|West Virginia made plays when it needed them to run over Texas. (Getty Images)|
AUSTIN -- In a game -- heck, a season -- defined by offense and missed tackles, West Virginia probably needed just one defensive stop to go deep in the heart of Texas for a win.
They got two.
"You can look at all the points and everything but the bottom line is we made the stops when we needed to," defensive coordinator Joe DeForest said following a 48-45 upset victory. "And we did."
After West Virginia took the lead late in the fourth quarter, Texas moved the ball to within striking distance of a field goal to tie. Reaching back like a fastball pitcher late in the game, however, the defense tightened on fourth down as cornerback Pat Miller knocked down a David Ash pass that hung in the air just a tad too long to cause even the most vertically challenged Mountaineers on the sidelines to jump up in exclamation.
After turning things over to the offense on the next series though, the team was right back in the same position after Texas defensive end Alex Okafor extended his arm to knock the ball out of Heisman Trophy front-runner Geno Smith's hands and set up the Longhorns inside the red zone. The West Virginia defense forced a three-and-out, coupled with a bad snap that resulted in a 16-yard loss, and Anthony Fera's field goal sailed wide right to essentially win the game.
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"People are down on our defense and all that but I said that we're going to need them to make a big stop," Smith said. "We're going to continue to work as a team and not worry about the critics and what people say."
Smith finished 25-of-35 for 268 yards and four scores, a paltry line considering that he has been used to throwing as many touchdowns as he does incompletions. He was serenaded to chants of "Geno sucks!" from the record-setting crowd at Darrell K. Royal - Memorial Stadium following the final turnover but dismissed the fans criticism with an incredulous smile knowing the offense converted on fourth down all five times on the night.
"People saying you suck, where does that come from?" Smith asked rhetorically. "Obviously I don't suck but I'll let them believe that."
Not many believe the Mountaineers are bad team following the performance on the road against the 11th-ranked Longhorns. Though they'll be criticized all season long for their porous defense that came into the game ranked 106th in the country, if there's such a thing as having too good of an offense, Smith and company have it. The program is 80-3 since 2000 when scoring 30-plus a game and on Saturday showed they were more than just a high-flying passing attack.
"We knew that in order to get this victory, we would have to run the ball efficiently," said Andrew Buie, who finished with 207 yards and sealed the game with his second touchdown on a drive he rushed all but once. "We saw a lot of five-man boxes and if you have a five-man box, that's disrespectful (by saying) you can't run the ball."
Holgorsen, the Air Raid mastermind behind it all, was so caught up in the great performance he couldn't even think straight afterward, joking there's plenty running through his head. Still, there was confidence, not shock, when seeing just how well Buie did on the ground.
"What surprised me was his carrying it 31 times," Holgorsen said. "We did commit to the run, that was something that we talked about earlier in the week. There weren't any tricks either, we lined up and we just ran it right at them."
As West Virginia headed home to its country roads, Florida State was upended by N.C. State to add to a hectic day in college football that saw fellow top 10 teams LSU and Georgia both go down. The upsets could result in the Mountaineers winding up ranked in the top five come Sunday afternoon, just two weeks away from the release of the first BCS standings, with several around the country wondering if the team could wind up back in Miami at the end of the year.
"I don't really care what people think to be honest with you," Holgorsen, hair shooting off in several directions just like his wideouts, said. "What the outside thinks looking in, doesn't effect what we do."
But they are thinking pretty highly after this week.