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WVU Defenses Could be Taxed Again in Austin

October 4, 2012
By JIM ELLIOTT , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

Texas coach Mack Brown said he went looking for defensive coordinator Manny Diaz on Monday morning, just before he set off for his weekly news conference because he likes to remain on the same page with his staff prior to things like that.

"I've been down there three times,'' Brown said, ''and he's got his door closed and he's under his desk. It's been hard to communicate with the defensive staff so far ... they're just sick.''

That's because they've been tasked, in a six-day span, to find a way to stop a West Virginia offense that went for 807 yards and 70 points last weekend, scored 10 touchdowns for the third time in five games, and is ranked No. 3 in the nation in total offense at 598.5 yards an outing.

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No. 8 West Virginia will enter one of the toughest environments for visiting teams Saturday when it travels to Austin to face No. 11 Texas.

''They're as good an offense as I've ever seen, anywhere,'' Brown said. ''They're just unbelievable.''

If the Longhorns have any edge (other than the 101,000 fans in their home stadium), it's that they just ''held'' the nation's top offense, Oklahoma State, to 576 yards and 36 points a week earlier. The Cowboys offense was installed by the man who is now West Virginia's head coach, Dana Holgorsen.

At the very least, they should be used to preparing for it, though Holgorsen pointed out his guys have an entire film on how Texas defended that offense.''

"We've watched (Holgorsen) and watched that offense grow,'' Brown said. ''We probably will have some advantages in having some of the same thing to work on in two straight weeks.''

But ...

"We just played against a team that had scored 62 (in its previous game), and now we're playing a team that just scored 70,'' Brown added. ''It's crazy.''

Oklahoma State put up its numbers against Texas primarily because the Longhorns' tackling left something to be desired. Brown figures it will get worse before it gets better if they don't find a way to fix that.

"We'll give up 70 this weekend if we don't tackle better than we did (against the Cowboys),'' Brown said.

Then again, Brown and Diaz don't have nearly the issues that Holgorsen and WVU defensive coordinator Joe DeForest do. At the moment, only 14 teams in the entire FBS have bigger problems stopping people than West Virginia (Baylor is now dead last in total defense).

Somehow, after watching the film, Holgorsen came away feeling better about his defense Sunday afternoon than he did Saturday night. He promised this one would be different, if for no other reason, Texas plays a more traditional power-running type of offense and doesn't feel the need to play every snap as if its hair were on fire.

"We played well against the run,'' Holgorsen said. ''They had over 40-some attempts and we held them to around 2 yards per carry. Our pass defense was atrocious but to find a positive our run defense was really good.''

It will have to get better in a hurry. This game features the nation's two most efficient passers, as Texas' David Ash is right on the heels of West Virginia's Geno Smith (208.37 to 184.03).

Brown, by the way, mentioned Smith is the Heisman front-runner in his eyes and ''as good as (Big 12) quarterbacks have been, (Smith) is playing as good or better than any we've had. It's unbelievable. (With the Heisman hype), It's a very difficult thing to do. He just seems unbothered by it. And he's got three of the best receivers I've ever seen. He has absolutely no weaknesses. It's just amazing to watch him.''

Ash, a sophomore whose career stats coming into this season were four touchdowns and eight interceptions, has cleaned that up in a big way. He finished 30 of 37 for 304 yards, three touchdowns and his first interception against Oklahoma State.

"Ash is playing at a high level,'' Holgorsen said. ''He's doing a good job taking care of the football. They've got backs that are fast. They're a good, talented Texas offense.''

The Longhorns' leading rusher is junior Joe Bergeron, who averages 64 yards per game, with Malcom Brown, who won't play, right behind him at 62. All told, Texas is 19th in rushing offense (228 yards per game), 40th in passing offense (267.75) and 23rd overall at 495.75 yards per game, 103 per contest fewer than West Virginia.

The leading receivers are Jaxon Shipley and Mike Davis, who combine to catch 108 yards worth of passes per per game.

It's a different story with the always-stingy Texas defense, which is giving up 390 yards a game, or 85 fewer than the Mountaineers. The Longhorns give up 21 points per game.

"They're really, really fast,'' Holgorsen said.

''They have tons of speed. We have to be prepared for a lot of blitz and a lot of man coverage.''

Both of these offenses rank inside the top four in the country in third-down conversions (WVU is first, Texas is fourth and they're both above 58 percent).