Texas edges WVU as red zone woes foil Mountaineers

Gold and Blue Nation

In critical Big 12 showdown, WVU fails to capitalize on scoring chances

In a close game against No. 22 Texas, WVU had plenty of opportunities to pull in front in the second half, but time after time, the Mountaineers failed to capitalize, falling 17-13 at DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium. 

Four of West Virginia’s five possessions in the second half resulted in trips to the red zone, but the Mountaineers managed just two field goals from those drives. 

Head coach Neal Brown said he takes responsibility for the outcome of the game. Instead of settling for additional field goals late, the head coach elected to strike for the end zone on a pair of fourth downs. The Mountaineers came up empty in each instance. 

“I don’t regret going for it. There’s all kinds of data that says it’s the right thing to do, going for it,” Brown said. “In this league, you better score touchdowns down there to win. It’s proven week in and week out. I think we’d be making a mistake to say they got stuck at 17. Yeah, they did, but their approach would have been different.” 

Trailing 10-7 at halftime, WVU opened the third period with an 11-play scoring drive capped by a 25-yard field goal by Casey Legg. But the Longhorns responded on the ensuing possession, regaining their lead. Quarterback Sam Ehlinger hit Jake Smith for a 33-yard touchdown strike, giving the Longhorns a 17-10 edge. 

WVU replied with another trip to the red zone, one that appeared to end with a touchdown, but that Jarret Doege pass to Winston Wright was overturned after a video review. Doege was then sacked on the ensuing third and goal, forcing the Mountaineers to settle for another Legg field goal, making it 17-13. 

After forcing a Texas punt, WVU opened the fourth quarter with another trip inside the 20 on a drive aided by a 29-yard catch and run by T.J. Simmons and a roughing the passer penalty. But Doege threw consecutive incompletions in the end zone — on third and one and fourth and one from the 16 — as the drive stalled without points. 

Another trip to the red zone in the final period resulted in a similar outcome. On a fourth and one inside the Texas 10, a Doege pass intended for Ali Jennings in the end zone fell incomplete with 4:44 to play. The Mountaineers exhausted their final two timeouts on that possession, including one before the drive’s final play.

The Longhorns ran out the clock on the ensuing possession, hanging on to win 17-13. 

Brown said WVU didn’t have a choice other than to go for it on that final fourth down. Due to a missed signal on that drive, the head coach was forced to use a timeout, and he said he felt he had to take a shot at the end zone with the game in the balance. 

“I don’t regret the decisions,” Brown said. “We’re gonna be aggressive, but it’s on me as [the coach] in charge of the offense, and we’ve got to do a better job. We didn’t execute in those fourth downs.” 

Doege completed 35 of his 50 passing attempts for 317 yards, marking his fourth consecutive game with over 300 passing yards, but his streak of 26 consecutive games with at least one touchdown pass was snapped. 

A 12-yard rush by Leddie Brown in the first quarter served as West Virginia’s lone touchdown of the game. The junior running back has now logged nine rushing touchdowns and 11 total this fall, though the head coach noted he “wasn’t 100 percent” in the game.

While the Mountaineer defense kept Texas off the scoreboard for the final quarter and a half of the contest, it did surrender 179 rushing yards to the Longhorns. WVU is now 0-3 this season when allowing opponents to surpass the century mark in rushing yards. 

The victory for Texas (5-2, 4-2) evens the all-time series at 5-5. WVU (4-3, 3-3)  is now 4-2 on the road all-time against the Longhorns. The visiting team has won seven of the 10 meetings. 

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