It was a classic heavyweight fight, with two elite contenders trading blow after blow until....
No, that's not right.
It was an intense middleweight bout, taking place under the public radar but featuring the kind of skill and technique that only true aficionados could appreciate, as...
Again, doesn't quite fit.
It was two trannies trading wild haymakers in the alley out back of an Oak Lawn nightclub at 2:30 AM, with hands full of weave and eyes full of hate. It may have lacked in skill, quality and overall aesthetics, but nobody who wandered past that alley could tear their eyes away until the final blow had fallen.
And the final blow belonged to the Longhorns, as the overtime period belonged to two unlikely heroes and a third who, against all likelihood, is getting more likely every week.
Ladies and gentlemen, your 6-0 in conference Texas Longhorns.
It was an ugly a start as you could have asked for, as the Longhorns' stalled first drive ended in a blocked punt safety and the second culminated in a dreadful Daje Johnson fumble. Matters failed to improve on the third drive, as a couple of Daje catch-and-runs went for naught as Case rifled an INT to raise the specter of a truly dreadful night in Morgantown.
Fortunately, Gerg's boys were equal to the early challenge. They surrendered a short-field TD after yet another Texas special teams miscue, but then proceeded to unleash the hounds on WVU's Clint Trickett. The law firm of Jackson, Jeffcoat and Reed dropped Trickett three times in five West Virginia plays, with the third yielding a fumble that put Texas on the board with a Fera field goal. The offense was still stumbling and staggering, but the game was within a score.
It looked like the Mountaineers would be stuck on 9 all night, as former starter Paul Millard was summoned after Trickett's injury and proceeded to play like he's been hitting the moonshine on the sideline. Wild throws bracketed a fumble after yet another sack from Reed, and Malcolm Brown chewed up most of the resultant short field to put the Longhorns up 10-9.
Texas oddly layed off the WVU wideouts on the next drive, allowing the floundering Millard to catch a rhythm and complete some throws underneath coverage. Sims punched it in against a very soft front, and WVU had reclaimed the lead. Gerg changed tactics and sent pressure, and Millard predictably coughed up the ball yet again on a Byndom blitz to set Texas up for another Fera field goal. Settling for three on turnovers is a recipe for drama rather than domination, unfortunately, and drama was forthcoming after halftime.
The second half lent itself less to linear storytelling and more to impressions yanked from a wild-ass maelstrom. Those impressions included:
- A terrific pick from Adrian Phillips, whose redemption from a lost 2012 campaign is complete as he's paired timely plays in the passing game with robust run defense as Texas' de facto third linebacker in nickel sets
- A hideous open-field matador act from Phillips' backfield mate, as eye-wateringly bad gaffes from Mykkele Thompson helped to key a pair of West Virginia scores
- Panache giving way to power in the Texas run game, as Johnathan Gray ripped off some dazzling runs before being lost to injury. Malcolm Brown was stolid rather than spectacular in Gray's stead, but he ran tough between the tackles and was an important element to several of Texas' second half scoring drives. Summoned from the doghouse by necessity, Bergeron showed his customary pop along with some quality vision as he bounced outside to score from eight yards out and staked Texas to a four point lead in the 4th.
- A dominating defense basically ceding the field at some point in the third quarter, allowing TDs on three out of four WVU drives to turn a punchout into a shootout. Why2K's pathetic display has already been referenced, but linebacker miscues and more ill-timed naptime from Duke Thomas (on a slant rather than a deep ball this week) gave West Virginia much easier scores than they should have managed with a QB of Millard's "talent".
- Case McCoy continuing his run as the most enigmatic player of the Mack Brown era. He keeps finding new ways to both horrify and amaze, or maybe it's more accurate to say that he keeps finding new opportunities to horrify and amaze in the same ways. The throwing motion occasional decision making are hide-your-eyes bad, but his consistent ability to hit 25-40 yard fades on the boundary sideline are borderline amazing - especially when he's put up as much film as he has of that being his real money throw. It worked like a charm to Magic Mike in the third, and drew another PI to Mike on the same throw. As predicted, McCoy had room to work his bread and butter hitch-and-slant game over the middle, and also dropped a sweet corner throw in for Jaxon Shipley late in the fourth. We all keep waiting for the defense that will ruthlessly punish Case for his shortcomings, and he keeps defying expectations.
- With the game on the line in overtime, Steve Edmond seemed like the unlikeliest hero - until you remembered the half-dozen great coverage plays he's made in space over the last couple of seasons. He may absolutely doom Texas any time he's asked to chase a crosser, but when he can drop back and read a QB's eyes on throws aimed over his head he turns into Derrick Brooks. He knocked down a would-be TD on third down before getting both mitts on Millard's last-gasp attempt to send the Longhorns home victorious.
It was a wild, wooly West Virginia evening. Dozens of Mack Brown obituaries got ripped up in the game's final minutes, and the Longhorns' Shock the Big Twelve Tour sustained itself for another week. I'm more or less past explaining it at this point, and even the chronicling gets confusing. But by God, the Longhorns keep on winning. And I'm more unreservedly happy about that than I would have guessed.