Texas went into the bye week on a high note after beating the Oklahoma State Cowboys 36-30 with a dominant performance by the defensive line. Now refreshed, Texas comes out of its first bye week of the season and looks forward to West Virginia.
Injuries seem less daunting
It’s been no secret how injuries have affected the Longhorns this season. The secondary and backfield have thinned almost weekly, but with a week off, they finally took one step closer to full health.
In his weekly press conference, head coach Tom Herman listed sophomore safety B.J. Foster as probable while citing that senior wide reciever Collin Johnson and sophomore safety DeMarvion Overshown will return to the practice field this week. Whether they will recover in time for Saturday’s matchup against the Mountaineers is unknown.
In the backfield, highly touted five-star recruit Jordan Whittington’s timetable remains uncertain. “I don’t know that this weekend is out of the question,” Herman said. “But we’re certainly not expecting him to be cleared for this one.”
The freshman running back, who was injured in Week One against Louisiana Tech, has been rehabbing after undergoing surgery to repair a sports hernia injury.
At the time, his injury seemed to be more detrimental and left only one scholarship running back on the depth chart. However, with the emergence of freshman running back Roschon Johnson and return of junior running back Daniel Young, the blow of Whittington’s absence is softened.
Special Teams look to right the ship
Muffed punts were the most outstanding issue in Texas’ narrow escape from Oklahoma State. Both senior safety Brandon Jones and freshman wide receiver Jake Smith had problems putting the ball on the ground — the two muffed punts eventually led to 14 points for the Cowboys, a performance Herman later described as “embarrassing.”
A week later, Herman’s stance is slightly different.
“They’re both unique instances when they dropped it. Jake’s was more — a lot more fundamentals,” Herman said. “He let it get through his hands, and his elbows got separated, so it’s just consistency with perfect technique that he’s got to work on and Brandon, it’s my fault … he was doing what he thought he was being coached to do.”
With a myriad of faults and triumphs coming from special teams, the importance of Jones and Smith and their ability to field punts will be paramount against West Virginia.
Road environments won’t shock younger players
When Texas kicks off in Morgantown, it will be the first true road game of the season. The only game the Longhorns have played outside of Austin was a 48-13 victory against Rice, making the out-of-state trek a new experience for many.
“A lot of these young guys, it will be the first time they get on an airplane to go to a game. It will be the first time we are in a true ‘hostile’ environment for them, and this venue is a very difficult one to play in,” Herman said. “At the end of the day, these guys have played a lot of football … When the ball is kicked off, where you’re playing the game is irrelevant, if we choose to make it that way.”
Saturday in West Virginia will be the first of two out-of-state road trips for the Longhorns, with the other being a trip to Ames, Iowa to face the Cyclones in November. While Texas has many experienced players who have played in big games, road games generally bring unpredictability with them.