The Chalkboard: West Virginia Mountaineers – Texas Longhorns

Texas will be without starting running back Keaontay Ingram for Saturday’s noon game against West Virginia. Does that matter?

Of course, the loss of any player affects overall depth, and as the first teamer, Ingram was judged by the Longhorn coaching staff to be the best of their group of rushers. However, UT has employed a true running back by committee approach, with backups Roschon Johnson (42 carries for 192 yards) and Bijan Robinson (39 for 181) comparing favorably to Johnson’s 53 totes for 250 yards. Add in the fact that quarterback Sam Ehlinger is the ‘Horns leading rusher (78-284) and UT is built to withstand a loss at this position better than at it would be at many others.

West Virginia (4-2/3-2) vs.Texas (4-2/3-2) Sat Nov 7 12:00 PM ET
DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium Austin, TX TV: ABC
Poll: WVU–34 UT-26 Series: WVU 5-4 Last Game: UT 42-31
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And that brings the discussion to Ehlinger — one of the biggest keys in the game. The only QB in the nation who is a fourth-year starter with his current head coach, Ehlinger’s effectiveness surpasses his statistics, which are considerable in themselves. He creates plays on the run, and just when he might appear to be in a bad stretch of passes, will come up with some pinpoint throws to rescue drives and games.

Then there’s his running ability, which comes into play in the red zone (seven TDs this year) and on scrambles from passing plays. Keeping the Austin native in check in that phase of the game will be a primary focus for the WVU defense, but one that won’t be easy to successfully execute.

There are several different methods for trying to control a quarterback that can run. The first, and one that most often springs to mind, is a spy — a player who mirrors the quarterback’s movements in order to keep him from springing free into the open field. If the spy has the same speed as the QB and good tackling ability, this can be effective, but it also takes a defender out of run fits on some plays and out of anything but an interdicting role on short passes in others. WVU does have several players who fit this bill, but it’s tough to execute such a tactic consistently.

There are also containment strategies on defense, wherein rushers try to keep lanes and gaps contained, especially on the interior. Again, this is sound in theory, but that might work against a West Virginia defense that is so effective at running stunts and twists up front. In doing so, there are occasions when gaps result, so it’s to be expected that Ehlinger might be able to take advantage on occasion.

Finally, there’s the straightforward tactic of pocket compression, where defenders employ more bull and straight rush techniques so as to cut down on those gaps. Runs out of the pocket are hoped to be pushed horizontally, where pursuing defenders can assist to limit gains.

Ehlinger has dinged every UT opponent on the ground this year save Oklahoma State. The Cowboys, with their excellent defensive front, sacked him six times and held him to -9 yards on the ground in 13 total rushes. Can West Virginia match such a performance? That’s a tough ask, and it should also be noted that while the Cowboys were effective in doing so, Ehlinger still threw four TD passes and engineered an overtime win.

Look for the Mountaineers to mix and match a number of different tactics to try to keep the veteran QB off balance. Those aren’t likely to befuddle Ehlinger, who has seen it all in his career, but if they can produce a bit of hesitation, a different look or cause him to pause or make a wrong decision a few times, that could be enough to spring the upset.

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West Virginia has run 485 plays on offense so far this year. Of those, 243 have resulted in rushes and 242 in passes. A handful of those runs have been called pass plays that resulted in sacks or scrambles, but the balance the Mountaineers have been able to maintain this year has been one factor in keeping defenses from loading up against one play phase over another.

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Texas leads the Big 12, and is fourth nationally, in scoring drives of less than two minutes. The Longhorns have scored 16 times on possessions of less than two minutes, and 13 of those have taken less than 1:30 off the clock.

One of the reasons is their propensity for big plays. UT has run 12 plays that resuled in gains of 40 or more yards this year. That brings up the obvious counterpoint for the WVU defense to try to prevent those breakouts, but that’s one of the things that makes Texas’ offense so good this year. There are too many things to cover, and too experienced of a quarterback at the controls, to hold everything in check consistently.

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West Virginia fans don’t have to be told to keep an eye out for yellow flags. Neither, it turns out, do Texas supporters. WVU is 95th nationally in penalties and penalty yardage, averaging 8.7 flags and 81.3 yards of walk-offs per game. Texas is even worse, standing 99th and 100th with 9.3 markers and 87.5 yards per game going against it.

The good news for WVU is that it has trended downward in this department over its past two games. The Mountaineers were flagged seven times for 69 yards against Texas Tech, but only five times for 28 in last week’s win over Kansas State.

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How will the absence of plackicker Evan Staley, lost for the season with a knee injury, affect WVU’s playcalling in plus territory?  The Mountaineers, backed by some of head coach Neal Brown’s favored analytics, have been aggressive on fourth down this year, attempting 15 conversion tries and converting 10. That, in turn, has had an effect on some third down calls, leding WVU to run the ball or attempt shorter passes in order to create shorter fourth down distance situations.

Casey Legg, Staley’s replacement, has solid range, having converted a 51-yarder at Kansas State last year and a 45-yarder against the Wildcats last week. He’s 4-6 in his Mountaineer career overall and 2-3 from greater than 40 yards out.

With all that in mind, and with an eye toward Texas’ offensive punch, West Virginia might be more aggressive when it crosses midfield and gets into the scoring zone. Keep an eye on WVU’s third down play calls in that area — and don’t be surprised if the Mountaineers add to their fourth down play total from scrimmage.

Home Page forums The Chalkboard: West Virginia Mountaineers – Texas Longhorns

  • This topic has 7 replies, 5 voices, and was last updated by Butlereer.
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  • #127567

    Texas will be without starting running back Keaontay Ingram for Saturday’s noon game against West Virginia. Does that matter? Of course, the loss of a
    [See the full post at: The Chalkboard: West Virginia Mountaineers – Texas Longhorns]

    #127590

    I have nothing to add, but enjoyed reading the break down.   Nice job as always

    #127592

    Thanks V.  As you all can probably tell, I’m more about the games themselves, so this and The Film Room are fun to do.

    #127609

    This and film room are worth the price of admission.  Look forward to both every week.

    “Ehlinger has dinged every UT opponent on the ground this year save Oklahoma State. The Cowboys, with their excellent defensive front, sacked him six times and held him to -9 yards on the ground in 13 total rushes. Can West Virginia match such a performance?”

    Our DL front will compare to any in the country.  Can we do it?  If we want a W, we’ll have to contain him. Can the Stills Bros match OSU with 6 sacks?

    #127637

    There is a better question Butler, with Texas’ OL obviously being focused on the Stills brothers, can we get to Ehlinger with Pooler, Mesidor, Barrett, and Tonk?

    #127650

    I think those guys have shown enough to feel confident that if Texas goes all out with double teams and such to stop the SilBros our other guys can bring that pressure home.  Are they athletic enough to catch him and bring him down?  I hope so

    #127655

    Ok St gave up some rushing yards to the tailbacks.  Wasn’t watching with that in mind, but did they choose to make the tailbacks beat them by focusing on Sam?

    #127659

    There is a better question Butler, with Texas’ OL obviously being focused on the Stills brothers, can we get to Ehlinger with Pooler, Mesidor, Barrett, and Tonk?

    Good point on our bigs.  I’ll put my money on Fields as the disrupter. Let the guys up front keep the O in check and give it to Tony to make the kill.

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Home Page forums The Chalkboard: West Virginia Mountaineers – Texas Longhorns

Home Page forums The Chalkboard: West Virginia Mountaineers – Texas Longhorns