Just two games into conference season, West Virginia has one of their biggest tests of 2019: No. 11 Texas.
While the Longhorn offense boasts experience, the same can’t be said for their defense — which starts seven underclassmen, including a pair of freshmen. Just because they’re youthful, though, doesn’t mean they lack talent.
“They play a lot of different guys,” said WVU head coach Neal Brown. “They’ve had some injuries there, but they’ve got a lot of depth — and I can’t tell a whole lot of difference between their ones and their twos. I think they’re really talented.”
Texas’s high-powered offense is going to score, and Brown knows that. In order to keep up, the Mountaineers will have to make some big plays on offense against the Texas defense.
Those big plays, Brown says, when the Mountaineers win their individual matchups — something he has said for weeks.
“When you’re playing this type of offense that has the ability to put a lot of points on the board, you’ve got to go into it understanding that, hey, you’re gonna have to make some big plays,” he said. “And that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re gonna have to throw the ball 50 yards down the field. What it…means is you’re gonna have to break tackles, you’ve gotta be able to get north-and-south when you’re running after the catch, and those are some things we’ve gotta do to keep the chains moving.”
West Virginia has struggled to get their yards in bunches so far. In their first four games, the Mountaineers have had just 14 plays of 20 yards or more — 7 of which came against NC State in week 3. Brown says that this doesn’t just happen overnight, and that it was an emphasis during their bye week.
The Mountaineers have shown great strides in their running game, which was almost last in the country after two weeks. With a massive defensive line (all three starters weigh over 290 pounds, including the 340-pound freshman Keondre Coburn) WVU once again has their work cut out for them.
“They run a bunch of D-linemen in, and they’re big,” Brown said. “They’ve got a size advantage across the board versus us.”
The success of the offense could ultimately come down to the passing game, on which West Virginia has relied to get wins this season. Texas relies on a lot of disguise to run their defense — both in scheme and personnel. The Longhorns aim to confuse the opposing quarterback, so Brown says the goal is to help Kendall recognize what the defense will do pre-snap, followed by “quick, concise reads” to make during the play.
Personnel-wise, the Longhorns are young but deep. They have three sophomores starting in the secondary, as well as a few more cycling in from the sideline. Pair that with some injury-related question marks, Brown says it’s tough to say who will be on the field for Texas on Saturday.
“I know this: when we line up and play, there’s gonna be some really good guys in the secondary,” he said. “Who it’s gonna be, I don’t really know — but I know they’re gonna be good players.”