Mountaineers will face first Big 12 road test against Texas

By Robert Kreis

The Daily Athenaeum, West Virginia U. via UWIRE

A rambunctious crowd of more than 100,000 will await the West Virginia football team for its inaugural Big 12 Conference road game Oct. 6 when it travels to Texas Memorial Stadium to battle the conference-gem Texas Longhorns.

The Longhorns, who are ready to bounce back after a couple of down years, will welcome West Virginia to Austin for the first time since 1956. The Mountaineers won the only game between the two schools, 7-6, in a defensive battle.

The West Virginia defense will look to be a major influence once again, particularly against the Longhorn rushing attack. Texas features a herd of running backs who rushed for a total of 2,634 yards last season. Leading the Longhorn stampede was sophomore Malcolm Brown, who will look to build on his freshman season, when he ran for 742 yards and five touchdowns.

Joining Brown in the Texas backfield is fellow super sophomore Joe Bergeron. Bergeron rushed for 463 yards and five scores in his debut season playing for his home state’s Longhorns. Seniors D.J. Monroe, Jeremy Hills and sophomore Heath Hohmann will also look to contribute to the UT rushing attack.

While the Longhorns operate a stable of running backs, there is a revolving door at the quarterback position. Last season, sophomore David Ash shared time with junior Case McCoy, younger brother to Texas star Colt McCoy, now with the Cleveland Browns.

While Ash led the Longhorns in passing yards with 1,068, he struggled with efficiency, throwing just four touchdowns compared to eight interceptions. McCoy tossed the ball for 1,045 yards and seven touchdowns while only throwing four picks.

It will be interesting to see how the Longhorns’ quarterback situation develops through the summer and into the season. Will Ash – who has all the physical tools you can ask a gunslinger to have – emerge as the starter, or will it be McCoy who captures the hearts of the Texas faithful with his gutsy play? Of course, the Longhorns could continue to allocate both quarterbacks playing time like they did last season.

While the Longhorns are struggling to find their leader under center, the rest of the squad looks to build upon last year’s success. Returning 10 seniors on offense, Texas may just be a quarterback away from contending for the national championship, especially with their stingy defense made up of a number of five-star Texas recruits.

Last season, the Longhorns owned a defense that finished No. 11 in the nation in a conference known for their offensive fire power. West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith will have to be on his toes with two of Texas’ six defensive starters coming along the defensive line.

Senior defensive end Alex Okafor as well as junior defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat will look to neutralize Smith, and Coach Dana Holgorsen’s pass happy Mountaineers. Okafor registered seven sacks last season while Jeffcoat recorded eight, helping the Texas defense rank No. 10 in defensive pass efficiency.

The Longhorns are expected to lead the Big 12 in defense next year, but if there’s a weakness, it comes along the interior. Not only do the Longhorns have to replace linebackers Emmanuel Echo and Keenan Robinson, both to the NFL, but there is a gap in the interior defensive line. Incoming freshman Malcolm Brown, the fifth best recruit according to Scouts.com, will look to be a major contributor as well as junior college transfer Brandon Moore.

With Texas’ bulldozing defense as their strength, the outcome of the game could be based on how Holgorsen and the Mountaineers’ high-flying offense works against the tough Longhorn defense.

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