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Where: Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, Austin, Texas
West Virginia put up historic numbers in its Big 12 opener last weekend – both offensively and defensively. The seventh-ranked Mountaineers will face a slightly stiffer defensive challenge this week when they travel to No. 9 Texas on Saturday night.
West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith put himself in the Heisman driver’s seat by passing for 656 yards and eight touchdowns against Baylor last week, but needed every score in the 70-63 victory. Longhorns quarterback David Ash has been nearly as impressive as Smith and was in a similar spot during a 41-36 win over Oklahoma State last week.
Both defenses are sure to be tested again Saturday, and both have had a tendency to give up big plays. The Mountaineers can point a finger at the secondary while Texas has struggled with missed tackles.
West Virginia Mountaineers(4-0, 1-0 Big 12): Smith is off to one of the best starts in NCAA history, passing for 1,748 yards and 20 touchdowns with no interceptions.
The senior leads the nation in passing efficiency at 208.4 and has completed an astounding 83 percent of his passes in coach Dana Holgorsen’s offense. But while the Mountaineers lead the nation in passing yards and rank third in scoring offense, they are 96th in points against, surrendering an average of 32.5.
Holgorsen was quick to praise his front seven at a Tuesday press conference while acknowledging that the secondary is young and inexperienced, which has led to some big plays and third-down conversions. The biggest assist to the defense has been Smith and the offense, which has turned the ball over only once in four games – tied for the best in the nation.
Texas Longhorns(4-0, 1-0): The Longhorns played an offense similar to West Virginia’s last week against Oklahoma State and barely escaped. The Big 12 issued an apology to the Cowboys on Wednesday, admitting to a botched call that led to Texas’ final touchdown.
The ending and the defensive lapses did not overshadow the efforts of Ash, who has taken over control of the quarterback position and ranks second in the nation behind Smith in quarterback rating. The sophomore has completed more than 80 percent of his passes in the last two games and has thrown only one interception this season.
Ash will be without running back Malcolm Brown (ankle) on Saturday, leaving Joe Bergeron a larger role in the backfield. The defense is a concern, as coach Mack Brown highlighted 12 misses tackles from the Oklahoma State game, with three of those leading to a pair of touchdowns and 109 total yards.
1. Texas is 1-4 in its last five games against top-10 opponents.
2. The schools have met only once previously, with West Virginia capturing a 7-6 victory in Austin on Oct. 6, 1956.
3. The Longhorns have won 58 straight games when winning the turnover battle.