Mack Brown’s pink slip will have to wait another day.
The much-embattled Texas coach survived another major threat to his job security Saturday night at Milan Puskar Stadium when Longhorn linebacker Steve Edmond intercepted a Paul Millard pass in the end zone, closing the door on a 47-40 Texas victory over West Virginia in overtime. The win extended the UT winning streak to six games and kept alive its hopes of a Big 12 title.
Texas (7-2, 6-0 Big 12) scored first in overtime, converting a third-and-goal from the WVU 4-yard line with a Case McCoy play-action pass that found fullback Alex De La Torre wide open in the end zone.
On its first and only possession of the extra period, WVU (4-6, 2-5 Big 12) took just one play to get to the Texas 5-yard line, when Mario Alford took an end around 20 yards, but the Longhorns held on three plays, forcing a game-deciding fourth down.
Millard, who entered the game in the opening quarter after starter Clint Trickett went out with an injury, was pressured heavily on the game-deciding play, and his lob to the end zone never had a chance. Edmond secured the pick, and the Longhorns stormed the field in celebration.
“Obviously it was a disappointing loss for our players and coaches,” said WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen. “It would have been a big win for us, but we didn’t make the plays when they counted the most. It was tough to take.”
The loss puts WVU in a must-win situation the rest of the season. The Mountaineers will be at Kansas next Saturday and will end the season Nov. 30 at home against Iowa State. WIns in both are necessary for WVU to add to its streak of 11 straight bowl appearances.
Some early breaks helped WVU set the tone in the opening quarter of the Mountaineers’ first night game of the season and got the crowd of 58,570 into the game.
Jowone Snow blocked a Texas punt on the Longhorns’ opening drive, and when the ball rolled out of the back of the end zone, the Mountaineers got their first points as a result of a safety.
On the ensuing possession, the Mountaineers marched 42 yards in six plays, finding the end zone from three yards out when Charles Sims took three straight carries from the Texas 7-yard line, the last one crossing the goal line.
Ahead 9-0, the Mountaineers started to believe, but they failed to capitalize on a couple of other Longhorn miscues that could have added to the cushion.
Jared Barber forced a Daje Johnson fumble that was recovered by Kyle Rose at the Texas 46-yard line midway through the first quarter, but WVU didn’t convert the mistake into points. It also failed to score when McCoy was intercepted by Nick Kwiatkoski at the WVU 45-yard line, again forced to punt.
WVU had plenty of its own mistakes, including a Trickett fumble at the WVU 35 that led to UT’s first points, a 37-yard Anthony Fera field goal.
After Trickett left the game, Millard came in and immediately suffered from his own case of fumblitis, putting the ball on the turf on the WVU 26. That led to Texas’ first touchdown, a 2-yard Malcom Brown rush that put the Longhorns ahead for the first time, 10-9.
WVU took the lead back midway through the second quarter, going 51 yards in five plays — two Millard passes to White the big blows. Sims finished the drive with a 6-yard touchdown run.
Fera and WVU’s Josh Lambert exchanged field goals in the final two drives of the half, and the Mountaineers took a 19-13 lead into the locker room.
Texas scored first in the second half, another Fera field goal cutting the lead to 19-16, but WVU answered back with a 91-yard drive sparked by a 33-yard Sims rush from deep in his own territory. Sims also got the score, running it in from a yard out to put the Mountaineers back up 10.
Texas wouldn’t go away, scoring on a 49-yard McCoy pass to Mike Davis and then taking its first lead of the second half with an 8-yard Joe Bergeron run that put the Longhorns ahead 30-26 at the end of three quarters.
WVU pulled back in front in the back-and-forth affair, taking the lead back on an 8-yard Dremius Smith touchdown run, but Texas answered with a 10-yard touchdown pass from McCoy to Jaxon Shipley.
It looked like the nighttime Mountaineer Field magic would strike again when Alford scored on a 72-yard touchdown pass from Millard, getting single coverage on the edge and beating the Longhorn defensive back on a slant. The score put WVU ahead 40-37 with 7:39 to play.
The Mountaineers, though, couldn’t stop UT on a fourth-and-7 with under a minute to play in regulation. Texas moved the chains on a strike to Shipley that set up a 25-yard game-tying Fera field goal. WVU was foreced to play overtime for the second time in as many weeks after downing TCU 30-27 in OT last week.
WVU ended Saturday’s game with 399 yards of total offense, 290 through the air. Sims gained 93 yards and scored three touchdowns on 24 carries, and Millard completed 16 of 32 passes for 259 yards and a touchdown. He also threw a pair of interceptions.
Kevin White was WVU’s leading receiver, catching five passes for 89 yards.
Texas gained 435 yards of offense, 283 in the passing game. McCoy completed 27 of 49 passes for 283 yards and three touchdowns. He tossed just one interception and overcame a sluggish start. Shipley caught seven balls for 82 yards, and Malcolm Brown rushed 28 times for 89 yards.
The Mountaineer defense was able to force two big Texas turnovers, but it couldn’t keep the Longhorns from converting when it mattered most, sending the crowd home disappointed.
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Mack Brown’s pink slip will have to wait another day.
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