Using Holgorsen's plan, WVU comes through in clutch
MORGANTOWN -- At the end of the first quarter of last week's 48-45 win over Texas, the No. 5 West Virginia University football team found itself in a difficult spot facing fourth down with four yards to go from the Longhorns' 40-yard line.
After Tyler Bitancurt missed a field goal earlier in the quarter, WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen opted to send his offense back out on the field to try to pick up the first down and extend the drive.
On the next play, Texas was able to reach senior quarterback Geno Smith and force what appeared to be a turnover on downs until the officials stepped in and said Texas had called a timeout prior to the snap. Then, on their second chance at the fourth-down conversion out of the timeout, Smith found senior inside receiver Tavon Austin, who turned a short under route into a 40-yard touchdown that gave the Mountaineers a 14-7 lead.
It turns out that would be just the beginning of WVU's good fortunes on third and fourth downs against the Longhorns.
"You knew it was going to be a tough task to slow them down," said Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz. "Our guys battled like crazy, got them into third downs. It's all about stops when you play an offense like that."
West Virginia (5-0, 2-0 Big 12) plays a 3:30 p.m., Saturday, game at conference foe Texas Tech (4-1, 1-1) that is televised on WCHS-8.
While they were only able to successful convert on three of the 12 third downs they faced, the Mountaineers were 5-for-5 on fourth downs, all of which played vital roles in drives that ended in touchdowns.
The pressure of having to convert on that final down was something Smith and the offense embraced. They knew they had a job to do and wanted to do what it could to get the job done in order to put more points on the board.
"It's how we play. We play as a team, we fight as a team. No matter what it takes to win the game, that's what we're going to do," Smith said. "Coach did a great job managing the situations. He kept us out there on the field and trusted us to get first downs."
Coming up big on fourth down proved to be a major key for the Mountaineers. It helped them handle the adversity that they saw thrown at them.
Players admitted that at times last year, they wouldn't have been able to handle those situations quite as well. But in the second year of Holgorsen's system, West Virginia is experienced and confident enough that it can make the plays that matter at any time in order to help seal a victory.
"I believe we have a great group of leaders on this team," Smith said. "We all understand our responsibilities, which is to get better from week to week. We are not going to look past anyone.
"It's a marathon, not a sprint."