WVU’s Long, Donahue Describe Defensive Struggles

WVU’s Long, Donahue Describe Defensive Struggles

AUSTIN, Texas — West Virginia’s defense didn’t have one of its better days against Texas. The Mountaineers’ performance on that side of the ball was bad enough that defensive coordinator Tony Gibson said the best thing his group did all day was allow Texas to score quickly on its last possession, which provided the offense the chance to respond.

While that wasn’t entirely true, the Longhorns did record 520 yards on 75 plays, punted just once, and put up the most points (41)  against the West Virginia defense this year.

“The defense struggled at times, but scores like that shouldn’t happen,” defensive lineman Reese Donahue said.

Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger did everything he could to get a win for the 100,703 fans in attendance, throwing for 354 yards and running for another 52 while accounting for four touchdowns.

Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger, down and sans helmet, short of a first down

“He’s almost like a running back. He’s 6-2, 230, and one more guy you have to account for,” Donahue said of the Longhorn sophomore. “You have a guy who knows how to run.”

Linebacker David Long echoed that thought, noting that Ehlinger is “a big body. He’s a good player.”

Still, there were a few Mountaineer highlights on defense. WVU held Texas on fourth down at point blank scoring range in the third quarter, and also limited the Horns to a field goal on a red zone trip in the fourth. Additional points on either of those drives would have likely resulted in a UT win. Instead, the Mountaineers kept the orange lights on the top levels of the Texas Tower dark.

On the fourth down play, Ehlinger was initially marked as having gotten to the WVU four-yard line on a keeper, but video review showed him down with the ball positioned outside that mark. Additionally, his helmet came off at the same time, which also ended the play immediately. Either way, he didn’t get to the line to gain.

“It’s a great feeling, getting a stop or holding them to a field goal at a critical time, especially down in the red zone,” Donahue said. “It’s a real victory.”

While WVU did get a couple of important stops, it was unable to consistently get off the field on third down. Texas converted six of its 11 third down chances, and one of two on fourth.

“We are going to hear about that,” Long said ruefully. “On the critical downs, it wasn’t our better day. I feel like we had a good game plan coming in. We have to go out there and make plays — we made some, but we missed some.”

Both Long and Donahue credited the offense for bailing out the defense, much as Gibson did. That reversed games earlier in the year, such as the Kansas contest, where the defense was the stalwart.

“[The locker room was] very emotional, it was a tough game,” Long related “We didn’t know how it was going to come out. The [offense] went out there and made some tough plays.”

That back and forth support has been a hallmark of the 2018 West Virginia team, and something that hasn’t always been the case. Many times, one side of the ball is markedly better than the other. This year, it’s been a story of each side having the other’s back.

“There’s nothing like going through a battle like that and coming out victorious with your brothers,” Donahue said. “That’s an amazing feeling.”

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