Mountaineers welcome tottering longhorns | News, Sports, Jobs
After the sixth loss of the year in West Virginia, the 2021 season is anything but over.
That’s the mentality with two games to go as the Mountaineers remain on the hunt for a bowling spot.
“It’s about us,” said head coach Neal Brown. “We have to play good football.”
The Mountaineers face a tough test in Texas this Saturday (noon, ESPN2), where the consensus seems to be that the Longhorns are better than their record of 4-6 – even after losing to Big 12 bottom-feeder Kansas last week. .
Despite all the missteps during head coach Steve Sarkisian’s first year, the offensive coordinator of the 2020 Alabama National Champion, the Texas offense still ranks second in the Big 12.
“Basically the best offense we’ll play,” said defensive coordinator Jordan Lesley. “They put pressure on you in a way that a lot of people don’t. Coach Sarkisian is doing an incredible job. You can go back as far as you want, (but) you don’t have to go any further than last year’s playoff games to see how he stresses people out in a schematic way.
The Longhorns (4-6, 2-5 Big 12) have relied heavily on the launch of running back Bijan Robinson during the Longhorns’ 10 games, as his skills and athleticism have made him the top rusher in the conference.
But Robinson suffered a dislocated elbow in last week’s loss to Kansas, knocking him out of the Longhorns’ last two games. Losing a Robinson-caliber weapon is always a tough swallow, but Texas’ deep roster softened the blow tremendously.
“Bijan Robinson didn’t score all the points,” Lesley said. “A lot of them, yes, but not all. They scored on everyone, against all styles of defense, on all opponents. They scored against the best teams in our league, they scored against very good teams that are not in our league. They are talented, they are one of the most talented attacks that we play, from top to bottom.
Quarterback Casey Thompson is one of those who should take over, given his dual threat abilities. He’s thrown for nearly 2,000 yards and 23 touchdowns this season while rushing for four more.
Thompson isn’t a traditional double threat as he doesn’t throw the ball often, but he’s efficient when he does. Lesley praised the athleticism, awareness and arm strength of the junior redshirt, who ranks seventh in the conference for total offense.
Xavier Worthy, who is the Big 12’s top wide receiver with 831 yards and 11 touchdowns, is also a factor in Texas’ offense.
“Usually when you find it they move it around, so you have to find it,” Lesley said. “It’s the chess match. They’re going to give him the ball, we know that, and he’s going to make some plays. He has against everyone. It’s not like he’s going to stop this, I would be naive to think that.
With two games remaining on the schedule, West Virginia (4-6, 2-5 Big 12) will need to win both in order to secure bowl eligibility. A win over Texas would not only stop the Mountaineer’s current slippage, but put the team closer to a bowl-season game.
“The results are self-evident, but you have to play quality football that gives you an opportunity to win,” said Brown. “That’s my goal: to play quality football. We didn’t do it on Saturday (against Kansas State), so we’re going to prepare them to leave with the goal of doing it next Saturday.