I don't know how to feel about this game. West Virginia is good and was the better team, but Texas still had multiple chances to win. In fact, WVU scored only seven points in the final 44:39, and Texas had four trips inside the West Virginia 30 in the second half and came away with only seven points.
As always, let's start with the bad news.
Freshmen and Seniors Playing Like Freshmen
West Virginia came into this game 9th in the Big 12 and 101st nationally in sacks, but they attacked Texas where the pass protection is weakest: right up the middle. Shack was responsible for two sacks, both in the fourth quarter.
Both times Shack fails to pick up a linebacker shooting through the A gap. On the second play, Foreman is responsible for #11, the player who gets the sack, but instead he has to try to pick up the linebacker who Shack missed.
Those are bad but sort of forgivable because he's still a true freshman and the effort is there. The same cannot be said for Kent Perkins.
On both plays, Perkins should be sliding to his right. We may never know why he didn't think that assignment came with a responsibility to protect the B gap.
Points Left on the Field
Because Texas wasted a timeout on the first series of the game, they put themselves in a position where they basically had to kick the field goal right before the half when they were just two yards from the promised land. But those weren't the only potential points left on the field. In fact, on Texas' first drive, the Longhorns settled for three when they should have had seven.
This is Texas' go-to red zone pass play, so it's astonishing that WVU wasn't better prepared for it. An accurate throw to either of the two receivers would have resulted in a touchdown. Hopefully, Sterlin works with Buechele on this concept to drill the point home that the slant is sometimes open too (besides this one, it was open for several first downs and touchdowns against Oklahoma), and it's frequently the easier throw. On the ensuing play, which I didn't diagram, Buechele tried to force a throw to Johnson in the back of the end zone when WVU had left Leonard uncovered near the first-down marker.
What Happened to Armanti?
Texas' leading receiver had zero catches and was targeted only once that I can recall. (It was a deep shot on the final drive of the game. I feel like Foreman could have put up a fight to get inside to the ball and drawn a defensive pass interference, but oh well.) Instead, it was the Collin Johnson show. Johnson has played well, but he's not taking the top off defenses and tip-toeing down sidelines like Foreman has been. He did a pretty good impression here, though.
WVU loves their Cover 0. Notice where the corner is lined up and how he plays with inside leverage on Johnson (it will come up in the Defense section). This is because he has no help inside, but he does have help outside in the form of the sideline. Buechele's timing in the quick game has gotten better and better throughout the season, and it was great here. It's a good thing, too, because his ball placement wasn't. You've heard it before: On an outside-breaking route, if the quarterback is going to miss, he wants to miss outside. I don't know why the corner was so worried about being beaten deep, but with tighter coverage this one could have gone the other way. After the catch, Johnson mimics Foreman and highlights the dangers of Cover 0 — miss an open-field tackle and the fight song starts playing. And just set aside for a moment the disappointment of this season and consider that this is a freshman snapping to a freshman throwing to a freshman.
The Mountaineers played a lot of trap coverage looks, which is why you kept seeing Jake Oliver and whoever else get popped immediately after catching quick outs. The gif below shows the coverage they were playing and what it was designed to stop (not the play Texas actually ran).
The hole in the coverage is behind the corner, who is aggressively playing the flat, and in front of the deep safety. (It should be more pronounced in Cover 2 and less so here, in Cover 3 Cloud. I think because the safety was playing close at the snap to disguise the coverage he overcorrected to try not to get beaten deep and left a bigger hole in the process.) West Virginia defensive coordinator Tony Gibson was betting that Buechele couldn't make this throw across the field and in that gap. This is one of I think only two times Buechele tried it, and certainly the only time he tried it to the field side, so it was a smart gamble even though it didn't work out this time.
This is an impressive throw and an even more impressive catch. Who would have thought Leonard would be 44 yards shy of leading the team in receiving yards? And he didn't even play against Notre Dame or register any stats against Baylor. Assuming Armanti returns for his senior year (he should), Texas will have 89.7% of its targets coming back next year. Not bad.
Watch Out, Lamar Jackson
There was a funny tweet on Saturday about Buechele's absurdly high spin-to-run ratio. Whatever, it works for him, but no one's going to mistake him for VY or Colt or even Ash.
I included the pre-snap bits because it illustrates the effect Johnson's touchdowns from last week have on a defense. West Virginia starts in what looks like man coverage on the trips side, which is what that corner route by Johnson is intended to beat. When Texas audibles, WVU switches to a Cover 3 look on the trips side. That pulls a linebacker out of the box, which is what Texas wanted anyway.
The other change is that the safety and corner switch spots on the boundary side; the safety moves up to the line of scrimmage, presumably to give the defense a harder edge against the run. The problem they run into, though, is that apparently the corner isn't as familiar with this role, and both players take the dive on zone read. Let this be a lesson to Big 12 DCs everywhere: If Buechele gets loose on the perimeter, watch out.