No. 11 Texas poses huge test for West Virginia
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AUSTIN, Texas -- Everything is bigger in Texas, right?
West Virginia's coaching staff has been fond of using that phrase this week, and it's particularly apt considering the size of the Texas defensive line and the massive task in front of No. 8 Mountaineers.
West Virginia rolls into the heart of Texas for the most anticipated game of the season against the No. 11 Longhorns tonight, and two players -- two big players -- will try to slow the Geno Smith express.
They are Texas defensive ends Jackson Jeffcoat, listed at 6 feet 5 and 245 pounds, and Alex Okafor, 6-2, 295.
- Matchup: West Virginia (4-0, 1-0 Big 12) vs. Texas (4-0, 1-0), 7 p.m. today, Darrell K. Royal -- Texas Memorial Stadium, Austin, Texas. The Longhorns are favored by 6 1/2 points.
- TV, Radio, Internet: WPGH, Mountaineer Sports Network, Sirius Channel 85, XM 85.
- West Virginia: Quarterback Geno Smith had 656 passing yards last week and is the most efficient QB in the country (208.37). ... Defense was lit up for 700 yards by Baylor, yet was strong against the run, allowing 119 yards on 45 carries. ... Will be without RB Shawne Alston. ... Starting offense has no turnovers.
- Texas: Has ninth-best scoring offense (47.3 ppg) behind David Ash, who is No. 2 in pass efficiency (184.03) ... Loves to run the ball and is ranked No. 19 (228 ypg). ... Ranked 31st in third-down efficiency defense (33.3 percent). ... Injured RB Malcolm Brown and LB Jordan Hicks won't play.
- Hidden stat: They say depth is critical in Big 12, so 21 players have seen first action for West Virginia, including 10 freshmen.
They are big, brawny edge rushers that will try to disrupt Smith's flow, force turnovers and attempt to slow the hottest passing team in the country.
"They are long and talented. They love to rush the passer. I would assume that they are extremely fired up about doing their job this week," said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen. "I would assume our offensive line is fired up about blocking them."
It will be the a test for tackles Quinton Spain and Pat Eger, who have yet to face ends of such high quality this season.
And it will put pressure on Smith to continue to react quickly.
The Longhorns, who have been trying to climb back into the college football elite for several year, have the nation's 31st best third-down efficiency defense.
That defense has limited opponents to field goals five times on eight scoring trips into the red zone.
Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said this week that is really the key. Against West Virginia, he said the Longhorns have to "pick their poison" in determining how to slow Smith.
"There's no one thing you can do to stop this football team," Diaz told TexasSports.com. "If there was one thing to do, everybody would do it.
"You have to find a way to disrupt them. No yards after contact. No big plays. We have to get some ball-disruption plays, get the ball out."
It's a challenge he said his team is ready for.
"This is why you come to Texas. This is what this conference is," Diaz said.
"I want to go against that. They have a guy at quarterback who may be the first name called in the NFL. He is insanely accurate. And he is accurate in a way you see the great quarterbacks [in the NFL], he can throw you open."
Getting turnovers is the new mentality of defensive football said Longhorns coach Mack Brown, who noted this week in his news conference that being dominant on defense is incredibly difficult.
"Texas has been a defensive school and a school that's run the ball for years. Right now, the world is changing out there. We still have to have stops, force turnovers. We're not seeing the dominant defensive performances that we've seen even three years ago," said Brown.
"Defenses have to catch up because offenses are ruling the roost now.
"Everybody is going no-huddle, speeding up the game. Defenses get tired."
That's the same task the West Virginia will have trying to contain David Ash and the Texas running game.
The Longhorns rushing game ranks 19th in the country, with a trio of backs putting up a total of 228 yards per game, and Ash has the second-best pass-efficiency rating in the country (184.03).
A Texas-sized challenge?
Smith was his cool, collected self when asked about it this week.
"They got pretty good guys. They're Texas. But football is still football," said Smith.
"Our offense is going to be prepared for the game. I'll be the same way I always am."
NOTE -- West Virginia will be without running back Shawne Alston, Holgorsen announced on his radio show Thursday night. He did not make the trip because of a thigh bruise.
First Published October 6, 2012 12:30 am