West Virginia

Photo Credit: Elias Huerta

Late in Friday night’s game against West Virginia, the Longhorns were down but not out.

Heading into the seventh inning, Texas trailed 6-3 and needed a spark to get itself back into contention. A hit-by-pitch on Masen Hibbeler did just that.

The Longhorns went on to score six runs in the top of the inning and never looked back after capturing the lead. Texas then tacked on a few more runs to propel the team to an 11-6 victory over the Mountaineers in Morgantown.

The Texas offense had not only one of its better offensive nights on the road but one of its better nights of the entire season. The team recorded 11 runs on 15 hits and added four walks on the night.

Texas (30–15, 12–4 Big 12) was led by sophomore infielders David Hamilton and Ryan Reynolds, who went for seven combined hits and six RBIs. Junior catcher DJ Petrinsky also played a large role for the Texas offense, with two RBIs on two hits.

Texas starting pitcher junior Nolan Kingham struggled in his start on Friday night, letting up five runs over five innings of work. He was pulled in favor of sophomore reliever Bryce Elder. Elder, who was unable to record an out, allowed one run on one hit in two batters faced.

Freshman reliever Matt Whelan then took over for Elder and recorded an almost-flawless four innings, in what may have been the best performance of his young career. Whelan faced a total of 12 batters and did not allow a hit or run.

Whelan came into the game with only eight appearances and a 5.52 ERA. To whom much is given, much is expected. But nobody, not even Texas head coach David Pierce, could’ve expected Whelan’s dominance over the last four innings.

The Longhorns face West Virginia in the second game of the series 3 p.m. Saturday at Monongalia County Ballpark in Morgantown.

Photo Credit: Katie Bauer | Daily Texan Staff

Even as No. 6 Texas began to pull away during a 73-55 victory at the WVU Coliseum on Monday night, the Mountaineers refused to slow down.

After surrendering seven unanswered Texas points to start the game, West Virginia freshman guard Ashley Jones and senior forward Teana Muldrow hit back-to-back threes to cut the deficit down to one point with 6:33 left in the first quarter.

The Mountaineers started to fly up and down the floor and whip the ball all over the court. It was similar to the Longhorns’ style of play — tight defense leading to fast breaks and easy transition points.

West Virginia’s resilience stunned Texas at first. The Longhorns weren’t used to their opponents keeping up with them, but by the end of the first quarter, Texas trailed 19-18.

“It was an interesting game,” Texas head coach Karen Aston said. “As physical as we both play defense, nobody shot free throws hardly. That’s usually interesting between us and West Virginia. It’s usually a blood bath.”

Aston countered by shifting Texas’ offensive focus inside. The Longhorns ran more plays through their posts and crashed the offensive boards to claim a 37-26 lead heading into the half.

“I think the first half, there was a lot of attention paid to our guards,” Aston said. “I told them at halftime that we only had four offensive rebounds, and I think that (senior forward) Audrey(-Ann Caron-Goudreau) had all of them. So, that must have motivated (junior forward) Jatarie (White).”

Midway through the third quarter, junior guard Lashann Higgs nuzzled past her defender and stormed toward the rim. White’s defender slid to cut her off. Higgs took an extra dribble, then wrapped around the help defense to find White wide open. White scored despite being fouled and converted the and-one free throw.

White asserted herself in the third quarter, erupting for nine points and four rebounds.

But West Virginia kept shooting.

The Mountaineers made 50 percent of their outside shots and finished the night making more threes than two-pointers. The hot shooting allowed them to stay within arm’s reach of the lead for the majority of the game. Entering the fourth quarter, West Virginia trailed by just 10 points.

“We let them shoot threes all night long,” Aston said. “But that’s what they do — they do it really well. We’ll go back and look at film and see where we could’ve been a little bit better in that area because obviously 10 threes is too many.”

The Longhorns leaned on their seniors to hold West Virginia off.

Senior guard Ariel Atkins had just four points through the first three quarters. Late in the fourth, she tipped a pass from Muldrow and hustled to keep the ball inbounds. She reached it just before stepping on the sideline, twirled and found fellow senior guard Brooke McCarty streaking up the floor for the easy finish.

The pair closed the game out on a 9-0 run, assisting or scoring on every basket.

“I kind of just picked up my energy on defense and started feeding off the energy from my teammates,” Atkins said. “They didn’t get down on me. They kept me energized. They told me to keep playing. They told me to do the best I could on defense, and once I kind of amped up and I looked in their eyes, they kept believing in me, kept the energy up. I didn’t have a choice but to play.”

Atkins finished the game with 17 points, including 13 in the final quarter. White finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds.

Texas (19–4, 10–2 Big 12) has played three games in six days. The Longhorns will get some much-needed rest before hosting Kansas State (12–11, 4–8 Big 12) at the Frank Erwin Center on Saturday. Still, Atkins knows there’s no time to waste.

“There’s work to be done,” Atkins said. “My focus is my team. This is my last year, this is my last chance to really give them what I’ve got. And I want to give everything I have left in my tank to my college career.”

Photo Credit: Angela Wang | Daily Texan Staff

For the second straight week, it was a tale of two games for Texas. A gritty home victory over a ranked opponent led to a bad loss on the road.

A week prior, after defeating then-No. 16 TCU at home, the Longhorns forfeited a double-digit lead down the stretch against Oklahoma State and lost. 

But on Saturday there was no advantage to surrender.

The Longhorns never led in the second half, and an ice-cold performance ended in a 86-51 blowout at the hands of No. 6 West Virginia. An angry Mountaineers team entered Saturday coming off of back-to-back conference losses. The win, its fourth in a row over Texas, helped West Virginia maintain sole possession of the second seed in the Big 12.

“West Virginia’s spirit and energy and toughness was as good as I’ve seen it,” head coach Shaka Smart said. “We stood up to that for about 12-14 minutes, but we didn’t close out the (first) half strong.

“And in the second half we were trading baskets a little bit. We got the lead down to single digits. But nowhere near the level of mental toughness and togetherness we need to have — especially on the road.”

Texas started the game like a well-oiled machine, demonstrating the same sharpness displayed during Wednesday’s win over No. 8 Texas Tech.

Freshman forward Mo Bamba collected three blocks and added four quick points in the opening five minutes as the Longhorns jumped out to an early 8-4 lead.

But West Virginia’s press began to give Texas fits. The Longhorns coughed up the ball on their next two possessions. The change of pace helped the Mountaineers go on an 8-0 run to pull ahead 14-10.

The press also led to foul trouble midway through the half.

Eight team fouls, including three on junior guard Eric Davis Jr. and two on freshman guard Matt Coleman, put West Virginia in the bonus and got Texas out of rhythm. The Longhorns failed to score for eight minutes, and West Virginia took full advantage. The Mountaineers ended the first half on a 13-2 run to go up 32-22 at the break.

The second half saw more inconsistency from Texas. West Virginia built its lead to 41-28 before a jumper from freshman forward Jericho Sims cut the lead to single-digits.

Texas switched to a press of its own and managed one final, furious rally. A steal by Roach led to an alley-oop to junior forward Dylan Osetkowski on the other end. Moments later, the forward cut the lead to eight.

But that was as close as Texas would get. West Virginia kicked it into gear and went on a 15-0 run to make it a 22-point game with six minutes to play.

The Mountaineers closed the game on a 41-14 run, connecting on 72 percent of their looks from behind the arc. Texas, meanwhile, went just 3-of-15 from three.

“As much as games today really, really hurt, they also better be lessons,” Smart said. “There better be opportunities to learn and understand what caused the game to get away from us after we got off to a pretty good start.”

The Longhorns (12–7, 3–4 Big 12) return home to host Iowa State on Monday at 6 p.m. The two teams met in Ames, Iowa, in early January. It took a career night by Osetkowski for Texas to escape, 74-70. 

Iowa State is coming off a dominant 18-point win over Texas Tech — the largest victory over an AP top-10 opponent in program history.

“For our team, we gotta turn the page quickly to Iowa State,” Smart said. “And we gotta really focus on what goes into winning against them. They’ll be feeling good about themselves coming off of a win. And we’ve got to learn some lessons from today, but also move forward and be the best version of ourselves that we can be.”

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Texas Sports

Sam Ehlinger has shown Texas fans plenty of good and plenty of bad this season.

One moment on Saturday, he tossed a beauty of a pass for a 50-yard pickup. The next moment, he evaded a would-be sack, turning a broken play into a positive one that left the West Virginia defense dazed and confused. And if you stuck around long enough, you saw Ehlinger throw a head-scratching pick-six that let the Mountaineers back into the game.

On a cold, rainy Saturday in Morgantown, Ehlinger showed why he’s the ultimate risk-reward player.

“You got to forget about the past if it’s good or bad,” Ehlinger said, “because you can’t let it affect the future.”

After watching sophomore Shane Buechele start the game and lead the Longhorns for the first two series, Ehlinger gave Texas a spark. The plan had been for Ehlinger to come in on the third offensive series no matter what. But he was unsure if it’d be for good.

“Obviously we knew that I was going in the third drive,” Ehlinger said, “but I had no idea after that what was gonna happen.”

The Longhorns went three-and-out on Ehlinger’s first series. His second was when things changed.

On the first play of the second quarter, Ehlinger delivered a perfect ball to redshirt freshman wide receiver Reggie Hemphill-Mapps down the sideline, which went for 50 yards and set up Texas in the red zone for the first time in the game. Minutes later, Ehlinger tossed a four-yard touchdown pass to graduate transfer tight end Kendall Moore to put Texas up 7-0.

The next Texas drive was peak Ehlinger. Facing a third-and-9, he evaded a West Virginia rusher who had broken free, scrambled out of a near-sack, then sprinted down the sideline for a 17-yard gain. The next play, Texas tried a trick play and had junior wide receiver Jerrod Heard throw a pass back to Ehlinger, who then ran for 23 yards to the West Virginia 31.

Ehlinger found junior running back Chris Warren III down the seam for a 20-yard touchdown pass moments later to put Texas up 14-0 late in the first half.

Texas fans had seen the reward. But then came the risk in the second half.

Facing a third-and-8 at West Virginia’s 22-yard line with under six minutes to play in the third quarter, Ehlinger dashed for 17 yards to set up a first-and-goal on the five. Ehlinger popped up after the play and pointed his hand forward to signal a first down.

It was the reward.

The Longhorns looked ready to break open the game and go up by three touchdowns.

But on the very next play, Ehlinger committed a costly mistake. A West Virginia defender broke loose in the backfield and got a hold of Ehlinger as he dropped back to pass. Instead of taking the sack, Ehlinger attempted to get rid of the ball as he went to the ground.

It was the risk.

Ehlinger desperately flung an errant pass that found the hands of West Virginia safety Kenny Robinson, who returned it 94 yards for a touchdown to cut the Texas lead to 14-7.

He wasn’t fazed by that play, either. Ehlinger calmly led Texas on two more touchdown drives in the second half to help ice the game.

“He’s tough. He’s a competitor,” head coach Tom Herman said. “He gives us a dimension in the run game. He rushed for 68 yards, 7.6 yards a carry — that’s a pretty good day at the office.”

Ehlinger has given Texas fans a dose of everything this season — a lot of good and, at times, a lot of bad.

But the most important thing he gave them on Saturday was a 28-14 win, making the Longhorns bowl eligible for the first time since 2014.

“Coach kept saying, ‘Just keep swinging, keep swinging. It’s gonna pay off. It’s gonna pay off. Keep swinging,’” Ehlinger said. “Obviously we would’ve liked some of the games (this season) to go differently, but we kept our head down and we kept working. To be able to go to a bowl and have that opportunity after the hardships and the close games that we’ve went through this year says a lot about the coaching staff as well as the players on the team.”

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Nick Wagner, Austin American-Statesman

As the fourth quarter winded down on Saturday in Morgantown, West Virginia, several Longhorns could be seen dancing and celebrating on the sideline. Head coach Tom Herman even flashed a grin.

When the clock hit 0:00, cementing Texas’ 28-14 victory over No. 24 West Virginia, the Longhorns officially earned what hasn’t been done since 2014: bowl eligibility.

“It was fantastic,” Herman said. “These guys, the smiles on their faces, we know we’ve got one left, but this was a big one to get another road conference win, to beat a top 25 team and make sure that our seniors are bowl eligible.”

The Longhorns and Mountaineers struggled for the majority of the first quarter in what was a treacherous downpour on the turf. Then, Texas caught a break –– at the expense of West Virginia quarterback Will Grier.

Grier took the snap from inside the one-yard line, faked the handoff and made a break for left end of the endzone. Grier dove for the pylon, but as he returned to his feet, he threw his right hand into the air, displaying a gruesome injury that deformed his middle finger.

The officials ruled the play a touchdown which gave the Mountaineers a 6-0 lead for the time being. Grier was sent to the locker room. One minute later, the officials overturned the touchdown call and Grier would not return for the remainder of the game.

The Mountaineers were forced to play redshirt sophomore Chris Chugunov and the Longhorn defense took advantage, holding a team averaging 39 points per game to zero at halftime.

“I thought our defense, to hold them to zero points offensively until mid-way through the fourth quarter,” Herman said.  “I think (that) was definitely something that kept us in the game.”

The Longhorn offense failed to put any points up in the first quarter as well until freshman Sam Ehlinger relieved starting quarterback Shane Buechele of his duties after the first two drives.

Ehlinger made his presence known immediately on the first play of the second quarter. The Longhorns faced a third-and-4 when the freshman quarterback floated a pass just over a West Virginia defender and right into the hands of redshirt freshman wide receiver Reggie Hemphill-Mapps for a 50-yard reception.

“That was difficult because it was pouring and the ball was pretty wet,” Ehlinger said.  “Reggie said he couldn't find it for a little bit because it was raining so hard. But it was good. It was a little boost knowing ‘hey it’s pouring and we can still throw the ball for 50 yards. We can do whatever we want in this game.’”

Ehlinger remained behind center for the rest of the game and finished the game completing 12-of-19 attempts for 136 yards and two touchdowns. But he did have one disastrous mistake in the third quarter. With the Longhorns five yards away from the end zone, Texas threatened to take a commanding 21-0 lead.

Then, right before Ehlinger was pulled to the ground for a sack, he desperately tried to throw the ball out of bounds. But it didn’t make it there. Instead, the ball landed right in West Virginia cornerback Kenny Robinson’s lap, who returned the interception 96 yards to cut the lead to 14-7.

“The pick-six, that’s a kid probably trying too hard,” Herman said. “I think he thought he could throw it away. As the saying goes ‘You’ve gotta know when the journey is over.’ We were in field goal range…  I suspect that will be a mistake that you won’t see him make again.”

Despite the interception, the Longhorn defense continued its dominance by holding a West Virginia offense averaging over 500 yards to 295 yards en route to a 28-14 victory, allowing Tom Herman and the Longhorns to leave Milan Puskar Stadium with both a victory and a bowl bid for the first time since 2014.

“They're kids that have been beat up quite a bit the last couple of years and to be able to say we’ve reached one of our goals this season,” Herman said. “These guys are ecstatic, but they also know we've got one left.”

The same players who suffered from back-to-back 5-7 seasons danced in celebration as the final seconds of the game dwindled down. Although the Longhorns do have one more game remaining in the regular season, one thing is for sure: 5-7 is no more.

Photo Credit: Zoe Fu | Daily Texan Staff

The Longhorns don’t have the fondest memories of Morgantown, West Virginia.

Texas stands one win away from ending its skid of back-to-back 5–7 seasons and becoming bowl-eligible for the first time since 2014. But the road to bowl eligibility goes through Morgantown and the Mountaineers.

The Longhorns last traveled to West Virginia in 2015, when they suffered a 38-20 defeat in front of a raucous crowd full of “hillbillies and moonshine,” according to junior defensive end Breckyn Hager. 

“It’s a bunch of hillbillies drinking moonshine,” Hager said following Tuesday’s practice. “I remember it all. I remember looking up, seeing someone with no teeth singing. I remember I was all mad, about to cry, trying to block all of that stuff out and get to the locker room.”

Fast forward two years, and Texas is returning to Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium. The electric crowd won’t be Texas’ biggest issue come Saturday, however. The Longhorns’ main concern will be junior quarterback Will Grier and the Mountaineer offense. 

Grier hasn’t received nearly as much national attention as Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield or Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph, but his performance this season speaks for itself. 

Grier leads the Big 12 in touchdown passes (34) and is second in completions (244) this season. This high-powered offense will provide one of the biggest tests of the year for Texas’ defense.

“I’m really excited. I think this offense that we’re going against is real special,” Hager said. “I like Grier. He’s a great quarterback. I think he’s one of the great quarterbacks in the Big 12.”

Texas has yet to claim a marquee victory this season, and it only has one more chance. The Longhorns’ close losses to then-No. 4 USC, then-No. 12 Oklahoma and then-No. 10 Oklahoma State are in the past. 

Now, as Texas looks to earn bowl eligibility, it has one more opportunity to get a victory against a top-25 caliber opponent in the Mountaineers. West Virginia is unranked in the College Football Playoff poll but is ranked No. 24 in the AP poll. With two games remaining in the season, Texas players claim that desperation has not begun to set in just yet. 

“We’re not desperate,” junior safety DeShon Elliott said. “But we do know we need to win at least one of the next two games — not just to build on next year, but to get our seniors to a bowl game.”

A 6–6 record usually doesn’t fly by Texas’ standards, but this year is different. The Longhorns have made their goal crystal clear: make a bowl, for the seniors. 

“I think we have a senior class, an experienced class, that, although small, is very well respected,” head coach Tom Herman said. “I really do think that there is a genuine desire for our guys to make sure that we get them to the postseason, that they can play one more game in the burnt orange and white.”

Photo Credit: Juan Figueroa | Daily Texan Staff

Tom Herman was brought to Texas to win. It is as simple as that at the end of the day.

After three years of frustration under former head coach Charlie Strong, Herman was sought after by burnt orange brass to be the man to bring the Longhorns back to the promised land.

But 10 games into Herman’s tenure, the promised land still feels like some long-lost acreage out in the middle of nowhere. Texas is 5–5 and needs one win in its last two games to reach a bowl for the first time since Strong’s first season in 2014.

The goal now is simple. A bowl berth, and win, in Herman’s first season on the 40 Acres would qualify as significant improvement, considering how things have gone in recent years.

Texas’ next two games are by no means cake-walks, though. Saturday’s matchup against 7–3 West Virginia in Morgantown, led by star quarterback Will Grier, is a tall task for a team that has been in offensive turmoil for the better part of the past month. The weather is expected to be unkind, too. The Longhorns will host Texas Tech next Friday in what could be the deciding game for whether or not Texas makes a bowl.

It’ll feel like another long offseason if this team can’t get to the postseason. Any form of progress is all Texas fans can ask for right now. The Longhorns have knocked on the door all season long but haven’t been able to break through with a marquee victory.

“We got to win one that we’re not supposed to,” Herman said. “I think right now, save for the very first game, we’ve won the ones that we’re supposed to and we haven’t (won) the ones that people said we weren’t supposed to. I think that’s got to be the next step.

“Are we learning how to win? Certainly. But the biggest next step is we got to win one of these road games against a top 25 team that most people would think we don’t have a chance of doing.”

And Saturday presents another one of those chances.

Granted, West Virginia isn’t technically a top-25 team in the College Football Playoff rankings, but the Mountaineers do check in at No. 24 in the AP poll.

What’s more, the clock is ticking on this senior class — a group that has had to endure one of the worst stretches in program history. The Longhorns want more than anything to send this group out with something to hang their hat on.

“Ah, man it’s huge,” senior nickelback Antwuan Davis said. “These young guys genuinely love the seniors and will play for these seniors. You know, and that’s something I really appreciate. Not many times we find young guys who would do such a thing. So Naashon (Hughes), me and some of the other seniors really appreciate that.”

Two games remain for this senior class, and there could be a third. But that third game is no guarantee. Senior wide receiver Lorenzo Joe recognizes that the hourglass is draining on his career.

“It’s flown by fast. I honestly can’t believe it,” Joe said. “I was talking to the other seniors and they also feel like we just got here yesterday. I’ve enjoyed my whole career, and it’s been fun. I’m just trying to finish on a high note.”

Photo Credit: Juan Figueroa | Daily Texan Staff

As Texas prepares for the penultimate contest of its 2017 regular season on Saturday, it’s become increasingly evident that the Longhorns won’t reach the heights they envisioned in the preseason. Sitting at 5–5 with two conference matchups remaining, Texas is out of contention for an appearance in the Big 12 title game, as well as its first eight-win season since the Mack Brown era. 

“Where we’re at is not where we had hoped to be,” head coach Tom Herman said on Monday. “There is nobody associated with the University of Texas that affects more than us.”

It’s a testament to how far the Longhorns program has fallen over the past half decade that a seven-win regular season would be seen as a notable success. Texas hasn’t won a bowl game since 2012 and is currently in the midst of its fourth-consecutive .500-or-worse season. Two wins over middling conference opponents shouldn’t be particularly notable for a storied program, but on the 40 Acres, it could be cause for jubilation.

The Longhorns will get another chance to creep over .500 this week with an early kickoff at West Virginia. The Mountaineers enter the matchup at No. 24 in the AP Poll, making them the fifth top-25 team Texas has faced this year. And escaping Morgantown, West Virginia with a victory is no easy task. West Virginia is 17–4 at home over the past three seasons. 

Saturday’s battle in Morgantown will provide Herman and company with a fifth opportunity to steal a win as underdogs. And aside from a Week 10 defeat at the hands of TCU, Texas has competed with each of its other three ranked opponents. The Longhorns’ best effort of the season came at then-No. 4 USC — ending in a 27-24 overtime defeat — and Texas held Oklahoma State to just 13 points on Oct. 21. Add in a hard-fought five-point loss to Oklahoma in the Red River Showdown, and the Longhorns’ résumé looks stronger than a 5–5 record would indicate.

“I think we are headed in a very, very healthy, good direction,” Herman said. “We’re playing with a tremendous amount of effort, tremendous amount of intensity, physicality and we have proven that when you can do those things ... you’ve got a chance to win.” 

And that’s not just hot air from Herman. Yes, there are offensive deficiencies galore, most glaringly a plodding running game along with an injured, inexperienced and ineffective offensive line. Despite those issues, the 2017 Longhorns look to be a superior squad than their previous Charlie Strong-era iterations. 

The Longhorns’ perceived improvement has been most notable on the defensive end. After ranking No. 80 in the nation in points allowed in 2016, the Longhorns have shot up nearly 50 spots this season, coming in at No. 32, allowing just over 21.9 points per game. Texas has been staunch against the run, highlighted by the sideline-to-sideline speed of its linebackers, and turnover-forcing prowess in the secondary. This isn’t the same Longhorn team that existed during the Strong era. Texas is prepared to compete with the nation’s top teams, even with its holes on the offensive side of the ball. 

But to truly turn the page and begin a new era of Texas football, the Longhorns must close the season on a high note, and build toward a winning season in Herman’s first year. Pair a 7–5 regular season with what now stands as the nation’s No. 2 2018 recruiting class, and the Longhorns will be in contention for their first conference title game since 2009 a year from now. But a loss on Saturday and a sputtering finish could very well derail Herman’s progress and keep the Longhorns stuck in the middle of the Big 12 for years to come. 

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Chuck Meyers | Daily Texan Staff

Behind the smell of fresh quesadillas exiting the oven and the sound of a sizzling crunchwrap being placed in a paper bag for delivery, there is a worker that puts in the hours to create these culinary delights.

But in one case, that same worker rushed for 1,184 yards for a Division I football team just months after working his final shift in the fast food industry. That employee would be West Virginia senior running back Justin Crawford, who has ensured hard work is a constant factor in his life, whether behind the counter at Taco Bell or in front of 60,000 fans at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown, West Virginia.

Crawford initiated his college career at Northwest Mississippi Community College, where he led the school to a national championship at the closure of the 2015 season. The running back’s successes in The Magnolia State were well documented. He rushed for over 3,000 yards and 30 touchdowns at Northwest Mississippi, even earning recognition as a featured opponent in a popular Netflix documentary, “Last Chance U.”

But although the athletic talent was always present in the agile running back, Crawford worked diligently to increase his grades to play at the Division I level. The effort once again paid off.

“Grades are tremendously important, and class is also as important as grades,” Crawford said. “Without the grades, none of this football stuff really matters.”

A senior at West Virginia, Crawford is currently nearing his degree in multidisciplinary studies, and he is set to graduate from the University in May. His soon-to-be alma mater was one of several programs that recognized his talents and abilities at the running back position following his tenure in Mississippi. Upon arriving in Morgantown, Crawford immediately rushed to a Taco Bell, working long hours to earn cash on his newly acquainted campus.

“I knew I had to do something, and I knew the best way to get money was to work for it,” Crawford said. “I don’t necessarily like asking people for stuff because I know I can get it on my own if I put myself up for it and put in the work.”

Once the 2016 football season commenced, Crawford finally left Taco Bell and started suiting up in blue and gold for head coach Dana Holgorsen’s program. Through 23 games as a Mountaineer, Crawford has produced over 2,000 yards on the ground for a staple top 25 program, additionally reaching the end zone on 12 occasions.

“It was different,” Crawford said on his recruitment to West Virginia. “I liked the vibes (Coach Holgorsen) gives off. I think he knows exactly what he’s doing and he knows the game of football very well. From the time I got here, he’s been very loyal to me.”

The senior from Columbus, Georgia has posted numbers that will certainly draw eyes from NFL scouts. Crawford plans on testing the waters of professional football, and he will maintain the mentality on working for his goals, an outlook that has propelled him from a community college to a Taco Bell to Morgantown.

“If you work hard enough and you are willing to sacrifice some things, the reward will outweigh the work,” Crawford said.

Texas wins if

It’s become impossible to win in the Big 12 without a good quarterback.

Oklahoma State senior Mason Rudolph leads the nation in passing yards, followed by Oklahoma redshirt senior Baker Mayfield, West Virginia redshirt junior Will Grier and Texas Tech senior Nic Shimonek.

Grier has been nothing short of spectacular this season while leading the Mountaineers to a 7–3 record. In addition to his 3,440 passing yards, Grier has also thrown 34 touchdowns, second highest in the nation, and boasts a passer rating of 163.5.

The Longhorns haven’t had the same amount success at the position. Sophomore Shane Buechele and freshman Sam Ehlinger have combined for 2,739 yards, 13 touchdowns, eight interceptions and have completed just 60.9% of their passes.

The Longhorns have leaned on their quarterbacks all season, especially with head coach Tom Herman continuing to juggle running backs. However, the pair of passers might struggle more than usual against West Virginia.

Against the pass, the Mountaineers have allowed just 245.3 passing yards per game, second best in the Big 12, and have picked off opponents 10 times as well, including two against Kansas State last week.

Texas wins this game if it can overcome West Virginia’s stingy defense and produce through the air.

Texas loses if

The burnt orange defense seemed to lose its foothold on the Big 12 defense two weeks ago in a 24-7 loss against then-No. 10 TCU.

Texas failed to force a turnover and did little to stop the Horned Frogs’ running game. TCU senior and sophomore running backs Kyle Hicks and Darius Anderson combined for 140 rushing yards on 29 carries and three touchdowns.

However, things returned to status quo against Kansas last weekend, thanks to Antwuan Davis.

The senior defensive back recovered a fumble and racked up two interceptions, one of which he returned 16 yards for a touchdown. Senior defensive back Jason Hall also chipped in a pick, helping the Longhorns in their 42-27 win over the Jayhawks.

Texas will need to do more of the same against West Virginia. Grier has shown he has flaws and has been picked off 12 times. Four of them came in Week 9 against Oklahoma State during the Mountaineers’ worst loss of the season, 50-39.

The Longhorns still have the No. 2 defense in the conference and have the ability to shut down some of the nation’s top offenses, even without junior cornerback Holton Hill. Texas loses this game if it can’t capitalize on West Virginia’s mistakes and continue making big plays on defense.