West Virginia totaled 300 rushing yards for the first time since Maryland in a win over the Raiders as Wendell Smallwood turned into the feature offensive weapon. He’s now just shy of 1,000 rushing yards on the season. Head coach Dana Holgorsen said a big reason for the rushing success against Texas Tech was moving redshirt junior offensive lineman Adam Pankey back to left guard.
“He’s more comfortable inside, and he’s really good, especially in the run game, coming off the ball,” Holgorssen said. “Pankey and T.O. (center Tyler Orlosky) are obviously our most consistent and best linemen.” Holgorsen also added that right guard Kyle Bosch had his best game of the year.
Defensively, however, the front will face an aggressive Texas defense which attacks from every direction. Offensive line coach Ron Crook said the Longhorns aren’t afraid to send a lot of bodies towards the backfield.
“Sometimes I think they’ve got 13 guys out there and we’re going to make sure the officials count them every play,” Crook jokingly said. “They make it hard to figure out where they’re going to be. They're averaging over 10 plays a game behind the line of scrimmage. They’re getting in the backfield and causing disruptions. We’ll have our hands full, and its going to be a battle.”
If Smallwood is contained, Skyler Howard and the wide receivers will have to improve their game. Howard totalled only 149 passing yards with two interceptions against Texas Tech, though that was partly the fault of young receivers and at least partially the product of an excellent running game anchored by Smallwood and Rushel Shell and complimented by Howard. The quarterback ran multiple power plays, and tallied a key late score to help seal the initial Big 12 win of the season.
Texas, just 4-5 on the season, has had its own offensive struggles. Charlie Strong is a smart defensive coordinator, though, with athletes that can make big plays. And after West Virginia, the Longhorns play Texas Tech at home, then travel to Baylor to close out their season, meaning they are in a must-win situation if they want to become bowl eligible.