West Virginia and Texas limped into Saturday both 4-6 and fighting for their bowl lives. The Mountaineers flipped the script from their previous two performances and put together four quarters of clean football that was good enough to take down the highest-grossing college football program in the country. Texas now finds themselves on the wrong side of a six-game losing streak, something the Longhorns haven’t experienced since FDR was in office. West Virginia walks away at 5-6 with a chance to go to a bowl game if they can handle a frisky Kansas team in Lawrence on Saturday night. Let’s look at the numbers.
Coming into their 10th FBS game of their season, the Mountaineers had won the field position game twice and the turnover battle only once. On Saturday, West Virginia bettered Texas in both categories. The factor that I think influenced this game the most was the 3rd and 4th down success rates. The Mountaineer offense was a solid 12/20 on 3rd down, which is especially impressive considering their average yards needed to convert on 3rd down was 7.4 yards. Texas, on the other hand, was abysmal at extending drives and only converted 2 of their 12 chances on 3rd and 4th downs. The scoring opportunities were plentiful for the Mountaineers, and while four touchdowns and a field goal isn’t overly impressive for seven scoring chances, the Texas offense was lousy when giving chances to score, producing only a touchdown and a field goal in their three trips inside the 40-yard line. The Mountaineers might have played their cleanest game of the season and are on an impressive streak as far as penalties are concerned.
West Virginia's eight total penalties over the last three games are the fewest by the Mountaineers over any three-game stretch in one season this century. That's as far back as I checked. pic.twitter.com/JzJGI8ZwDk— Jed Drenning (@TheSignalCaller) November 23, 2021
The offense continued their rollercoaster-like season. After being shutdown completely by Oklahoma State and a mistake-filled game versus Kansas State, the West Virginia offense bounced back in a huge way. The offensive line really dictated the game with great pass and run blocking, allowing the playbook to be wide open. Leddie Brown toted the rock 33 times, the most in his four-year college career, to the tune of 158 yards (4.8 per carry). Doege had time to throw and put up great numbers. I’m continually impressed by his deep-ball ability when receivers are allowed enough time to get downfield. On balls thrown more than 20+ yards downfield, he was 4/6 and had a PFF grade of 96.3! The trend continues that Doege’s success relies heavily on his protection; his grade with a clean pocket Saturday was 85.3 but his “under pressure” grade was 41.1. Doege didn’t walk with the Seniors on Saturday, though no official statement has been made on his potential return. I plan on doing some deeper dives on Doege’s season-long performance this offseason.
I just want to briefly touch on the 4th down call at the end of the game. The situation was this: 4th and 5, from the Texas 36, up 8 points, and Texas has zero timeouts remaining. The 4th down bot didn’t tweet a recommendation for this, so I input it into the app, which can be found here. I believe the bot didn’t tweet this because no matter the choice, the average win probability for WVU was 99%, though I must admit that feels a little high. Neal went with the conservative approach by dialing up a play that was going to be a touchdown or a turnover on downs. I think his goal was to steer away from plays that could potentially go wrong, such as a blocked punt or kick.
The once 2-4 Mountaineers have turned things around and just have the pesky Kansas Jayhawks between them and a 6-6 regular season and a bowl birth. As a reminder, Kansas took a sleepwalking Oklahoma team to the wire, knocked off Texas in Austin, and went blow for blow with TCU. Kansas might still be the worst team in the conference, but the gap is closing. This isn’t necessarily a “gimme”, but as Jordan Pinto said in reference to Kansas, “you couldn’t build a Doege friendlier defense if you tried”. ESPN FPI gives WVU a 89.2% chance at victory.
Alright, now let’s make fun of Texas:
- We obviously don’t want this to happen, but a Kansas win and a Texas loss this weekend would have Texas finishing last in the Big 12 (“S-E-C, S-E-C”).
- The Longhorns at one point this season were 4-1 and up 38-20 on Oklahoma at half. They lost that game and haven’t won since.
- Kansas hadn’t won a road conference game since 2008 until winning in Austin this season
- In the last 7 seasons, Kansas has only won 4 conference games and 2 of them were versus Texas
- Steve Sarkisian is being paid $5.4 million this year. Regardless of the outcome of their final game, he will be paid over a million dollars per win this season.
- Texas has a winning record against every team in the Big 12 EXCEPT West Virginia (5-6)