Through one half that saw seven touchdowns, seven lead changes and a whole bunch of flags, No. 17 Texas holds a 28-27 lead over No. 13 West Virginia at the half in Austin.
After a WVU field goal and two punts to open the game, the two teams were off to the races. Texas got on the board thanks to the first of two spectacular Sam Ehlinger-to-Lil'Jordan Humphrey connections, the first a 23-yard lob on 3rd-and-4 with four West Virginia defenders flushing Ehlinger out of the pocket. That play set Texas up at the WVU 1, and Ehlinger kept it the next play to put Texas up 7-3.
West Virginia then struck back with the first of two Will Grier-to-David Sills throws, the first going 60 yards for a touchdown. After taking a 10-7 lead, WVU was hit with two consecutive personal foul penalties, the second of which kicked All-Big 12 left tackle Yodney Cajuste out of the game. Humphrey took the ensuing short kickoff 29 yards to the WVU 39, then completed the short drive with a 21-yard touchdown grab.
Trailing for the second time, West Virginia quickly erased the deficit by moving 75 yards in nine plays, aided by a roughing the passer penalty on Texas linebacker Malcolm Roach that would have sentenced WVU into a 4th-and-15 at the Texas 37 with a stiff wind in their face. Given new life, West Virginia scored again on an 18-yard connection from Grier to Sills.
Another key Texas penalty gave WVU a chance to take a commanding lead, as an offensive pass interference penalty on Humphrey erased a 45-yard Collin Johnson touchdown catch. Rather than a 21-17 lead, Texas faced a 3rd-and-20 at its own 40, but a 17-yard connection from Ehlinger to Devin Duvernay gave Texas a 4th-and-3, which the Longhorns converted with a 26-yard catch by Johnson. Tre Watson punched in a 5-yard run two plays later, putting Texas up 21-17 with 10:04 left in the first half.
And yet again West Virginia came right back, converting two third-and-shorts to set up Martell Pettway‘s 55-yard touchdown run, staking the Mountaineers to a 24-21 lead with 7:36 before halftime. It was the second long score that came at the expense of freshman Texas safety Caden Sterns, who was beaten on the long Sills touchdown and then missed a tackle on Pettway.
Facing its fourth deficit of the first half, Texas once again answered. This time, a defensive holding call erased what would have been a three-and-out, and the Longhorns then rolled 65 yards in seven plays, scoring on a 32-yard swing pass from Ehlinger to Watson to give Texas a 28-24 advantage with 2:40 to play in the first half.
West Virginia again surged down the field to close the first half, but the drive stalled at the Texas 27 with 14 seconds to play. Texas head coach Tom Herman called a timeout to ice WVU kicker Evan Staley, whose kick sliced wide right. Given a second chance, Staley drilled a 44-yard field goal to cut the deficit to one.
If it seems like penalties played a huge factor in the first half, it’s because they did. The teams were flagged 18 times for a combined 154 yards.
After starting 2-of-6 for 15 yards, Ehlinger finished 13-of-10 for 189 yards and two touchdowns with no turnovers. Grier, meanwhile, was 17-of-29 for 206 yards and two scores. West Virginia out-rushed Texas, 142-73.
Texas will receive to open the second half.