Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

October 30, 2018 at 9:17 pm.

West Virginia seeks road revenge at Texas

West Virginia was flying high when Texas came to Morgantown last November for a Big 12 Conference showdown and were firing on all cylinders with quarterback Will Grier leading the way.

But Grier suffered a season-ending injury to his throwing hand during a first-quarter run and the Longhorns spoiled WVU’s party, clinching bowl eligibility in the process on the Mountaineers home field.

Fast forward to this season: West Virginia and Texas, ranked 13th and 17th, respectively, in Tuesday first CFP rankings, are tied for the conference lead with No. 7 Oklahoma heading into the final month of the season. And the Mountaineers are chomping at the bit to enact a bit of road revenge when the two sides square off on Saturday in Austin.

“This one is one we’ve been looking forward to for a while,” West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. “It didn’t quite end the way we wanted it to last year, and we haven’t forgotten about that.”

Holgorsen said Monday that his team’s blocking and tackling were far better last Thursday night in the Mountaineers’ surprisingly easy 58-14 victory over Baylor, which took Texas down to the game’s final play in Austin on Oct. 13.

Offensively, West Virginia (6-1, 4-1 in Big 12 play) had its highest total yardage output in a Big 12 game so far this year against the Bears, and its second-best performance of the season.

Grier was his usual explosive self, averaging 13 yards per pass attempt and nearly 21 yards on his 17 completions, while the run game generated 172 yards for its third-highest total of the season.

West Virginia even got a couple of big plays from the run game, one coming on a 79-yard tote by Tevin Bush and the other by Martell Petaway on a 33-yard touchdown burst late in the second quarter.

Both of those were the result of great blocking up front and great blocking on the perimeter.

“It’s not just the five guys up front,” Holgorsen said Monday during his weekly teleconference with the media.

“Collectively, the five guys up front played about as good as they have all year, but (Trevon) Wesco at the tight end spot blocked well. He was our player of the game was because of how well he blocked.

“Our perimeter blocking was the best it’s been all year, too,” he continued.

“T.J. Simmons and Dom Maiden, those two guys in particular, were blocking people all over the field and out of bounds as well. That helps lead to explosive plays, not only in the pass game but the run game as well. I’m happy with where it’s at and that’s just the way it’s got to be for us to be successful.”

The Mountaineers’ ability to block will once again be tested greatly this Saturday when they travel to Texas for what amounts to a Big 12 championship elimination game. WVU faces a Longhorn defense that ranks third in the Big 12 against the run, third in scoring defense and fourth in total defense.