Longhorns’ bowl eligibility rests on breaking skid vs. top-25 teams

Drew Lieberman

Of the three games remaining on Texas’ football schedule, two are against top-25 teams.

The Longhorns face No. 24 West Virginia this weekend before heading to Stillwater to take on Oklahoma State. Texas then caps the season on Thanksgiving, playing host to No. 6 TCU.

At 4-5, the Longhorns will need to win at least two of their final three games to attain bowl eligibility, including at least one victory over a ranked opponent — a daunting task for a team that enters the stretch 0-4 against the top 25 on the season.

“I told our coaches that we haven’t beaten a top-25 team,” head coach Charlie Strong said. “We need to go beat one.”

The Longhorns have not defeated a team ranked in the top 25 at home since 2008, dropping nine such attempts over the past five seasons, but they hope to change that this weekend.

“Everyone’s ready to turn that around,” junior center Taylor Doyle said. “We’re excited to be back at home and have the support of our crowd. Everyone’s fired up and ready to prepare to go out and play this game.”

Strong seems to believe in the team’s chances if the fans get as involved as they were the last time West Virginia visited Austin.

“[We] want to make sure we have a plan, a plan that we can go execute and give our players the best chance to go win, and they can play with energy and play with excitement there at home and get our crowd behind us and just have fun,” Strong said 

Not only would a win this weekend be huge for the confidence of the team and its bowl chances, but it would also be the first quality victory of the Strong era.

“It’s a big opportunity for us,” sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes said. “I feel like if we just go out and execute and play like we know how to play, we’ll go out and have a good game on Saturday.”

Texas has had several chances at defeating a top-ranked team this season but failed to do so each time. With West Virginia quarterback Clint Trickett and wide receiver Kevin White playing, the offensive players know they must do their part for the team to succeed.

“Especially, we can’t turn the ball over this week — that’s going to be key,” senior wide receiver John Harris said. “You know just try to keep possession of the ball. West Virginia can go out and score, so that’s going to [be] a big key in this game — just trying to possess the ball more, and, when we get to the red zone, score more points.”

Many of the seniors realize the game this weekend is one of their last chances to leave a lasting legacy at Texas. 

“The guys are hungry,” senior cornerback Quandre Diggs said. “We want to get to a bowl game, but we’ve got to go one week at a time. I think we just need to put everything together and go out and play our best game.”