By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
The last time West Virginia University got together with Texas, it was the Mountaineers who claimed victory.
The score was 7-6.
That was 56 years ago today.
Safe to say the score will not look like that today when the two teams, No. 8 WVU and No. 11 Texas, get together at 7 p.m. before 100,000 in Darrell K. Royal-Memorial Stadium in Austin and a national television audience watching on Fox.
Times change. The game changes.
That game was saved by a goal-line stand from the 1-foot line by the Mountaineers.
It seems as though that was the last time WVU stopped anyone, coming off that 70-63 victory over Baylor in which the Mountaineers found a way win despite allowing nine touchdowns.
WVU completed 4 of 9 passes in its only go-round with Texas. That’s five incompletions.
Against Baylor the Mountaineers had six incompletions but threw the ball 51 times.
Things are different and coaches like Dana Holgorsen and his quarterback Geno Smith are what make it different.
In Texas, it has taken time to adjust.
Mack Brown is now the coach, a veteran coach from another era who has seen the times change around him and who after two tough seasons by Texas standards is trying to return to the glory days while clinging to the tradition Texas has always had.
“Texas has been a defensive school and a school that has run the ball for years, and right now the world’s changing out there. We’ve still got to have stops; we’ve still got to force turnovers. We’re not seeing the dominant defensive performances right now that we saw three years ago, and defenses are going to have to catch up because offenses are ruling the roost,” he said.
While WVU will throw until you prove you can stop it, and no one has with Smith and receivers Stedman Bailey, Tavon Austin and J.D. Woods, while Texas would rather run, although this past week in a shootout with Oklahoma State the Longhorns did turn loose their sophomore quarterback David Ash.
While Texas is loaded with running backs, even though their No. 1 back is out for this game, matching WVU, which will play again without starter Shawne Alston, and loves to run the ball, the key to offense is the way Ash handles things.
Brown brought in Bryan Harsin as offensive coordinator. He had run Boise State’s high-powered offense for years.
“Bryan Harsin is a good quarterback coach,” Holgorsen noted. “He coached a kid named Kellen Moore, who won a few games. He developed him. He has a system that he believes in, and it is the same one that they run at Boise State.”
The idea was that if he could develop Moore into a winner, he could do it with Ash.
“I watched David play a tremendous amount in high school. He has ability, and he has talent around him. It is a group that continues to get better,” Holgorsen said.
And this week he faces an embarrassed WVU defense, one that may never recover if it doesn’t reach deep down and call on its pride to get some stops this week.
It sounds implausible but it could happen, for last week the run defense was fine and Baylor’s passing game is totally different than Texas’, far more high-powered.
Texas’ defense has a challenge to meet, too, in Smith and his henchmen. The Longhorns are a defense that is far more athletic than anything WVU has seen to date, that creates a big pass rush and that forces turnovers and makes third-down stops.
“We will have our hands full with them defensively,” Holgorsen said. “They are tremendous against the pass. They also have great pass rusher and tremendous speed in the secondary.”
If there is one key in the game, it well may boil down to the play on the outside, both teams liking to attack there.
“Whoever wins that battle will be extremely significant in the outcome of this game,” Holgorsen said. “That is four of their best players. They also have two good safeties back there. Those six players along the outsides are pretty important to them.
“The corners are good. They are fast. They can get in your face. What they do with Kenny Vaccaro is similar to what LSU did last year. They will put him down in the slot to try and be disruptive. He does a good job of covering. Our receivers are going to have players in their grill for the first time all year – much like LSU did last year.”
On the other side, everyone knows the problems WVU’s corners have had in coverage, and if it doesn’t improve dramatically, Holgorsen has almost nowhere to turn.
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.