WVU expects physical game vs. Texas

MORGANTOWN-The task doesn’t get any easier for the Mountaineers of West Virginia University.

One week after coming away with its first road victory of 2013, WVU plays host to a University of Texas squad that is playing its best football following back-to-back losses to BYU and Ole Miss.

“Texas has a big, physical and athletic defensive line, and even into the linebackers and secondary,” offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said. “It is what it is. Everybody understands what Texas is, and we definitely have our work cut out for us.

“We will take the same approach, and go out physical. We believe we are a physical team so we will see how it goes. Texas has simplified its defense a little bit, and is walking a safety down into the box a little bit more often.”

Three things that may make the task simplier are a transfer quarterback that seems to be understanding head coach Dana Holgorsen’s offense every time he takes to the field, a running game that has begun to show promise with the improvement of University of Houston transfer Charles Sims and a defense that gained a lot of confidence in the overtime win at TCU last week.

“Texas is a good defense, and we have a good game plan against them,” Florida State transfer Clint Trickett said. “We need to keep doing what we are because the offense is improving every week. We are looking to keep that going into this week.

“It will be exciting to play Texas, especially at night, but you can’t put too much into it, because you still have to play the game. At some point you want to look at and realize the situation that you are in. It will be exciting, but you can’t get caught up in the emotion, and that is my job to do.”

And, Trickett, who has completed 100-of-192 attempts for 1,218 yards and five touchdowns with five interceptions, had his ups and downs in the victory over the Horned Frogs last Saturday.

“As I said before, it is a long game and you cannot let stuff that happened during the last quarter or even the last play effect you. You have to control what you can, and that is what I did in that last quarter. It is certainly a lot easier when you are throwing the ball to the receivers that I am.”

True freshman Daikiel Shorts led the team with six catches for 98 yards while sophomore Jordan Thompson added five for 34 yards and junior college transfer Mario Alford chipped in with three for 62 yards.

All important numbers, but not as important as the 154 yards that Sims rushed for on 24 carries against TCU.

“I think we have been pretty consistent (in the running game) for the most part,” Dawson said. “Even in the Kansas State game, we ran the ball, but we needed to play better around the running backs. We consistently played physical on Saturday, and it was probably one of the better performances.”

But can the resurgence in the running game continue against a Longhorns’ defense that is allowing less than 200 yards per contest?

“Texas does a lot of what you see out of other teams,” sophomore H-back Cody Clay, who had a touchdown reception in the win over TCU, said. “They do a lot of blitzing, and do not do anything too fancy. They have won five straight now, and we just need to bring it to them.”

Sims leads the team in rushing with 754 yards and five touchdowns on 144 carries and could be the first Mountaineer rusher to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark since Noel Devine (1,465) accomplished the feat in 2009.

“We started slow, but obviously we did enough to win the game,” Dawson continued. “Charles Sims played well, and we had some good things happen. The best thing that we did was that we finished in the fourth quarter. We scored some points in the fourth, and it was a very positive finish.”

But, the Longhorns like to run the football as well and they come into Saturday’s 7 p.m. kickoff as the No. 3 ranked team in the Big 12, averaging 203 yards on the ground per contest.

Johnathan Gray leads the way with 724 yards and four touchdowns on 151 carries while Malcolm Brown chips in with 323 yards and seven scores on 83 carries. And, then there is a name with which Mountaineer fans are familiar-Joe Bergeron.

Bergeron has 175 yards and two scores on limited touches in 2013, but tallied three touchdowns against the Mountaineers’ defense in a 48-45 loss in Austin last year.

“It’s the same thing we saw last year,” senior defensive lineman Shaq Rowell said. “They are a well-coached, dominant offensive line. I think this might be the best line we’ve faced. Kansas State had all five guys back, and Texas has four seniors with the two guards, center and the tackle, the other tackle is a sophomore or junior.

“Ever since these guys played BYU and Ole Miss, they look like a completely different team. You can tell coach Mack Brown lit a fire under those guys. Those guys are physical up front, and its going to be a tough challenge for us.”

  • The game will be televised on Fox Sports with Craig Bolerjack handling the play-by-play, Joey Harrington adding the analysis and Ryan Nece roaming the sidelines of both teams.
  • This will mark the third-ever meeting between the two schools with WVU holding a 2-0 lead in the series thanks to a 7-6 victory in 1956 and last year’s 48-45 triumph. Both games were played in Austin.
  • Freshman placekicker Josh Lambert was named as the Special Teams Player of the Week for his three fields goals-including the game-winner in overtime-against TCU.
  • Dating back to 1980, the Mountaineers are 167-13-1 when they score 30 or more points in a game.
  • WVU is 15-13 all-time against Big 12 Conference schools-6-7 at home.
  • The Mountaineers are No. 2 in the league in passing first downs.
  • WVU is No. 1 in the Big 12 for first downs by penalty with 22.
  • Charles Sims is No. 3 in the Big 12 and No. 37 nationally in rushing yards with 754 yards on 144 carries.
  • The Mountaineers are ranked No. 4 in the Big 12 and No. 30 nationally in interceptions.
  • Parkersburg South’s Michael Molinari is averaging 63.3 yards on 39 kickoffs with 11 touchbacks.