Aerial Assault: 5 Observations from Texas 38-20 win over West Virginia

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Robert Backman/CSM/Shutterstock (13434562r) QB Hudson Card #1 of the Texas Longhorns in action vs the West Virginia Mountaineers at DKR-Memorial Stadium. Texas leads 28-7 at the half NCAA Football West Virginia vs Texas, Austin, USA – 01 Oct 2022

Aerial Assault: 5 Observations from Texas 38-20 win over West Virginia

A week after falling to Texas Tech in heartbreaking fashion, the Texas Longhorns dismantled West Virginia at home 38-20.  The Longhorns turned in a complete performance and dominated the Mountaineers from the outset on a level that is not reflected in the score.  This result should give Texas confidence as they prepare to meet Oklahoma next week in a Red River Showdown that will be monumental in determining the course of both teams’ seasons.

  1. At his best, Steve Sarkisian is an expert at designing an offensive attack that stresses defenses throughout the entire width and breadth of the field. On Texas’ first touchdown drive of the game, Sarkisian used jet motion to stress the width of the defense and then attacked the heart of the defense with Bijan Robinson. This causes the defense to constrict, setting up Sarkisian’s next gambit, throwing to Xavier Worthy in the flat.  Next, Sarkisian changes the strength of the formation, causing adjustments from the defense, altering the focus and forcing more communication leading to an easy touchdown throw to Worthy. That possession was followed up by several body blows in the form of more runs and screen passes and then a double pass that finished with Xavier Worthy finding Ja’Tavion Saunders. It remains to be seen if Sarkisian can build the culture and oversee the kind of execution necessary to win at the highest level, but the man can design an offense.
  1. From the outset, the Texas defense appeared highly motivated to quiet those that were critical of their performance last week versus Texas Tech. The athleticism and aggression of the defensive unit was obvious and glaring.  Almost every play, the Longhorns gang tackled and punished West Virginia ball carriers. Several Mountaineer receivers dropped easy catches due to the punishment dished out by Longhorn defenders. Also, defensive coordinator, Pete Kwiatkowski, has crafted an aggressive gameplan bringing blitzes from different angles and levels and creating confusion in Mountaineer quarterback, JT Daniels, who has missed several plays early on that would have kept drives alive. There are mistakes and miscues, but the effort and intensity made up for those, and the big play ratio drastically favored the Longhorn defense.  
  1. As the season began, one of the question marks for the Texas program was the inexperienced offensive line, but throughout most of the season, and certainly tonight, the group has acquitted themselves well. The Mountaineers strength on defense coming into the matchup was the interior defensive line, but Texas handled this group all night long. Obviously a running back like Robinson and his ability to make something positive from nothing helps, but Texas fans have to be happy with the Longhorns’ ability to control the line of scrimmage and provide good protection to Hudson Card in the passing game.
  1. Texas was much better in the critical situations of the game. Xavier Worthy was able to provide the big plays while the running game churned out yards and first downs to keep drives alive and allow the Texas defense to rest. This was a drastic change from a week ago. Tonight, the Longhorn defense attacked the West Virginia offense on all downs and was able to dictate for much of the game. JT Daniels spent most of the night under pressure, and the Texas secondary delivered hits on receivers that led to several drops and errant throws. West Virginia was not able to establish any real offensive rhythm until the game was essentially settled.
  1. This was the most complete performance by the Texas Longhorns of this season, and it was the performance that was necessary to keep hope alive for the resurgence of the program under Sarkisian. Texas rebounded from a devastating loss in overtime last week with a resounding win.  West Virginia is a conference opponent and Texas dispatched them with offensive execution, a good gameplan, and relentless team defense. This is the kind of game that will give the Longhorn faithful hope for the future. It is also a positive sign that the Longhorns responded in such a positive way in what had to be a difficult week, with many questions and criticism surrounding another blown lead last week. In the Sarkisian era, the missing ingredient has been the ability to finish, and finishing starts with mental toughness. That is what Texas displayed tonight. The most important test will come down the road. Can Texas finish against Oklahoma? Can they win with a championship on the line? However, without winning games like this one, they will never reach that point.

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