By Jim Vertuno
AUSTIN, Texas —
Geno Smith and No. 8 West Virginia turned their first trip to Texas into a rollicking Wild West drama.
And now, two games into playing in a new conference, the Mountaineers look every bit like one of the teams to beat in the Big 12.
Smith passed for four touchdowns, Andrew Buie ran for 207 yards and two touchdowns and West Virginia came away with another wild victory, this time taking down the 11th-ranked Longhorns 48-45 on Saturday night.
A week after West Virginia ran up 70 points on Baylor at home, the Mountaineers turned their first road game in their new league into another high-scoring, heart-pounding affair.
“Every week, we’re going to go out and have fun,” Smith said after he and his teammates celebrated the win with several thousand West Virginia fans tucked into a corner of Royal-Memorial Stadium.
West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen called the win “pretty cool.”
Smith, who has 24 touchdown passes this season without an interception, hit Stedman Bailey with a 6-yard score with 10:50 left to play. Buie’s second touchdown gave the Mountaineers a 10-point lead late with 1:18 left.
But West Virginia (5-0, 2-0) didn’t seal the win until recovering an onside kick with 14 seconds left after Texas scored a touchdown on a pass from David Ash to Marquise Goodwin.
Joe Bergeron scored four touchdowns, all on short runs, for Texas (4-1, 1-1), which is 2-7 at home in conference games the since 2010. Texas has lost seven in a row to ranked opponents.
Smith was 25-of-35 passing for 268 yards in a game he had to be sharp. Texas’ aggressive defense hit him early and often and forced a second quarter fumble that the Longhorns recovered for a touchdown.
“They put me under duress a bit,” Smith said. “I just get up and continue to play.”
Smith continues to make all the big throws when the Mountaineers need it, and he had to in a game where every possession was critical. West Virginia went 5 for 5 on fourth downs.
“There weren’t a lot of times when we weren’t draped all over the guy when he was trying to throw,” Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said. “You have to give him a lot of credit, his receivers a lot of credit.”
Buie was just as important to West Virginia’s ability to carve up the Texas defense. He averaged 6.7 yards against a Longhorns unit that pressured Smith but has struggled with tackling all season.
“We just lined up and ran it right at them,” Holgorsen said.
The fumble recovery for a touchdown sparked a first-half rally that brought Texas back from a 21-7 deficit to a 28-27 halftime lead. The Longhorns forced another fumble by Smith in the fourth. But Texas couldn’t capitalize when an errant snap sailed past Ash, leading to a 16-yard loss before Anthony Fera missed a 41-yard field goal attempt that would have tied the score at 41-41.
“That really hurt us,” Texas coach Mack Brown said.
Fera, who transferred from Penn State, missed the first four games with a groin injury
Ash, the No. 2-rate passer in the nation behind Smith, was 22 of 29 for 269 yards and one touchdown. He took the blame for miscue on the snap.
“That was my fault. I let the play clock bleed down too low. I should have caught it,” Ash said.
Bergeron scored on runs of 2, 2, 1 and 4 yards. His last score gave Texas a 38-34 lead with 29 seconds left in the third quarter before Smith and Buie marched the Mountaineers right back down the field.
Smith threw touchdown passes of 8 yards to Bailey and 40 yards to Tavon Austin in the first quarter and West Virginia led 21-7 after Buie’s first touchdown run.
Texas turned momentum and awoke the record home crowd of 101,851 when Alex Okafor sacked Smith and Jackson Jeffcoat recovered in the end zone to the tie the game. Bergeron’s third touchdown of the first half put Texas ahead 28-27 at halftime.
Texas chewed up nine minutes on its first drive of the third quarter, moving to a 38-yard field goal by Fera. But Smith simply worked faster and West Virginia’s drives resulted in touchdowns.
Smith’s second touchdown pass to Bailey put the Mountaineers up 34-31 and the teams traded the lead two more times before it was all over.
“We knew it was going to be a dogfight,” Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro said. “It’s frustrating and we left a lot on the table.”