WEST VIRGINIA vs. TEXAS
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — This time, it’s under the lights.
West Virginia hosts Big 12 leader Texas in a 7 p.m. kickoff Saturday for the first prime-time game at Milan Puskar Stadium this season. I'll have a recap up right after the final whistle. Fire away in the comments section and follow on Twitter at both @mountaineersPG and @stephenjnesbitt for more frequent updates through the game.
Matchup: West Virginia (4-5, 2-4 Big 12) vs. Texas (6-2, 5-0 Big 12), 7 p.m. today, Milan Puskar Stadium, Morgantown, W.Va. The Longhorns are favored by 6 1/2.
TV, Radio, Internet: FOX, Mountaineer Sports Network, Sirius 92, XM 196.
West Virginia: WVU won the last meeting, 48-45, in Austin, Texas. … Mountaineers have 13 fumble recoveries, second only to North Texas. … Kicker Josh Lambert has hit nine consecutive field goals in the last month.
Texas: QB David Ash is out with a concussion, leaving Case McCoy to start. … Longhorns have won five straight games and lead the Big 12. … RB Malcolm Brown ran for 119 yards and four touchdowns vs. Kansas last week.
Hidden stat: Now with 23 takeaways, the WVU defense has surpassed its 2012 total (20) with three games remaining.
[AFTER THE CLICK: THREE KEYS]
• Take care of the ball: The Mountaineers finally nosed above the even marker in turnover margin this week and sit at a nice, round +2. QB Clint Trickett hasn’t exactly shown major improvement in limiting mistakes, having five interceptions to his five touchdown passes this season, but WVU has made it work. Winning solves a lot, and WVU is just two wins from being bowl eligible, which seemed a pretty long shot last week. Some bad news on the turnover front: WVU has fumbled 11 times, worse than all but 10 D-I teams. Some good news: The defense has more than made up for that, recovering 13 fumbles, second to only North Texas. Opponents have fumbled 20 times and WVU has recovered 65 percent of the time — that’ll do, gents.
• Get Sims going early: RB Charles Sims is what we thought he was. He’s a tailback with the speed to outrun a safety, the strength to create holes, and the vision to make even the West Virginia offensive line look good. When he transferred the WVU from Houston as a graduate transfer this offseason, we expected these 20-plus carry, 100-plus yard rushing games. But, alas, we’ve seen them only twice, once in the opener (23 carries, 120 yards, 1 TD) and again last week in WVU’s overtime win over TCU (24 carries, 154 yard, 2 TDs). In the seven games in between he never cracked 20 carries or 100 yards once, twice getting just eight carries. That ain’t gonna work. RB coach JaJuan Seider said it best: “The more touches he has the more big plays he can make. We made a conscientious effort [last week] to put him in the backfield and let him run the ball. We’d be crazy not to take advantage of him. We’ve got three more games; you don’t get this type of player too often. You’ve got to maximize him while you’ve got him.” RB Andrew Buie ran for 207 yards on Texas last year; the Longhorns have allowed 194 rushing yards per game; it’s the rush defense that got DC Manny Diaz fired in September. This is one game that will hinge fully on WVU’s ability to establish the line of scrimmage and get Sims churning out the yards as the true engine of the offense.
• Knock down McCoy: The thing about Texas QB Case McCoy is he’s consistent — you know what you’re going to get from him: a steady, unspectacular performance that probably won’t lose the game but definitely won’t win it. McCoy is 4-1 as a starter this season since replacing QB David Ash (concussion) in Week 2. He’s ticked along at 60.8 percent completions but has thrown as many interceptions (five) as touchdowns (five). The front nine for WVU will be focused on limiting RBs Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray but needs to get into the backfield and knock McCoy down more than a time or two. If McCoy is rattled, he’s proven pick-worthy, and the WVU secondary has combined for 10 interceptions this season (30th).
THIS WEEK IN LINKS
• WVU live chat transcript (11.6)
• WVU releases full 2014 schedule (11.5)
• WVU victory a month in the making (11.3)