During the second play of the game Saturday, Oklahoma State’s Joseph Randle took the ball 69 yards for a touchdown. The defense’s struggles to stop the Cowboy’s run game didn’t end there.
They allowed Randle to accumulate 275 total yards, with 199 coming on the ground.
Missed tackles were to blame for giving up many of those yards. UT is supposed to have one of the best defenses in the country. Last season the Longhorns ranked No. 1 in the Big 12 in rushing defense with 96.2 rushing yards allowed per game.
Currently, the team ranks ninth, only above Kansas. The defense has allowed four rushing touchdowns and an average of 180 rushing yards per game.
“I think there is a little frustration to get back to the way we know we’re capable of playing,” cornerback Carrington Byndom said. “Giving up big plays and things like that with missed tackling and stuff like that is just not things that we expect.”
Injuries still a problem; Fera kicks for first time Sunday
After incurring a groin injury this season, kicker Anthony Fera has not seen any action on the field. Head coach Mack Brown said trainers told him that it would take Fera four to six weeks to recover. Fera kicked on Sunday for the first time since fall camp.
Freshman Nick Jordan did not kick any field goals against Oklahoma State, but he currently holds the worst field goal percentage in the Big 12 at 42.9, connecting on three of seven attempts.
Running back Malcolm Brown sprained his ankle the first time he touched the ball against the Cowboys and did not play for the rest of the game. He will not play Saturday. Linebacker Jordan Hicks’ status is still unknown for Saturday.
If Hicks does not play against West Virginia, young linebackers such as true freshman Dalton Santos will have to grow up quickly.
Geno Smith, Mountaineers pose challenge
No. 8 West Virginia defeated Baylor, 70-63 this past week. Quarterback Geno Smith threw a Big 12-record of eight touchdowns in the game.
West Virginia is not going to be like Oklahoma State. While the Cowboys were a bit forgiving on offense, the Mountaineers will not be. They are third in scoring offense with 53 points per game and Heisman candidate Smith leads the nation in pass efficiency.
“It’s the ultimate challenge. Number one, you’re playing a quarterback that is not going to have to wait long in April to get his name called,” defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said. “Great player. Great wide receivers. Plays in a great system for success.”
For a defense that is struggling to find its identity, the Mountaineers’ arrival in Austin will be a tough test — potentially the toughest test the defense will face all season.
Johnathan Gray Stepping Up
With Malcolm Brown’s injury on Saturday, freshman Johnathan Gray got the most playing time he’s had all season. He had 68 rushing yards on 12 carries, many of them out of the Wild formation.
Though the run game didn’t have it’s usual explosive game, he was vital in keeping the offense in the game.
“When that does come up, Johnathan was a guy that came in, did a fantastic job in his role,” co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin said. “There’s some plays in there, we were backed up. Got great ball security.”