Despite coming off of a hard-fought, overtime victory over then-No. 6 Oklahoma State last weekend, Texas football coach Tom Herman said the Longhorns immediately turned their attention to West Virginia.
The Mountaineers will roll into Austin on Saturday fresh off their own upset over then-No. 16 Kansas State. Herman said WVU’s running game and defense will pose major threats to his team.
They’re running the ball really, really well and they’re playing unbelievably sound, effective and disruptive defense,” Herman said Tuesday.
WVU football coach Neal Brown said he too is expecting a tough challenge from the Longhorns, especially playing in their stadium.
“An extremely talented team, maybe the most talented in our league that usually plays their best football at home,” Brown said.
Herman said everyone knows about the Stills brothers, Darius and Dante, on the defensive line for WVU’s defense, but there are plenty of other players up front that are cause for concern.
Dante (7.0) and Darius (6.5) lead the Mountaineers in tackles for loss, but Jeffery Pooler Jr. (6.0), Akheem Mesidor (5.5) and Jared Barlett (5.5) have also been disruptive this season. Herman said that level of talent and depth up front allows WVU to play sound defense on the back end.
“They’ve got plenty beyond the Stills brothers and what it’s allowed them to do is not have to sell the farm to stop the run or rush the passer,” Herman explained. “Those guys are able to cancel gaps in the run game and get home to the passer and allow them to drop seven and eight into coverage, even on third downs and critical situations. They really, really trust that those guys are going to get a good push and, for the most part, they do.”
Texas has its own standout defender in linebacker Joseph Ossai. He leads UT’s defense with 46 tackles to go along with 12.5 tackles for loss, four sacks and three fumble recoveries.
“I think he’s special, probably as good a defender as there is in our league,” Brown said. “His stats are off the charts. He’s disruptive, we’ve got to know where he’s at.”
Offensively, Brown said he is concerned about running the football given the size of Texas’ interior defensive line. Defensive tackle Ta’Quon Graham checks in at 6-foot-6 and 294 pounds and is second on the team with seven tackles for loss. Nose tackle Keondre Coburn tips the scales at 348 pounds and has 17 total tackles this season.
WVU’s offensive line has played much better this season and junior running back Leddie Brown is second in the Big 12 with 694 rushing yards and eight touchdowns.
Brown said he is concerned with fourth-year starter Sam Ehlinger at quarterback who leads the conference with 20 passing yards. Brown said the whole Texas team seems to go as Ehlinger does. Herman announced that Texas’ top running back, Keaontay Ingram, will not play Saturday.
The Mountaineers will kick off at noon on Saturday in Austin, Texas. The game will be broadcast on ABC. WVU opened as touchdown underdogs against the Longhorns.