Where’s the rock bottom? Texas falls yet again in 31-23 loss to West Virginia to make it six straight defeats

Nathan Han, Sports Reporter

There’s always more room to fall for Texas.

Just as the Longhorns seemed to have hit rock bottom after losing to Kansas last week, they came out flat and completely out of it at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown, West Virginia.

Four straight three-and-outs. Wide-open West Virginia receivers. A team that looked lost on both offense and defense.

In Saturday’s matchup of two 4–6 teams battling for bowl eligibility, Texas couldn’t come back from a 21-7 first half deficit and lost its sixth game in a row, 31-23.

The reeling Longhorns fought back to bring the game within one score twice. After redshirt freshman quarterback Hudson Card replaced redshirt junior Casey Thompson to begin the half, he threw a 52-yard back shoulder touchdown pass to Xavier Worthy. The freshman wide receiver hauled it in to make the score 21-17.

In the fourth quarter, some chunk run plays, including a 25-yard dash from junior Keilan Robinson, who stepped in admirably for the injured sophomore Bijan Robinson, brought  the Longhorns within one score again at 28-23.

But two back-breaking plays that will haunt defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski for months this offseason killed Texas’s chances of coming back: a third-and-18 conversion and a third-and-15 conversion.

After Worthy’s touchdown, a Longhorn pass rush that was mostly ineffective Saturday came alive when Kwiatkowski elected to drop eight into coverage and rush three and give the rushers extra time. First, it was redshirt freshman defensive tackle Vernon Broughton with a sack. Then, it was his partner on the defensive line, junior T’Vondre Sweat’s turn to take down West Virginia quarterback Jarret Doege in the backfield for a loss.

But Doege hit the first of two daggers that extinguished any hope for a comeback, finding a soft spot in the zone Texas sat back in all game to throw to wide receiver Winston Wright.

The Mountaineer quarterback made a similar play on a third-and-15 after the Keilan Robinson-led drive, putting West Virginia up 31-23 with 7:03 left in the fourth quarter.

Then the wheels came off for the Texas offense, which went scoreless in the first quarter for the third straight game before showing signs of life in the second and third quarters.

But with the game on the line, the Longhorn players couldn’t stay upright. First, it was Robinson who was slow to get up after the first play of the drive. Then, after a dink-and-dunk drive advanced to the West Virginia 28-yard line, almost everything that could have gone wrong in one play did for the Longhorns.

Robinson dropped a short crossing route pass and limped off the field. Card was hit as he threw and dragged by West Virginia defensive lineman Taijh Alston for several yards after the play, also limping to a Texas sideline screaming for a flag. And junior left guard Junior Angilau, the rare bright spot in an offensive line that began creating significant holes in the run game in the second half, was slow to get up himself, leaving the game.

Thompson returned to the game to throw a misplaced ball across the middle of the field for a Mountaineer interception. He’d come back with less than a minute to try to heave one last gasp before hurting an already-injured thumb on one of the last plays of the game.

It was the final nail in the coffin in the game and for Texas’s bowl eligibility hopes, which now rest on a win against Kansas State and a lack of 6–6 bowl eligible teams.

As head coach Steve Sarkisian goes back to the drawing board, with three-and-a-half injured running backs, two hurt quarterbacks and a reeling defense that couldn’t contain the worst rushing attack in the Big 12, it might be tempting to look forward to the future.

Texas returns home Thanksgiving week to play Kansas State. A 4-win regular season — the worst in program history since 1994 — is certainly on the table..

There’s always more room to fall for the Longhorns.