Defensive matchups

Peter Sblendorio

Defensive Line

The Longhorns’ line has struggled a bit finishing plays this season, which is evidenced by a lackluster total of nine sacks in four games. This does not mean that they have been ineffective, as the Texas lineman have done a solid job in stopping the run and hurrying throws from opposing quarterbacks. The Mountaineers have been a little bit stronger in bringing down the quarterback, earning 13.0 sacks through four games, but opposing quarterbacks have generally been more effective against West Virginia than they have against the Longhorns. Texas is holding teams to 8.3 pass yards per attempt compared to the 9.1 yards allowed per pass by the Mountaineers, and this is due to the ability of the Longhorns’ line to create pressure even when it’s not recording sacks.

Advantage: University of Texas



Linebacker has been the Longhorns’ most suspect position this season, and they have had several missed tackles turn into large gains for opponents. This unit is significantly weaker without Jordan Hicks and his status is still in question for Saturday night. Overall, the Texas linebacking corps has been decent with room for improvement and it is largely responsible for allowing opposing runners to 4.8 yards per carry. The Mountaineers have been much more effective stopping the run, limiting the opposition to just 2.8 yards per carry and the team’s solid linebacker unit is essential in this statistic. There are some questions about the ability to defend the pass, but its capability to stuff the run gives West Virginia the edge.

Advantage: West Virginia


Defensive backs

The West Virginia defensive backs were greatly exploited last Saturday against Baylor, as the Bears’ Nick Florence passed for 581 yards and five touchdowns. Overall, teams are averaging 356.5 yards per game through the air against the Mountaineers and have scored on 10 passing touchdowns. The Longhorns have been solid in the secondary, holding opponents to just 210.2 passing yards per game and the defense has recorded seven interceptions so far. The Texas secondary faces its toughest test of the season Saturday in Geno Smith, but so far it has been the superior unit.

Advantage: University of Texas


Special teams

Both teams have done a solid job on limiting the opposition on returns this year, but Texas has been stronger in returns of their own this season. The Longhorns are averaging 28.1 yards on kickoff returns so far and they scored their first return touchdown of the year last Saturday. On punt returns, Texas has also excelled, averaging 16.2 yards on four attempts. West Virginia has also done a nice job in these categories, averaging 20 yards on kickoff returns and 5.7 yards on punt returns, but has yet to score on either. Neither team has been especially efficient on field goals, with Texas going three-of-seven and West Virginia making one-of-two, but both teams’ abilities to get in the end zone has rendered this point moot so far.

Advantage: University of Texas