yard strike to set Texas up with a 2nd and Goal from the one-yard line.
The next two plays? An Ehlinger rush to the right that lost four yards, and then an incomplete pass to Keaontay Ingram.
Texas needed just one more yards to add seven more points on second down, yet on fourth down, it was Cameron Dicker coming out to attempt a 22-yard field goal, which he did convert to lift the Longhorns lead to 31-27.
Ultimately, though, the made field goal will be overshadowed by missed opportunities.
On back-to-back drives to open the second half — each of which presented an opportunity for Texas to extend its lead — the Longhorns found themselves within West Virginia’s five-yard line twice, but added a mere three points, leaving as many as 11 points on the field.
Hindsight is always 20-20, but the worst part for Texas is it needed to capitalize on just one of the aforementioned opportunities, whether it was attempting a field goal on 4th and 1 to add three points in what ended as a one-point loss, or the offensive line executing just a bit better on a fourth down stop that was just inches short, or Texas finding a way to find just one more yard when it was 2nd and Goal from the one-yard line.
The missed opportunities amounted to Texas’ worst quarter of the game, producing a mere three points.
More notably, with West Virginia needing a deep touchdown strike in the final seconds in addition to a two-point conversion to head home with a win, the missed offensive opportunities will likely be highlighted in the film room on Sunday as a key component in Texas’ second loss in as many games.