The Texas signing class of 2018 included the six highest-rated defensive backs in the state: B.J. Foster of Angelton; Caden Sterns of Cibolo; DeMarvion Overshown of Arp; and Houstonians Anthony Cook, Jalen Green, and D’Shawn Jamison. It was not too many. Half the Six-Pack stayed home with injuries Saturday night, but the other three sophs came up hard in a 42-31 victory at West Virginia.
Highly favored Texas was leading just 21-17 entering the fourth quarter, and the entire state of West Virginia and parts of Maryland were dreaming of an upset. But Foster’s interception on third and one slapped the game back to reality. Three plays later, UT’s everything bagel Devin Duvernay, who also caught six passes for 86 yards, took a handoff up the middle for a 13-yard TD. Texas 28, West Virginia 17 was a little more like it.
Next it was Jamison’s turn to take an Austin Kendall pass the other way to set up the Horns with great field position. Though not as sensational as Jamison’s first pick of the half, when he bent back like Beckham with a one-hand rip that made Odell go “Hell!,” this one set up the 12-yard Sam Cosmi run that put the game away. Kendall threw for 367 yards, but had four interceptions — the difference in the game.
“I thought for the most part, [the defense] provided some sparks for the entire team," Coach Tom Herman said after the game. No crap, Columbo!
A future “blind side” millionaire, left tackle Cosmi took a lateral pass on a play called “Moses,” apparently because Sam’s line-mates were able to part the blue sea. The 300-pounder floated into the end zone like a baby in a basket on the Nile. Cosmi’s nickname will be “Decoy” next week against Oklahoma.
While WV’s theme song is “Take Me Home Country Roads,” co-written by Bill Danoff and recorded by John Denver, the Texas win on a 2:30 afternoon kickoff exemplified another Danoff composition: “Afternoon Delight.”
There were few skyrockets in flight from Sam Ehlinger, however, as the junior completed 18-34 for 211 yards and one ugly interception. But he ran for two scores and kept the Mountaineers on the field with 10 of 18 third downs. Ehlinger’s red zone efficiency was a perfect 4-4 on touchdowns instead of field goals.
The game started dismally for the Horns, with various penalties aiding an opening WV touchdown drive that amped up their crazies like free Mountain Dew. On the Horns’ first possession they went 16-and-out, as a seven-minute drive ended with a missed field goal by Cameron Dicker.
But UT linebacker Ayodele Adeoye intercepted Kendall on the next play from scrimmage, setting up the first chapter of The Autobiography of Malcolm Epps, with the supersized freshman scoring his first college TD from 22 yards out.
After that score tied it up, Dicker the Kicker became Hammerin’ Cameron, sticking his helmet to the chest of speedy returner Sam James to prevent a return touchdown. Officials considered ejecting Dicker with targeting, but found him not guilty by reason of insanity.
Texas went in at halftime with a 21-14 lead after Ehlinger’s nifty, bruising 13-yard run and a couple of FG misses by WV that shifted momentum.
But the Texas offense came out stale in the third quarter, punting on their first three possessions, then Ehlinger under-threw into triple coverage like he’d just gotten off the Lexus turnip truck from Westlake. Sammy the Bull is human, especially when the Horns Quarterback Protection Program allows three sacks. In a state known for moonshine, it’s fitting that their two D-Line disruptors are named Stills.
With a first and 10 from the Longhorns 14, the Texas defense bailed out Ehlinger again, holding WV to a field goal which made the score 21-17 going into quarter four.
Texas finally put the game away with a 23-yard Ehlinger run that made it 42-24 with about three minutes to play. Since the betting line gave WV 10.5 points, the game remained a nail-biter for those who had money on the game, especially after the Mountaineers scored with less than a minute to go. The extra point made it an 11-point win for Texas.
More significantly, this was the game where third-string freshman QB Roschon Johnson, rushing for 121 yards on 21 carries, seemed to overtake Keaontay Ingram as the starting running back. Ingram stuck his shoulder into the chest of a blitzing linebacker, which sent him to a medical tent so crowded he had to pick a number. Ingram did return to the game, but was ineffective, with only 25 yards on 11 totes.
Now it's on to the Cotton Bowl, where “Red River Shootout” doesn’t describe the action in downtown Austin at 3 am. Oklahoma looks really great this year, with the band working up John Cougar’s “Hurt’s So Good” to underline the play of Heisman frontrunner Jalen. But if Texas keeps making plays like they did in Morgantown, it’s gonna be one helluva game. Kickoff is at 11 amt on ABC.