MORGANTOWN - What a difference a year makes.
West Virginia's first road trip of 2012 pitted a pair of teams ranked among the nation's top 25 teams powered by offenses that were scoring points in bunches and defenses that were just trying to make an occasional stop to allow their offenses to shine that much brighter.
That won't be the scenario today night at Milan Puskar Stadium as neither the Longhorns from the University of Texas (6-2, 5-2 Big 12) or WVU's Mountaineers (4-5, 2-4 Big 12) are listed as one of the nation's elites and both offenses have developed a 'be physical first' attitude which has allowed their defenses to spend more time on the sidelines.
"Offensively, they (Texas) have settled in to who they are," WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen said. "They are a physical team. Probably the most physical team we have played up until this point.
"Texas has a lot of depth, as they have been preparing for Big 12 football for quite some time. They have settled in at quarterback with (Texas senior quarterback) Case McCoy. They are like nine other teams in the Big 12 who have had quarterback issues like ourselves, whether it is because of injuries or productivity. He (Case McCoy) is getting better with each snap, and they rely on him to run the offense. Texas is good up front. They have three running backs that are all capable of being the starter."
Words that could just as easily be used to describe the Mountaineers in 2013.
Texas (6-2, 5-0 Big 15)
at West Virginia (4-5, 2-4)
Game time: 7 p.m. today
Florida State transfer Clint Trickett sits atop of a quarterback position that has witnessed three different starters this season. The son of former-WVU offensive line coach Rick Trickett, Clint Trickett is coming off of a 25-for-41 showing in a 30-27 overtime victory at TCU. Two of his passes went to Cody Clay and Charles Sims for fourth quarter touchdowns erased a 17-10 Horned Frogs lead.
Sims leads the team with 754 yards - 154 coming last Saturday - and teams up with junior college transfer Dreamius Smith and true freshman Wendell Smallwood to give the old gold and blue three capable rushers behind Trickett.
And, the offensive line is coming off of its most physical performance against a TCU program recognized nationally as one of the best defenses in the country year after year.
"We are trying to show improvement," Holgorsen continued. "There are so many guys who have not played. You need to have some success in order to build your confidence up and be productive. If we do have the right frame of mind, the right attitude and the effort to keep playing, then eventually the continuity will get better."
But good enough to take on a Texas defense that is coming off of a 35-13 win over Kansas and held Oklahoma to only 20 points?
"Our struggles last year were mainly because we could not run the ball very well," the coach said. "Going back and studying the tape last year against Texas, we ran the ball well. Why that did not carry over to the next couple of games I am not sure. The next week we go to Texas Tech, and we could not run the ball which was a problem.
"I think this year we are running the ball pretty well. What Texas is trying to do offensively is similar to what we are trying to do offensively. Neither one of us have a quarterback, and the mindset upfront, that we can sit in the pocket for four seconds and go through five different reads. Both of us have the ability to do it if we are not running the ball very well. We are both going to try to establish the run and make plays down field in the pass game."
That means getting the ball into the hands of wideouts Daikiel Shorts (37-430, 2 TD), Sims (36-300, 2 TD), Kevin White (35-382, 3 TD) and Ronald Carswell (20-413, 2 TD), who has been suspended indefinitely and will miss the remainder of the season.
"We are not going to win the Big 12, and we understand that," Holgorsen said. "We just want to improve and win the next game. If we get closer to making a bowl game we will approach that when the time comes, but we are not at that point right now."