Texas squanders golden opportunity to beat West Virginia


Elisabeth Dillon

West Virginia wide receiver Tavon Austin hauls in one of 10 catches he made in a 48-45 win over Texas Saturday, getting by Texas cornerback Josh Turner, who was part of a defense that forced two turnovers, had four sacks, and held Geno Smith to a season-low 268 yards.

Christian Corona

The Longhorns had a chance this weekend to unequivocally prove they had finally made the transition from the hapless Big 12 cellar dweller of 2010 to national title contender.

They didn’t take advantage of it. Every time Texas looked like it was going to take control of the game, it didn’t.

Missed opportunity after missed opportunity in the first three quarters still left the Longhorns with a chance to beat West Virginia. Halfway through the fourth quarter, Mountaineers quarterback and Heisman frontrunner Geno Smith conveniently coughed up the ball inside his 20-yard line. Texas recovered and, trailing by three, had a perfect chance to regain the lead.

“We had our opportunity to go ahead, with about seven minutes left to go when we forced the fumble at the 17-yard line,” head coach Mack Brown said. “I thought, ‘Here we go again. This has been our story.’”

Instead, David Ash didn’t catch a third-down snap from center Dominic Espinosa, getting dropped for a 16-yard loss, and Anthony Fera, the senior who transferred from Penn State to resurrect the Longhorns’ kicking game, missed wide right on a 41-yard field goal try that should have tied the game.

It was one of many squandered opportunities Texas had in the 48-45 loss to West Virginia Saturday in front of a Darrell K Royal Texas Memorial Stadium-record crowd of 101,851 — by far, the loudest Longhorns audience this year.

“I’m sure everyone is going to come to film tomorrow and get that feeling: ‘If I would have done one more thing right, we would have had more of a chance to win this game,’” junior guard Mason Walters said.

The Texas faithful had to endure a 40-yard touchdown toss from Smith to Tavon Austin on a 4th-and-4 in the first quarter, immediately after a sack by Malcom Brown that would have ended the drive was erased by a late timeout call from the Texas sideline. West Virginia took a 14-7 lead on the score. Another missed opportunity.

On the Mountaineers’ next drive, Mykkele Thompson, making his first career start at safety, had both hands on a Smith pass in the end zone. An incompletion that should have been Smith’s first interception of the year allowed him to find Austin for 11 yards on 4th-and-9 the next play. Another missed opportunity.

Mountaineer Andrew Buie, who gashed a Jordan Hicks-less Texas defense for 207 rushing yards, gave the Mountaineers a 21-7 advantage three plays later with a four-yard touchdown run.

But the Longhorns didn’t lay down. Johnathan Gray’s 49-yard run set up one of four Joe Bergeron rushing touchdowns. Jackson Jeffcoat fell on a Smith fumble in the end zone on the ensuing possession to tie the game at 21.

Even after the Mountaineers took the lead back with a field goal on their next drive, it still seemed like the Longhorns were winning.

“The whole game I thought we were going to win,” Ash said. “We came in and just came up a bit short. We had opportunities, and I was proud of the way this team battled. We didn’t make some of the plays we needed to.”

In fact, the Longhorns went into the fourth quarter leading, 38-34. But that lead was quickly erased and, despite West Virginia handing Texas the game on a silver platter later in the final period, the Longhorns suffered their first loss of the year.

A missed opportunity.

Printed on Monday, October 8, 2012 as: MISSED OPPORTUNITIES: Horns squander chances to beat WVU, can't turn late fumble into go-ahead TD