AUSTIN (KXAN) — There’s always a little bit of uncertainty playing a game at West Virginia. This year, the Mountainers (3-1, 1-0) are still a bit of an unknown under first-year head coach Neal Brown.
In the case of the Texas Longhorns (3-1, 1-0), going to Morgantown hasn’t been a terrible experience in the short series between the two teams. The Longhorns are 2-1 at Milan-Puskar Stadium, but just 3-5 overall against WVU.
The last time the Longhorns went to Morgantown, they came back to Austin bowl-eligible in 2017. The expectations have changed around Tom Herman’s program since that rainy November day, and Texas is expected to win Saturday.
In the first true road test of the season, the No. 11 Longhorns need to be able to handle a less-talented West Virginia team and keep everything on track before a massive showdown with Oklahoma at the Cotton Bowl next week.
If they don’t, we’ll learn a whole lot about both programs Saturday evening.
Texas is entering the game short-handed at defensive back, but OU transfer quarterback Austin Kendall may not be able to take advantage of the deficiencies. He never got a shot at the Longhorns in the Red River Rivalry, so he’ll be anxious to play his best in his third college season.
Kendall has been serviceable in his first four starts throwing six touchdowns compared to three interceptions. The running game is slowly picking up after a dreadful start to the year averaging 4.8 yards per carry in the last two games — two wins against North Carolina State and Kansas.
Neal Brown replaced Dana Holgorsen at the helm, and is considered a great offensive mind — similar to his predecessor. He just doesn’t have the same quality of talent on offense in the program right now.
The Longhorns are favored by 11 points, according to oddsmakers, but the Longhorns know nothing is guaranteed.
“It’s unfathomable to me right now that anyone in this program could feel anything resembling comfortability,” Herman said Monday.
There’s a long list of Longhorns defensive backs not playing. Jalen Green, Caden Sterns and Josh Thompson are definitely out. DeMarvion Overshown should be considered doubtful to play. However, Texas is expecting nicklelback B.J. Foster to play for the first time since the LSU game.
Kobe Boyce, D’Shawn Jamison, Anthony Cook and freshman Kenyatta Watson will be the players at cornerback.
On the offensive side, Texas boasts one of the best offenses in the country based off efficiency metrics. Sam Ehlinger’s understanding of this offense can’t go understated and he should be able to move the ball against an average West Virginia defense. Ehlinger’s thrown 15 touchdowns compared to one interception. He’s also in the top 25 in terms of passing yards for 2019.
Devin Duvernay is catching everything thrown his way as one of the nation’s leaders in receptions. Ehlinger could get some more help with Collin Johnson working his way back from a hamstring injury. Herman says the senior wide receiver is traveling with the team, but is considered questionable.
Ehlinger threw an ill-advised interception during his freshman season against the Mountaineers. He must continue the trend of avoiding turnovers to avoid fueling the fire of the West Virginia faithful.
“That venue is a very difficult one to play in, but at the end of the day it’s football. When it’s kicked off, where you’re playing the game is irrelevant. Letting the location affect the way you play is a choice,” Herman said.
The Longhorns and Mountaineers kick off at 2:30 p.m (central time) Saturday in Morgantown.