Keys to the Game- West Virginia

Matt Warden

In a newly arranged Big 12 conference, the Texas Longhorns have looked like one of the teams to beat through four games this season.

This week will likely be the toughest test all season for the Longhorns as they face the No. 9 West Virginia Mountaineers who possess one of the best passing attacks in the nation. If they are going to remain undefeated, their game plan needs to be simple.

Contain Geno Smith:

It is no secret what the Longhorns defense will be going up against this Saturday at home. Geno Smith has completed seemingly every pass he’s thrown and has yet to turn the ball over. The Texas secondary has proven to be the weakest link of the once-formidable defense of the Longhorns. Although he has shown in the past that he can run the football just as well as he can pass it, Smith will likely look to dissect the Texas defense through the air The defense should get constant pressure on Smith, who has only been sacked three times this season. While the Longhorns will likely fail in completely shutting Smith down, they should do everything they can to at least contain his passing attack if they want to have a chance at a victory. That means wrapping up on tackles in the secondary, too.

Play Physical in Coverage: 

It will be hard to directly contain Smith, but another way the defense can increase their odds of stopping him is to get physical with his receivers. The two leading receivers for the Mountaineers stand 5-foot-9 (T. Austin) and 5-foot-10 (Bailey). To compensate for their non-prototypical size, the receivers of West Virginia run some of the most precise routes in the country, using their speed to pick up a lot of yards after the catch. To neutralize this the Longhorns should look to get physical with the receivers and jam then at the line of scrimmage. This will reduce the effect of Smith’s passing attack and force the Mountaineers to find other ways to score points. Heck, they may even have to run the ball a few times if Smith can’t find open receviers.

Keep It Moving: 

David Ash has proven through four games that he isn’t the same inconsistent quarterback from last season. He has already compiled over 1,000 passing yards to go along with 10 touchdowns. West Virginia is a defense that currently ranks No. 96 in total defense, giving up 32.5 points per contest. The defense is especially prone to yielding gaudy numbers to solid passing attacks, allowing almost 353 yards per game through the air. Ash should look to capitalize on the obvious weakness of the Mountaineer defense to rack up points. It is also important for the Longhorns to control the clock by pounding the ball inside. The Texas running backs have proven effective thus far, and if they can control the tempo and keep Smith and Co. off the field it will be easier for Texas to keep up with the Mountaineers offense. Ash seems to be coming in to his own, especially after his comeback road win in Stillwater. This week presents a new challenge and if Ash can manage this game while also making plays when needed, Texas has a good chance of heading into the Red River Rivalry undefeated.