No. 8 West Virginia travels to Austin to face No. 11 Texas Saturday night
Published: Friday, October 5, 2012
Updated: Friday, October 5, 2012 08:10
For those with doubts about the oft-repeated mantra of "everything being bigger in Texas," look no further than the football stadium of its flagship institution.
Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium has a capacity of 100,119, and though it might not be a complete sellout, it figures to be the largest crowd in front of which West Virginia has ever played.
It’s an atmosphere head coach Dana Holgorsen said will be "tremendous."
"I am looking forward to this week; it is really our first road game, which is going to be fun," he said.
"(Texas) is one of the premier programs in the United States. Their tradition is fantastic. Their facilities are fantastic. It is going to be a tremendous environment. They have everything going for them."
Though much attention has been paid to the environment the game will create, what’s more important is what actually happens on the field.
The No. 11-ranked Longhorns (4-0, 1-0) are fresh off a 41-36 victory over Oklahoma State and boast a solid quarterback of their own in sophomore David Ash.
Ash completed 30-of-37 passes for 304 yards and three touchdowns in the Longhorns’ win over Oklahoma State; his passer rating of 184 is the second-best in the nation – behind West Virginia senior quarterback Geno Smith (208.4).
Holgorsen acknowledged that Ash has improved vastly over last season, some in part to the tutelage he has received from Texas co-offensive coordinator coach Bryan Harsin.
"Bryan Harsin is a good quarterback coach. He coached a kid named Kellen Moore, who won a few games. He has a system that he believes in, and it is the same one that they run at Boise State," he said.
"I watched David play a tremendous amount in high school. He has ability, and he has talent around him. It is a group that continues to get better," he said. "(Ash) has handled the ball (and) he has taken care of the ball; he has gotten a lot better."
The Mountaineers’ defense is looking to eradicate the memory of last week’s game when it conceded 63 points to Baylor. Junior linebacker Doug Rigg said the defense hasn’t focused on its negative play and instead just tried to improve this week during practice.
"I think we had to just watch the film and talk about the positives we had; we didn’t really harp on the negatives," he said.
"We came together and saw that a lot of stuff that happened was correctable – just misalignments, not getting the right guy or lining up inside instead of outside," he said. "Just little stuff like that they took advantage of and usually teams take advantage of other teams mistakes, and (Baylor) did to the max.
"We are starting to get our confidence back, like ‘hey we’re still a good defense, we just need to prove it.’"
West Virginia ranks No. 106 nationally in total defense, but it did receive a great boost when sophomore running back Malcom Brown was ruled out for Saturday’s contest.
Brown, who missed the second half of the Longhorns’ victory last week after sustaining an ankle injury, ranks second on the team in rushing yards (245) and touchdowns (three).
It is still unclear what kind of role senior running back Shawne Alston will play for the Mountaineers. Though he saw some limited practice time this week, the thigh bruise that caused him to miss the Baylor game is still posing some problems.
Sophomore running back Dustin Garrison said Alston looked good in practice but still is unsure of what – if anything – he can do Saturday.
"(Alston) actually practiced a little bit (Tuesday), and he was looking pretty good," Garrison said. "Maybe, possibly, we’ll see him out there this week."
A critical key to the game Holgorsen etched out this week is winning the turnover battle. Through four games and 169 Geno Smith pass attempts, the Mountaineers have yet to present an opposing defense with a turnover.
"I would imagine we have a pretty good record when we win the turnover battle," he said.
"That is the one stat in college football that stands out. (Texas is) pretty good at it. I would assume they have ways of coaching it," Holgorsen said. "We are pretty good at it, and we have ways of addressing and
"We want to win the turnover battle."
With a raucous crowd and electric environment in front of them, a prime opportunity exists for West Virginia to intercept that energy early and use it to its advantage – both in this game and for the remainder of the season.