For most of the game, the Longhorn offense was as toothless as the West Virginia Appalachians throwing the Horns downward like the inevitable downward spiraling of their lives, with Case McCoy throwing the ball like the Steve Rogers Before picture in the Captain America movie and the Longhorn running game rendered ponderous by an overloaded WVU defensive front.
It's odd to characterize a 47-40 game as a defensive struggle, but it was.
Fortunately, the Longhorn defense came to play no matter how many short fields the offense and special teams ceded, and McCoy got his injection of Super Soldier Serum - OK, Kinda Average Soldier Serum - just in time to pee in the Red Skull's eye sockets.
A flawed win can sit in your craw a lot of different ways - from "eh, we'll take it and go get 'em next week" to "this feels like a loss and portent of awful things to come", but when Steve Edmond sealed the game with consecutive plays on the ball in overtime that would make Ed Reed blush with pride, and the Horn players sprinted to the visitor's section, I immediately forgave four quarters of mistakes to marvel at what makes college football so unique and so awesomely enjoyable: guileless displays of uncalculating, spontaneous, total joy.
At that moment, I didn't care what this may mean for Mack's future or what it says about our team against Baylor, much less Oklahoma State. Texas won. Hook 'em.
Applewhite will be getting quite a bit of grief for an offense that showed the variety of Nate Boyer's Iraqi MRE rations, but I find myself strangely feeling for the Ginger Assassin. WVU's DC watched film, went all in on Case McCoy not being very good at football, and played 60 minutes of "I-dare-you" coverages despite starting a secondary comprised of freshmen and converted safeties who had recruiting letters from Marist and Yeshivah. 0 coverage with an extra man in the pass rush was the order of the evening.
Given that McCoy offers you nothing in the running game and he spent three quarters redefining inadequate as a passer, what exactly is Applewhite left with? Outside of wanting more screens to the RBs and some more counter plays, I couldn't come up with much. The Case Rules, dude.
The WVU DC - as with KU's DC - motivated by sheer desperation, and because of limited personnel, stuck to the time-honored blueprint for frustrating any Case McCoy led offense. A game plan that OU and TCU, in their arrogance, refused. Sometimes, it pays to just do what's obvious, even if it feels unsound.
Texas fans will bridle at crediting them with a solid game, but they were OK. They protected well on most downs (most WVU pressure came from an extra defender, which is on the QB, not the OL) and running repeatedly into an outnumbered front without a run threat at QB against a fairly physical WVU DL (I like Shaq Rowell and Will Clarke) isn't an easy task. Donald Hawkins struggled at times with Will Clarke, but given that he'll probably play Sundays if he can learn to play hard more consistently, I can forgive it.
Basically, WVU cheated on defense on 80% of their downs. It's up to the QB position to punish that. Or for your OC to call a spectacular game full of timely counters, screens, and misdirection. Absent that, your OL is prevented from getting relief.
Case plugged away (27 of 49 for 283 yards, 3 touchdowns, 1 pick, an awful 5.8 yards per pass attempt), but the bottom line is that an average FBS QB throws for 400+ yards against that WVU defense running those schemes. Which is probably why WVU was giving up over 8 yards per pass attempt coming into the game, including getting lit up by Bryce Petty for one billionty yards, much less Texas Tech and Kansas State's lesser signal callers. So while some fans will babble about mysticism, leadery-ness, and winnerness and that McCoy got it done, I offer you the stark relief of what WVU and the awful Paul Millard were able to do in the passing game against our much better defense and secondary with lesser WRs against heavy doses of 0 coverage - 8.1 yards per pass attempt, after an execrable start, with an OL made of Kleenex.
If the Texas offense can't take candy in the passing game, we're in for a rough finish against OSU and Baylor.
Case is playing his hardest and this is just how it is.
A shame to see Gray go out with the calf injury as he was running through tacklers and finishing runs on every carry. We needed his cutback ability against outnumbered fronts. His loss also hurt our draw/counter/screen game. Brown plugged along against outnumbered fronts and continues to be the only fan favorite running back in Longhorn history averaging less than 4 yards per carry. Bergeron showed fresh legs and a hard-nosed effort in his brief interlude. And hey, a special teams tackle! HB 4 Life, eh Joe?
I've said since the beginning that Alex De La Torre is a difference maker. GAME WINNING TOUCHDOWN, HATERZ!
Jaxon Shipley put in work with series of clutch catches and body-sacrificing third down plays and Mike Davis probably had a couple of more long touchdowns in him with better throws from the QB position, but these guys are a
Porsche - well, a mid-sized Audi sedan - being powered by a Vespa engine. Nice to see Marcus Johnson continue his emergence at WR #3.
We held WVU to less than five yard per play and forced four turnovers. Though that approach also conceded some easy single coverage throws, the percentages made sense, particularly when it was clear that our offense needed every short field it could get. Hard to fault that effort, but projecting this approach forward means disaster. The Gerg will have to seriously re-evalutate his commitment to playing three linebackers - particularly in traditional alignments - against the back end of the schedule. Against Baylor, it's a recipe for giving up a smooth 42 by halftime. Trust me on that.
Mykkele Thompson as our single deep safety is also major problem. But The Gerg shall adapt.
Domination. Reed, Jeffcoat, Brown, and Desmond Jackson (who played his best game as a Texas Longhorn- I can only credit my mid-season call out) were outstanding, combining for five sacks, three forced fumbles, and tipping a pass that led to an Adrian Phillips interception. Not to mention knocking out WVU's starting QB. That's a man's day of work.
Our lack of substitution allowed WVU to make some hay in the running game at times, but these guys were an A+ for most of the game. Hats off to the big boys.
We were rather stubborn in playing three linebackers for most of the game - to our detriment when WVU decided to start throwing against single or zero safety looks with our LBs (particularly Santos and Jinkens) not getting very good drops on passing downs. And when I say "not very good", I mean none at all. That left our secondary naked on too many downs, without even a small assurance of some help underneath or clouded QB sight lines.
Certainly one of Edmond's best games (12 tackles, interception, a key QB pressure) with his final two plays of the game about as awesome as it gets for a LB in pass coverage, and perhaps a compelling argument that big boy could have been playing TE for the last three years.
A double cornerback blitz and 0 or 1 coverage on 95% of our snaps. Pretty aggressive stuff and WVU made us pay a couple of times. We also played 10 against 11 with Thompson on the field. His contribution to the box score summed up his game effort - no presence cutting off deep routes and negligible contribution in run support or against the screen game. We'd have been better off playing another cornerback and just assigning him to shadow Charles Sims or double Kevin White.
So proud of Adrian Phillips for his continued rally from early season goat to late season star.
Duke Thomas and Carrington Byndom won more battles than they lost, but constant predictable man coverage against today's college passing offenses - even the bad ones - is a nearly impossible assignment if you want to come out smelling like a rose.
Anthony Fera was spectacular and his reliability is now worthy of the great kickers of Texas past.
That written, we're doing absolutely nothing in our return games, our coverage is shoddy, and on several punt and field goal protections, several of our guys were confused about how to line up. Allowing WVU the early punt block safety and ensuing short field touchdown gave life to a bad WVU team that might have otherwise folded given how well the Texas D went on to play in that half. Oklahoma State's return game is drooling right now.
Daje Johnson is a huge, underutilized weapon in the return game and our inability to even get basic blocking on those units is our last vestige of the Texas team we saw against BYU and Ole Miss.
I left the game with an ulcer but I had fun. Sort of like eating several questionably produced hot dogs at a state fair where the people who rode the Zipper just after you are all hurled into a corn dog stand that explodes into a propane fire. We just missed tragedy and it feels surprisingly good.