Fast start, defensive improvement key for Texas against West Virginia

Nick Castillo

Texas hopes to find an answer for its road woes in West Virginia on Saturday. Its goal: score first.

The Longhorns have a 112-10 deficit on the road this year. But the team is undefeated under head coach Charlie Strong in games in which it has scored first.

“We need to get off to a good start,” Strong said. “It relies on the quarterback. If he plays well, then we’re going to get off to a good start.”

Offensive woes have plagued the Longhorns, who average 175 yards less on the road than they do at home. Play-caller Jay Norvell said he believes Texas can beat West Virginia.

“We need a breakthrough on the road against a good football team and we haven’t done it yet this year,” Norvell said.

“We’re certainly capable of all these games on our schedule. If we perform the way we are capable of, we can put together games where we can win on everybody left on our schedule.”

Redshirt freshman quarterback Jerrod Heard, who has passed for just 84 yards in Texas’ three road games, said his performance will decide the game.

“When you get the ball first in your hands you have a lot of responsibility to put points up,” Heard said. “I feel like when I get the ball in my hands so I have a responsibility to get the ball to my athletes on the outside edge.”

Strong and the players said there was more focus at practice after losing to Iowa State. They said they want the same effort this week leading up to West Virginia.

“It’s going to be a tough road test for us this week, having to go up to West Virginia, and any time you’re on the road you’ve got to have your focus,” Strong said. “I expect our team to go out, and it starts this week in practice because if we make it tough on them in practice then you expect it to carry over to the game, and it’s got to be a buildup with the preparation and the execution, each and every day.”

Texas looks to take the pressure of the offense by containing the Mountaineer attack. Junior safety Dylan Haines said the team wants to channel the confidence it shows at home when it plays on the road.

“You look at the way we’ve played on the road and it just hasn’t been our standard,” Haines said. “We’ve just got to take the excitement and the passion that we come out and we play with at home and take it on the road, and I think that’s the million-dollar question at this point.”