Longhorns, Johnathan Gray, Stifle West Virginia

Charlie Strong’s Texas Longhorns started the season clearly in a rebuilding phase, with major losses against UCLA and BYU. Plus, Baylor, Oklahoma, and Kansas State in Big XII play.

It wasn’t until Nov. 1 against Texas Tech when the Longhorns really began to show flashes and establish an identity. Texas would win that game, and it set the team up with a huge vote of confidence as it prepared to host No. 23 West Virginia Mountaineers in Austin on Saturday.

From the first snap to the last second, the Longhorns dominated the Mountaineers. And despite avoiding meltdowns all season, WVU head coach Dana Holgersen’s body language said it all.

Offensive and defensively, West Virginia was ineffective against Texas, who absolutely dominated in the first half. It self destructed with a game plan that didn’t match up, plus eight penalties for 57-yards and two turnovers. Its run defense also crumbled, allowing 227-yards rushing by the Longhorns and three touchdowns by running back Johnathan Gray.

The first scoring drive was by Texas, where quarterback Tyrone Swoopes hit senior tight end Geoff Swaim for two-yards for a touchdown — his first touchdown of the season. The following drives by West Virginia produced a 22-yard field goal by Josh Lambert, who missed it from 53-yards out on its previous possession.

In the second quarter, Johnathan Gray scored a touchdown on a 39-yard run, followed by another touchdown run from two-yards out. This score was set up on a 25-yard run by senior running back Malcolm Brown, and a 40-yard run by Gray to the WVU red zone.

This was followed up by a 39-yard field goal by Nick Rose, after missing the previous kick from 46-yards out.

Texas led West Virginia 24-3 at the half.

Both teams were shut out in the third quarter, but towards the end, West Virginia started what would become a touchdown drive in the fourth-quarter, set up primarily by WVU junior running back Dustin Garrison.

The fourth-quarter started off with a 9-yard touchdown by senior running back Dreamius Smith. On the ensuing possession, Texas’ senior kicker Michael Davidson had a textbook 63-yard coffin corner punt, down to the Texas three-yard line.

On 1st and 2 to open up the drive, West Virginia quarterback Clint Trickett was sacked in the end zone by senior defensive end Cedric Reed for a safety.

With under nine minutes in the fourth-quarter, Swoopes was picked off by sophomore cornerback Daryl Worley. On 1st and 10, D. Smith had a 62-yard run but was downed at the Texas 18-yard line. Three plays later, sophomore running back Wendell Smallwood punched it in for a three-yard touchdown run, followed by a failed two-point conversion.

Trailing 16-26, West Virginia attempted an onside kick that was recovered by Texas.

Two possessions later, the Mountaineers went for it on 4th and 9, but Trickett’s pass was incomplete and Texas took over on downs. On 1st and 10 at the WVU 15-yard line, Johnathan Gray ran it in for his third rushing touchdown of the night.

Texas would win, 33-16 — its first home win against a ranked team since 2009, pushing the Longhorns within one win from being bowl eligible in Strong’s first year as Texas’ head coach. Alternatively, the Mountaineers are now 6-4 and 4-3 in the Big XII, but will likely fall out of the rankings.

In his ninth career start, Tyrone Swoopes was 11 of 29 for 124-yards. But the Texas offensive line deserves significant credit for not allowing a single sack on Swoopes, and creating holes that allowed its backs to produce 226-yards rushing on the night, and 448 total yards of offense.

While West Virginia receiver Kevin white set a school record with 16 receptions for 132-yards, its offense just wasn’t able to come up and make significant enough plays to get back in the game. Considering it only lost 30-31 at home against the TCU last weekend, playing from behind against an unranked team definitely had an effect on the overall morale.

“Whether it was a little bit of a hangover, or so to speak, from last week, I don’t know. But we weren’t ready to play,” said Holgorsen in the post. “I take responsibility for that.”

The Mountaineers  — who are already bowl eligible — host No. 7 Kansas State Wildcats next weekend, followed by Iowa State to close out the season on Nov. 29.

Texas plays at Oklahoma State next weekend, and will finish out the season at TCU on Nov. 27.

*Section Photo credit to Erich Schlegel, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to Soobum Im, USA Today Sports

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