By Wendell Barnhouse | email@example.com
AUSTIN, Texas - Making sense of college football can fry your brain cells. The term "wrap your head around it" requires a boxcar load of Saran Wrap.
West Virginia gives up four sacks (equaling the number allowed in its four games), turned it over twice inside its own 30, ran it seven more times than its Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback threw it and had to convert five fourth downs.
Texas gained 404 yards, won the turnover and time of possession battles plus threw for yards than the Mountaineers, the nation's most explosive offense.
And your final score from a rocking Darrell K. Royal/Memorial Stadium Saturday night: No. 7 West Virginia 48, No. 9 Texas 45.
Confusing? Yes. The winning coach sat down at a table after the game and talked about his team playing well in all three phases, how it didn't turn the ball over before for the fifth straight game.
"Ah, I guess we did lose two fumbles, now that I think about it," West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. "I gotta lot of stuff going through my head right now."
It was the high-scoring game that was expected - it was the most points UT has ever scored in a loss - but the teams got there in atypical fashion. WVU senior quarterback Geno Smith didn't post video game numbers (25-of-35 for 268 yards and four touchdowns) but a second-string running back had a career night.
Andrew Buie knifed through the Longhorns' defense for 207 yards on 31 carries. Senior running back Shawne Alston missed his third consecutive game but Buie, a 5-9, 185-pound sophomore provided the balance needed to keep UT's voracious defensive front at bay.
"We committed to the run," Holgorsen said. "There weren't any tricks. Our offensive line did a great job of digging their fingers in the ground and coming off the ball. We ran it right at 'em and that alleviated some of the pressure on Geno. If we were gonna just drop back every play, Texas was gonna have 12 sacks, maybe 20.
"It was in our best interest to commit to the run and we challenged 'em all week about that."
West Virginia's defense faced a challenging week after giving up 63 points and 700 yards in last week's victory over Baylor. When senior cornerback Pat Miller walked into the interview room, defensive coordinator Joe DeForest gave him a shout out.
"Pat Miller, that guy right there deserves all the credit. He made a play when he needed to make a play," DeForest said.
After West Virginia took the lead for good, Texas tried to answer but its drive stalled. On fourth-and-13 from the WVU 39, quarterback David Ash tried to find Mike Davis but Miller locked him down and out, batting the pass away.
"We knew what to expect on that play, I was locked in on the receiver and broke on the ball" Miller said. "We'd been hearing it all week. A lot of people criticized us. We feed off that. The offense always had our back, we needed to back them up."
And they did. Two plays after Miller's play, Smith was sacked on a remarkable effort by UT's Alex Okafor. Smith fumbled and the Longhorns recovered at the 12 trailing by three. The Longhorns were on the cusp of ending a seven-game losing streak to ranked teams.
The Mountaineers limited UT to four yards on two rushing plays, forcing the Longhorns into the shotgun on third-and-six from the 8. As the play clock clicked to one, center Dominic Espinosa snapped the ball. It sailed past Ash for a 16-yard loss. Anthony Fera, who transferred from Penn State and was seeing his first action, pushed his 41-yard field goal attempt wide right.
"That was my fault. I let the play clock bleed down too low. I should have caught it," Ash said.
"We hear it every single day to control the things that we can," Texas running back Jeremy Hills said of the botched snap. "West Virginia didn't do anything on that play. That was all us and we can control that."
West Virginia put the game away with an eight-play, 76-yard drive. Smith converted a laser to Stedman Bailey (eight catches, 75 yards, three touchdowns) on a second-and-11 but Buie accounted for the other 65 yards. His seventh carry on the drive was a 5-yard scoring run with 1:18 remaining.
"Going into the game running the ball wasn't their strength," UT senior safety Kenny Vaccaro said. "The run game basically saved them."
Smith said the offensive line told him that they were going to control the line of scrimmage on the final drive. Buie said his blockers made the job easy. As easy as the touchdown he failed to score late in the first half when the "turf monster" tripped him at the Texas 19 when he was cruising toward the end zone after a reception. The Mountaineers settled for a field goal and a 28-27 halftime deficit.
"The offensive line said 'follow me.' At the end of the game, it was on their shoulders and all I had to do was run," said Buie, whose previous career high was 82 yards last week against Baylor. "With coach Holgorsen, you never know what the game plan is gonna be. You just have to be prepared every game because you never know what plays he's gonna call."
Oct. 6 will go down as a great day to be a Mountaineer. West Virginia won its first Big 12 road game while improving its record to 5-0 overall and 2-0 in league play. Meanwhile, No. 3 Florida State, No. 4 LSU and No. 5 Georgia all lost. The Mountaineers can cue up "The Jeffersons" theme because they're movin' on up.
"We don't care what people think, to be honest with you," Holgorsen said. "We care what our players, what our coaches think. The people on the outside looking in don't affect me. What I feel good about is we overcome adversity in a hostile environment."
The announced attendance of 101,851 was a record. Three times the public address announcer blasted House of Pain's "Jump Around" and the UT sideline turned into a bounce house. When the song was played at the start of the fourth quarter with Texas leading 38-34, the Mountaineers joined in.
"I love going into a stadium with 100,000 people and hearing them booing you," Buie said.
After Buie's final touchdown, the Mountaineers turned to the UT crown and flashed the upside down hook 'em sign that UT opponents have relished flashing after beating the Longhorns.
"The crowd was chanting 'Geno sucks.' Where does that come from? Obviously, I don't," said a smiling Smith, who after taking a knee in the victory formation at game's end fired the ball 30 rows deep into the stands behind the WVU bench. "We've seen that 'hook 'em' sign. We're fast learners. The crowd was great, into it the whole game.
"I think in the end, we had earned the right to boast a little bit."