The final home game of the regular season pits West Virginia (7-3, 5-2) in a battle of strength-vs-strength between its explosive offense and Texas’ (5-5, 4-3) tough defense that’s been limiting Big 12 teams to season lows all year long.
WVU goes for its third win in a row, while the Longhorns try to escape Morgantown with a win and a spot in a postseason bowl game.
Texas’ defense has been one of the main sticking points when talking about the matchup, and that’s where we’ll start.
“Flavor of the Week” Defense
Despite all the prep work imaginable, there are a few things the Mountaineers won’t know about the Longhorns prior to kickoff Saturday, and one of those things is how much blitzing UT defensive coordinator Todd Orlando is going to do.
Earlier in the week, WVU offensive coordinator Jake Spavital equated the blitzing tendencies – or lack thereof – to a “flavor of the week.” Some weeks the defense leans heavily on the blitz, other weeks it’s 50-50, and others Texas drops back into coverage more times than not.
Stop the run, Contain the pass
Something that hasn’t waned from week to week has been the Longhorns ability to stop the run. Texas ranks second in the Big 12 in rush defense, scoring defense and total defense, one of the reasons it’s played a number of close games this year.
One downside to the defense has been its inconsistency in stopping opposing passing attacks, of which WVU has one of the best.
Bombs away punting
Longhorn punter Michael Dickson was said to be the “best punter I’ve ever seen,” by Dana Holgorsen Tuesday.
Dickson, out of Sydney, Australia, is a majority of the reason that Texas leads the nation in net punting (44.7 ypg) and is averaging over 48 yards per punt with a hang time nearing five seconds according to Holgorsen.
Whether it’s inconsistent play, indecisiveness on part of the coaching staff, or the plan all along, Texas has been rolling with two quarterbacks splitting playing time for most of the year.
For the second week in a row, WVU defensive coordinator Tony Gibson enters Saturday not knowing for sure which quarterback his defense will be lining up in front of.
Shane Buechele is the listed starter on the depth chart, with Sam Ehlinger listed as the backup.
According to coaches, Buechele is the better passer of the two – evidence being his higher completion percentage – and Ehlinger is more of an athletic quarterback used to hurting opposing teams with his feet.
Not much of a run game
Texas’ offense hasn’t seen consistent production on the ground, being held under 100 rushing yards as a team four times this season, including ending the game two weeks ago against TCU with just nine rushing yards.
Ehlinger has arguably been the Longhorns best runner this season.
Of the three times this season that a single Texas rusher has eclipsed 100 rushing yards, Ehlinger has accomplished it twice.
Relief could be on the way, though, for the Longhorns, who get back starting left tackle Connor Williams.