Keys to the Game

Evan Vieth, Sports Reporter

Though West Virginia is one of the weaker teams in the Big 12 so far this season, a big win against Virginia Tech on the road last week catapulted the team’s momentum. Sarkisian will need to prioritize versatility if the Longhorns want to win on Saturday.

Utilize the Wildcat in more creative ways

The Longhorns have continued using the Roschon Johnson wildcat package on offense, but it’s creating minimal success. The Wildcat features quarterback Hudson Card splitting out wide while Johnson takes a direct snap with Bijan Robinson to his side. Sarkisian used this formation last season, most notably against Kansas State last year. The reason the Longhorns can run the Wildcat is because of Roschon Johnson and Hudson Card’s positional versatility. 

Though the formation is useful and has shown success — most notably in last year’s Kansas State game when Johnson rushed for nearly 180 yards — Sarkisian has not used the full play chart that comes with the formation. Johnson has yet to throw a pass out of the formation, let alone scramble outside. But Texas Tech was more than ready for the Wildcat, with nearly 11 defenders lined up and ready to go. 

If Texas wants to beat West Virginia, then Sarkisian needs to lean more toward creativity in the formation. 

Aggressiveness on Defense

Pete Kwiatkowski has done a great job turning around the Texas defense, which ranks within the top 75, an upgrade over last year’s that was barely inside the top 100. Although the Longhorn defense has only given up more than 20 points once this season, the Texas Tech loss exposed Texas’ weak and timid defense, putting up 37 points. The Texas defense that shows up against West Virginia cannot be the same one that showed up against Texas Tech on Saturday.

Starting on the defensive line, the Longhorns have been able to generate plenty of pressure against both the run and pass. Against Texas Tech, Texas registered eight tackles for loss, but only two sacks. UTSA quarterback Frank Harris was able to constantly scramble past the possible pass rushers and breakout for first downs and large gains. It was no different for Texas Tech’s Donovan Smith, who ran for over 40 yards against the Longhorns. The pass rush needs to be able to get to Daniels and create sacks. That could mean more substitutions, such as getting freshman edge rushers like Ethan Burke and Justice Finkley involved in the rotation, or pressure from the secondary with players like Jahdae Barron.

One of the most blatant issues with the defense is stopping fourth down. Texas Tech converted six of eight fourth downs. Texas looked lost on fourth downs, and it’s fair to say that the late conversions were the deciding factor in Saturday’s game. Kwiatkowski and his staff must find a way to stop West Virginia from dominating possession, and not giving up fourth down conversions every drive is a key way of doing so.