Texas bounces back with 18-point win over West Virginia

AUSTIN — On Monday, not quite 48 hours removed from a demoralizing overtime loss in Lubbock, Texas Coach Steve Sarkisian confessed to still harboring some anger. He wasn’t alone in that sense, either.

“Everybody’s still a little pissed off today, quite frankly,” Sarkisian said following that morning’s practice.

A solution for purging the pain was obvious, at least. Texas needed to take out its simmering frustration on West Virginia Saturday night at Royal-Memorial Stadium. That, or risk tail-spinning into another season of too much misery and too many losses.

The Longhorns decided to go with the first option, releasing their pent-up wrath against the visiting Mountaineers in a 38-20 win in front of 100,740 fans.

It was both the most imposing and impressive win of the season for Texas (3-2, 1-1 Big 12), a confidence-boosting outing ahead of next week’s game with a wounded and surprisingly vulnerable Oklahoma team that’s opened Big 12 play with two straight losses.

Not that Texas could afford to look ahead to its old nemesis with WVU (2-3, 0-2) in town this weekend. The Mountaineers have never been an easy out for the Longhorns, and they entered this particular game ranked among the nation’s top 25 in run defense, run offense, total defense and total offense.

And Texas was better in each of those categories Saturday night, along with all the others that tend to correlate with winning. The Longhorns finished with more total yards (447-314), rushing yards (111-61) and yards per play (7.6-4.0) to earn the win and avoid dropping their first two Big 12 games.

Texas redshirt sophomore quarterback Hudson Card enjoyed the best game of his career, directing five straight touchdown drives at one point while setting new career highs in completion percentage (77.8 percent, minimum 10 pass attempts), passing yards (303) and passing touchdowns (three).

Card opened the scoring with a 15-yard touchdown pass to wideout Xavier Worthy. He later put Texas up 28-0 in the second quarter with a 13-yard touchdown toss to tight end Ja’Tavion Sanders, who also scored on a 33-yard touchdown pass from Worthy on a nifty double-pass play Sarkisian cooked up during an explosive first half.

Texas’ defense looked more dynamic in this outing, too.

The defense that couldn’t get off the field a week ago against Texas Tech kept limiting first downs and forcing WVU’s punter out onto the field. The secondary that flatlined late against the Red Raiders had eyes and hands everywhere, breaking up seven of quarterback JT Daniels’ passes and coming oh-so-close to pulling down a few interceptions.

Speaking of Daniels, he spent much of the night facemask-to-facemask with Texas’ defensive linemen and edge rushers. Whether it was tackle Moro Ojomo lunging over a toppled lineman to sack Daniels on third down or edge Barryn Sorrell bull-rushing into the backfield, Daniels was often in close quarters with a reinvigorated Texas front.

Luck even seemed to be on Texas’ side this week.

On the Longhorns’ opening drive of the second half, Card scampered out of the pocket and chucked a jump ball into the end zone for Worthy with two defenders in the area. The pass caromed off safety Aubrey Burks’ hands and Worthy, while falling, grabbed the ball before it struck the turf for an improbable 44-yard touchdown catch.

How Texas built that 35-7 lead was heartening. But the manner in which it held the lead in the second half was even more encouraging after a season and change of second-half collapses under Sarkisian.

The offense slowed some, but Card didn’t make any costly errors. No one fumbled. No one committed drive-killing penalties or drops.

And while Texas did surrender a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns, it forced WVU to chew up a lot of clock. By the time running back Justin Johnson scored from 4 yards out for the Mountaineers’ second touchdown of the night, only 4:31 remained in the game.

From that point, Card just had to turn around and hand the ball the ball to halfback Bijan Robinson (101 yards, one touchdown). Robinson iced the win with a rugged 16-yard run, which also pushed him past 100 rushing yards for the third straight week.


Twitter: @NRMoyle

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