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WVU Wrangles Longhorns on Senior Day, 31-23

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The Mountaineer football seniors had a field day in front of 48,755 fans when the 4-6 Texas Longhorns came to Milan Puskar Stadium. Seniors Alonzo Addae, Leddie Brown, Josh Chandler-Semedo, Noah Drummond, John Hughes, Sean Mahone, Jackie Matthews, Sean Ryan, Evan Staley, Dante Stills, Tyler Sumpter, and Scottie Young were honored pregame, and they immediately proved that the past four-plus years have culminated in positivity, going out with a 31-23 win over the Longhorns that preserved a chance at bowl eligibility for the Mountaineers.

The first drive of the game, it only took nine plays for the Mountaineers to strike gold. WVU redshirt senior quarterback Jarret Doege, who opted not to walk with the pregame festivities, put together 52 yards on five attempts to settle field placement at the Texas 23-yard line. Brown set to work carving up the rest of the space with two straight rushes, one- and four-yard attempts, down to the Longhorn 20. Doege quickly found redshirt junior wide out Sam James for the remaining 20 yards to add the first score of the day, 7-0 with 11:02 left in the first quarter.

Texas and junior quarterback Casey Thompson couldn’t get the offensive presence together, surrendering the first drive in three snaps and a 44-yard punt from senior kicker/punter Cameron Dicker.

Feeling confident, the Mountaineers put redshirt freshman quarterback Garrett Greene in and ran a successful flea flicker trick play that ended 11 yards downfield in the hands of junior wide receiver Winston Wright Jr. The next play, Doege returned under center, but was promptly sacked 16 yards backward by senior linebacker Ben Davis. WVU’s drive concluded with a 49-yard punt from senior Tyler Sumpter, and the Longhorns regained possession. Just as soon as the drive seemed to start though, Dicker was sent back out. The result, a 55-yard punt to give the WVU offense another option. Two more drives, including one which featured a sack of Thompson by WVU senior linebacker Josh Chandler-Semedo, ended in punts from Dicker and Sumpter. WVU ended the first quarter 7-0 with half a set of downs to play to start the second.

When play resumed, WVU finished its drive three plays later with a Doege to Wright Jr. 14-yard bomb in the back of the Texas end zone that rivaled the Grier to Jennings ball from 2018. Nearly 14 minutes remained in the half, but a 14-0 lead was what the Mountaineers needed to build confidence.

Thompson’s next opportunity to advance the field position fell incomplete, just like two of his pass attempts, and Dicker nailed a 41-yard punt. Sumpter countered four snaps later with a 49-yard punt, and the Longhorns had the ball back.

After getting fed-up with rushing attempts that got bottled up in the middle of the field, Texas’ sophomore running back Keilan Robinson, in for an injured Bijan Robinson, took the ball 49 yards down the outside hash marks and over the end line for the first UT points. With 8:34 to play before halftime, Robinson cut the deficit in half, 14-7.

It took West Virginia a 12-play next drive to counter the scoring, but when Brown added 18 yards on six rushes and a final two-yard rush to cross the goal line, it cut open a 14-point lead, 21-7, with two and a half minutes to play before halftime. The first half scoring wasn’t quite done, though. The WVU defense held firm, and defensive coordinator Jordan Lesley’s crew didn’t allow the Longhorns space inside the 39-yard line. Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian opted to send Dicker out to attempt a 50-yard field goal, which fell through the uprights to steadily close the gap to 21-10 and conclude the first half’s scoring.

When the third quarter began, Sarkisian swapped Thompson in lieu of redshirt freshman Hudson Card. Seven throws later, he connected with freshman wide receiver Xavier Worthy right up the middle of the field for a 52-yard touchdown that dramatically closed the scoring chasm, 21-17. Both the offense and defense were out for blood; in the next drive, both UT’s sophomore linebacker David Gbenda and junior nose tackle T’Vondre Sweat sacked Doege in back-to-back plays that totaled an eight-yard loss.

Nevertheless, Doege persisted. He got up and immediately threw a 19-yard ball to Wright Jr. for a first down. The drive continued with four straight Brown rushes (26-, 18-, five-, and two-yards). One play later, Doege found senior wide receiver Sean Ryan in the back of the end zone for the team’s fourth touchdown. The score ratcheted back up to 28-17, and it would stand as the third quarter wound to a close.

Texas’ opening drive, a mixture of Card and Robinson beat the WVU defense down to the WVU6. Longhorn junior running back Roschon Johnson tallied his fourth rushing touchdown of the season when he closed the six-yard gap and crossed the end line. His score got the Longhorns within five points of the Mountaineers, 28-23, after a failed two-point conversion hit the turf.

West Virginia didn’t waste much time in its five-point lead scenario. WVU offensive coordinator Gerad Parker employed both Brown and redshirt sophomore running back Tony Mathis Jr. to advance the ball inside the Texas 30-yard line. Four of Doege’s passes fell incomplete, and the run game was forced to overcompensate. The Longhorns read the switch easily, and stopped the forward progress at their own 28-yard line. Legg was sent out to redeem himself after a missed field goal attempt earlier in the game. His 17th make of the season extended the WVU lead to a comfortable 31-23 with seven minutes to play at home this season.

WVU’s senior safety Sean Mahone added the sole interception of the game when Thompson re-entered. He returned the ball 28 yards and gave the Mountaineers back possession after a difficult Longhorn drive brought about fourth down at the WVU six-yard line. That became the straw that broke the camel’s back. Texas couldn’t regroup, and added a seventh season loss with the 31-23 final.

The West Virginia seniors combined for 158 rushing yards, 5 receptions for 17 yards and a Ryan touchdown, 31 tackles, 0.5 sacks, two TFLs, and the aforementioned interception by Mahone. Senior punter Tyler Sumpter concluded his Senior Day with four punts that went a collective 177 yards.

WVU continues onward in the trek toward bowl eligibility with the win, and will face the Kansas Jayhawks next week in Lawrence at 7 p.m. on FS1.

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