Trailing 41-34 with half a minute to play, Will Grier found Gary Jennings for a 33-yard touchdown pass for what seemed like the tying, overtime-forcing score. But Dana Holgorsen and No. 13 West Virginia came to Austin for the win, and the Mountaineers kept their offense on the field. After two defensive timeouts, Grier kept the ball, for the first time all game, around the left side to notch a game-winning 2-point conversion, helping the Mountaineers surge past No. 17 Texas, 42-41.
The score was necessary after Texas broke a 34-34 tie with Sam Ehlinger‘s 48-yard touchdown pass to Devin Duvernay with 2:34 to play, handing Texas fifth lead of the day. West Virginia’s resulting score marked the fifth time in two seasons Texas has blown a fourth quarter lead and the seventh time in that span the ‘Horns have lost a one-score game.
The win moves West Virginia to 7-1 overall and 5-1 in Big 12 play, putting the Mountaineers in prime position to reach the Big 12 championship. Texas, meanwhile, has now dropped two straight and will need help to reach the title game.
Despite a dry spell that covered most of the second half, West Virginia simply got what it wanted from the Texas defense. Grier completed 28-of-42 passes for 346 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions while the team ran 33 times for 232 yards and two touchdowns.
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 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 from there, 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.
After a first half that saw the officials call 18 combined penalties, they again intervened for a major call on the first drive of the second half. On a 4th-and-1 from the WVU 5, Ehlinger kept and was originally reviewed down two inches beyond the yard stick. However, after a lengthy review, officials ruled his helmet came off before he reached the line to gain, handing West Virginia a crucial stop.
Texas forced a West Virginia punt after the turnover on downs, stuffing a 3rd-and-2 run for a loss of three yards. The Longhorns again moved the ball and again failed to reach the end zone, settling for a 22-yard Cameron Dicker field goal to push the lead to 31-27 with 2:55 left in the third quarter.
West Virginia again moved the ball on its next possession — sensing a theme here? — but the drive came away scoreless when another short-yardage run was stuffed, this one a Kennedy McKoy run for no gain on 4th-and-1 on the final play of the third quarter.
Given a chance to deliver a knockout blow, Texas once again missed. After running the ball into WVU territory, a holding call on guard Elijah Rodriguez erased a run that would have given Texas 1st-and-10 in the red zone. WVU stiffened, forcing a 3rd-and-15, and an Ehlinger scramble came close to the first down but did not reach it, forcing a 38-yard Dicker field goal that snuck inside the left upright with 9:38 remaining.
Facing a second half shutout to that point, West Virginia got the answer it needed, relying mostly on the run to move 75 yards in 11 plays. Pettway strolled in untouched from 19 yards out for the equalizer with 5:40 to play, putting him over the 100-yard mark.
Ehlinger closed the day hitting 24-of-35 passes for 356 yards with three touchdowns plus another on the ground. Watson led Texas with 14 carries for 80 yards and a touchdown.