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Jump around, indeed.
West Virginia has emphatically answered any questions as to its viability as a national player. The No. 7 Mountaineers rode a career-high 207 rushing yards from Andrew Buie and two defensive stands in the final 10 minutes to beat No. 9 Texas 48-45 here in Austin Saturday night.
It was arguably an out-of-character style for a program being steadily developed by head coach and Air Raid guru Dana Holgorsen. WVU used a bruising offensive line performance and Buie’s steady, sure-handed style to bust Texas in the mouth. It was akin to a finesse boxer suddenly discovering punching power, and it jawdropped the Longhorns in front of the largest crowd in school history.
Make no mistake. With Heisman contender Geno Smith still throwing for 268 yards and four touchdowns – three to Stedman Bailey, who broke his own single season school record for scores with 13 – it wasn’t as though the Mountaineers resembled the run-based teams that have been the program’s signature lineage. But Buie’s 31 carries were more than West Virginia had as a team in two of its games this year, and it showcased the very mantra of its offensive idea – if it works, do it again.
And, oh, how it worked against Texas. The Longhorns were routinely gashed via the inside zone, and the punch that landed all game also delivered the knockout blow when Buie tallied 53 yards on WVU’s final scoring possession, including his second score of the game on a five-yard touchdown run that pushed the edge to 48-38 with a minute left.
That came after two scoreless UT possessions, which essentially decided the game. The Longhorns were in position to at least tie the game at 41-41 when WVU played its best Texas hold'em and forced a four-and-out when quarterback David Ash’s pass was broken up by much-maligned cornerback Pat Miller. West Virginia took over, only to see Smith promptly fumble for a second time in his own red zone, and the crowd of 101,851 built to a crescendo after Chris Whaley recovered and UT blared the de facto House of Pain favorite, Jump Around.
The issue for the ‘Horns is that the team embraced the artist rather than the song and hooked a 41-yard field goal wide right. The fickle momentum mistress was back on the West Virginia sideline, and Buie courted her to the aisle as Mountaineer fans danced in them when he punched in for the final margin.
Texas got one final score, then couldn’t recover the onside kick. One last kneeldown by Smith, and West Virginia had its signature Big 12 win in its inaugural road game.
“It’s Texas,” said Tavon Austin, who came into the city of his namesake and finished with almost 200 yards of total offense, including electrifying kickoff returns of 44 and 68 yards that set-up the first two Mountaineer scores.
“I can’t say enough how proud I am for these guys to come into this environment,” Holgorsen said. “I’ve never seen this place like this. I’ve been here when it wasn’t loud, but it was loud tonight. And for us to be able to overcome that was pretty cool.”
It was a win that struck deep at the heart of Texas. And very much touched those of the 20,000 Mountaineer fans that invaded Austin, and the millions more watching around the nation and world. After Smith took the snap and a knee, the Mountaineers took to the stands and celebrated with its fan base, which packed into Darrell K. Royal-Memorial Stadium in numbers unseen.
“Hey, we made plays when we needed to,” WVU defensive coordinator Joe DeForest said. “We got some big stops.”
It’s becoming an all too familiar refrain for the ‘Horns (4-1, 1-1), who lost to a top 25 team for the eighth time in nine tries and slowed a streak that saw them win 18 of 19 games decided by three points or less.
“We couldn’t stop the run,” UT head coach Mack Brown said. “We knew it would come down to who made the most plays. And you’ve got to give them credit. They made the critical plays.”
West Virginia (5-0, 2-0) finished five-of-five on fourth down conversions, including a pair on a key drive to retake the lead at 41-38 after Texas had pulled ahead. WVU finished with a 460-404 yardage edge and overcame the most difficult of ratios, a 2-to-1 deficit in the turnover battle.
“Without that,” Smith said of his fumbles, “it would have been a different game.”
No matter. If everything’s bigger in Texas, nothing tops this smash-down-the-door Big 12 victory that kept WVU atop the conference and securely in the top 10, and in the national psyche.
“I think it does,” Bailey replied when asked if this win validates WVU as a national title contender.
And there’s not much to argue. On the road. Against a top 10 foe. At night. In front of the largest crowd in a state where size is a bragging right.
WVU outhit Texas. It outgained Texas. It out-skilled Texas. And it did it all with a style and flair for both the dramatic and the most simplistic of executions. There were mistakes. It wasn’t a flawless performance by either team. But, right now, that blemish is looking more like a beauty mark and less like a mole.