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Players to Watch: Texas Longhorns

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Not much more can be said that hasn’t already been discussed about the 2018 match-up between West Virginia and Texas.

David Sills’ defiant “horns down” flash, Gary Jennings’ clutch touchdown reception, Will Grier’s game-winning two-point conversion, and a rushing attack that proved more than serviceable for West Virginia all mixed together, creating one of the greatest games in Mountaineer history as members of the Big XII Conference.

The 2019 edition of this young and unnamed rivalry game has adopted a different tone. The Longhorns come to Morgantown as double-digit favorites with aspirations of making it to their second-consecutive Big 12 championship game. On the other hand, West Virginia and first-year head coach Neal Brown are looking to a large home crowd and and a hostile environment to provide a spark for a potential upset on Homecoming.

Here are your Texas players to watch in Saturday’s game:

#11 Sam Ehlinger 6’3″ 230 lbs. Jr. QB 

Matt Groethe, Tony Pike, Baker Mayfield, and Sam Ehlinger–all opposing quarterbacks who have played the “player you love to hate” role quite well in recent memory against the Mountaineers. This year provides another opportunity for Ehlinger to write a new chapter in his personal saga against WVU, after falling one-point short a year ago. By the numbers, Ehlinger’s playing even better this year with a 74.1 completion percentage, 1,237 yards (309 per game) and 15 touchdowns passing and 191 yards (48 yards per game) and a touchdown rushing through four games. He’s the straw that stirs the Dr. Pepper for Texas’s offense. He’s just as lethal running the ball between the tackles as he is striking defenses down-the-field off the RPO. It’s difficult to question his toughness, despite him being the villain.

#26 Keaontay Ingram 6’0″ 220 lbs. So. RB

Ingram broke out two weeks ago versus Oklahoma State when he rushed for a career-high 114 yards on 21 carries and also caught a screen pass that he turned into an impressive 26-yard gain. Ingram’s Texas’s workhorse, or maybe worksteer? He has a unique blend of size and speed that’s going to provide as much of a challenge for West Virginia to slow down as it was to slow down Missouri. It will be interesting to see how defensive coordinator Vic Koenning game plans against the Longhorns’ rushing attack. Does West Virginia sell out to stuff Ingram like it did Kansas’s Khalil Herbert and Pooka Williams Jr. two weeks ago and let the linebackers take on Ehlinger one-on-one? Either way, he’s going to be a defensive focal point.

#6 Devin Duvernay 5’11” 210 lbs. Sr. WR

While Texas’s Collin Johnson, at 6’6″ 230 lbs., poses a physical mismatch that few teams in college football can counter for four quarters, Duvernay is the reliable, possession receiver that the Mountaineers will have to find creative ways to cover. Johnson is a game-time decision, after missing the last two games. Against Texas’s two toughest opponents (LSU and Oklahoma State), Duvernay produced 24 receptions for 262 yards and three touchdowns. Ehlinger will look for Duvernay, primarily in the slot, early and often off the RPO, when he’s not either keeping it himself or handing it to Ingram.

#46 Joseph Ossai 6’4″ 245 lbs. So. LB

Ossai was the beneficiary of a second half targeting call that was overturned when he struck Oklahoma State’s quarterback Spencer Sanders with a forearm to the collar bone with what wasn’t deemed enough “forcible contact.” Had the video replay crew not changed the officials’ call, Ossai would be sitting out for the first half Saturday. Otherwise, Ossai was a beast against the Cowboys. The sophomore racked up eight tackles, including two for a loss and one sack with a forced fumble. Look for Ossai to be in on every gang tackle against West Virginia’s run plays. With Texas’s best defensive back Caden Sterns out for this game and BJ Foster tender from a hamstring injury that cost him two games, the opportunity is ripe for Austin Kendall to show what he’s made of in a big game and attack the Longhorns through the air.

#32 Malcolm Roach 6’3″ 290 lbs. Sr. DL

The question mark for Kendall will be whether the West Virginia offensive line can give him enough time to comfortably throw the ball. The man leading the unit tasked with making Kendall’s day a living hell is Roach, who will be making his 39th appearance in a Texas uniform Saturday. It’s been a relatively quiet year statistically so far for Roach, namely because opposing offenses have had to allot multiple blockers to stop him, which has allowed for his linemate Ta’Quon Graham to come away with 4.5 tackles for loss out of his nine total. With the secondary banged up, expect Roach and the Longhorn defensive front to pressure Kendall and force him to have to get the ball out early to have success.

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