MORGANTOWN — West Virginia quarterback Austin Kendall threw four interceptions — three of them leading to touchdowns — as No. 11/12 Texas ruined what was set up to be a beautiful Mountaineer Homecoming, 42-31.
Kendall was just the fourth WVU quarterback to throw four interceptions in the 2000s, joining Will Grier, Jarrett Brown and Derek Jones. He did complete 31 of 46 passe or 367 yards with 3 touchdowns.
The game was played on a crystal clear Saturday afternoon under blue skies with the thermometer in the mid-60s before a sold-out crowd of 62,069 fans eager to spend the day flashing “Horns Down” signs at Texas.
But it was Texas who got to rub it in, scoring its final touchdown on a trick play that wound up with 300-pound offensive tackle Sam Cosmi running 13 yards into the end zone.
The Texans extended their record to 4-1 with a showdown next Saturday against unbeaten Oklahoma while WVU fell to 3-2 with Iowa State coming to town.
For the first time this season, WVU lost the coin flip, which would prove to be a blessing as there can be nothing bad about getting the ball first before a sold-out, rabid Homecoming crowd.
And WVU left no doubt what its game plan was going to be as it went to the air and stayed there, going 76 yards for a score and a 7-0 lead.
The final 44 yards came courtesy of diving catch in the end zone by the budding star receiver Sam James on a throw from Kendall.
The Mountaineers ran four plays, all passes, and that would be the order of the day. In fact, it was WVU’s fourth possession before they ran the ball, but we are getting ahead of ourselves.
Texas took possession and marched down the field while converting four third and long plays, not surprising since they entered the game as the No. 2 team in the nation in third-down efficiency, but that drive stalled and ended with a missed field goal.
Rather enjoying the break, on the first play Kendall failed to see dropping linebacker and threw right into the hands of Ayodele Adeoye for an interception. Two plays later Ehlinger the gunslinger hit Malcolm Epps from 22 yards out for the tying touchdown. And so it went through a first quarter of brutal hitting that ended, 7-7.
WVU opened the second quarter by regaining the lead, the drive set up by a 44-yard completion to T.J. Simmons, who fought through a big-time hit to take the ball to the Texas 5.
Two running plays by power back Leddie Brown took the ball to the 1 and everyone in the stadium expected to see him get the ball a third time.
And so appeared as Kendall stuck the ball into his belly. A defender came crashing down from the left and dropped Brown behind the line of scrimmage, not that it mattered for unbeknownst to Texas and the whole crowd, Kendall had kept the ball and went laughing into the end zone.
The only person who had any shot at Kendall was wearing a striped shirt.
Texas had an immediate answer and it again came from Ehlinger, whose 13-yard pass to John Burt tied the score at 14-all.
And the Longhorn quarterback wasn’t through, having another 13 yards left in his bank the next time Texas had the ball, this time on a run in which he juked Josh Norwood on his way untouched for the score that sent them to the locker room ahead 21-14.
WVU stopped Texas out of the gate in the second half, but not for long as Kendall immediately threw his second interception.
The second half started with the two teams going back and forth, waiting for something to break and it finally did near the end of the third quarter when Ehlinger made a terrible decision, throwing deep for Burt.
No fewer than three Mountaineers had him blanketed and it was cornerback Keith Washington who came way with the ball, bringing it back 34 yards to the Texas 28. As the play ended, a brief scuffle ensued that cost the Longhorns half the distance to the goal as Devin Duvernay was slapped with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
The Mountaineers took over at the 14 but could get no more out of it that an Evan Staley field goal to cut Texas’ lead to 21-17 as the fourth quarter began.
And Texas, which had dominated time of possession by 10 minutes and had run 19 more play than WVU, was ready to pounce as Kendall threw his third interception of the game on a deflected pass.
The pick by B.J. Foster at the WVU 18 led to a 13-yard rushing score by Duvernay to give the Longhorns a cushion at 28-17.
Moments later Kendall uncorked yet another interception, his fourth of the game, on an ill-advised throw to the sideline and that led a rub it in your face touchdown, Ehlinger rolling to his right then throwing back across the field to tackle Sam Cosmi, who thundered his 6-7, 300-pound body into the end zone.
Since it was a backward pass, Cosmi was eligible and the play was ruled a run.
That put Texas in front 35-17 and WVU had less than 11 minutes to attempt a comeback.
WVU scored a late TD on a pass from Kendall to T.J. Simmons but Ehlinger matched that with a 23-yard scoring run.
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel