- David Ubben, College Football
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AUSTIN, Texas -- Geno Smith is used to having the game in his hands. It's been the story of West Virginia's season. Near the end of a chilly night in central Texas, that changed.
Smith's offensive line had a simple message for their Heisman candidate: "We got this. It's over. We're going to win this game," they said.
"Andrew Buie said, 'Put it on my back,' Smith said. "He put it on his back and led us to a victory."
Not just any victory. He led them to a 48-45 victory in West Virginia's first road trip in the Big 12, where they found a record crowd of 101,851 waiting at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium -- a crowd Texas coach Mack Brown called the loudest in 15 years.
Said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen, who was an assistant in the Big 12 for nine years: "I've never seen this place like that."
It even got after Smith at one point, serenading him with a "Geno Sucks" chant as he gestured to the crowd, egging them on.
"Where does that come from?" Smith said. "Obviously, I don't suck. I'll let them believe that."
Buie led them to a victory that helped West Virginia clear the highest hurdle of its Big 12 (or national?) title "marathon," as Smith called it.
The Big 12 title runs through Morgantown, with Kansas State and Oklahoma waiting later in the season.
Saturday in Austin, though, it was Buie's time.
"He carried us," said Smith, the man used to carrying the Mountaineers. "We knew we were going to need to run the ball, because those guys like to get after the quarterback."
Texas did exactly that, sacking Smith four times and twice forcing fumbles inside the West Virginia 20-yard line. Before tonight, Smith had been sacked three times in four games.
Buie's 207 yards? Holgorsen said he wasn't surprised by those. But the 31 carries? That was a head-turner.
"We did commit to the run," he said. "That was something we talked about early in the week, and there weren't any tricks, either. We lined up and we just ran it right at 'em. We felt like that was gonna be the difference. If we could do that, it was going to alleviate some of the pressure on Geno."
On West Virginia's final drive, needing points to ice the game, the Mountaineers handed the ball to Buie on seven of eight plays. He turned them into 63 yards, capping his big night with a five-yard touchdown run, his second score of the night. While his teammates ran wild and kicked off the party on the West Virginia sideline, he trotted back through a parade of backslaps before being bearhugged by his position coach, Robert Gillespie.
"If we would have just drop back pass after drop back pass, they would have had 12 sacks. Maybe 20," Holgorsen said. "We just felt like it would be in the best interest of our football team to commit to the run."
Texas stuck in its nickel package for most of the night with just two linebackers on the field, even when West Virginia used its jumbo packages with bigger bodies. Buie saw it as a sign of "disrespect," and proved he'd make the most of his opportunities.
"With coach Holgorsen, you never know what the game plan is going to be fully," Buie said. "You just always want to be prepared to run from whatever he's put inside the menu for that week. When he calls your number, obviously he has confidence in you to make plays."
Holgorsen (and Smith, who often checked to various running plays at the line of scrimmage) had confidence in Buie 31 times on Saturday night. Buie was likely West Virginia's No. 3 back entering the season behind Shawne Alston and a recuperating Dustin Garrison. He looked like a man well deserving of the No. 1 spot against one of the Big 12's top defense. Before last week's 25 carries, Buie had never had more 15 carries in a game, and hadn't topped even 100 yards in a game. He had 52 carries in his entire freshman season in 2011.
Since 2009, Texas was 18-0 when winning the turnover battle. The Horns won it 2-1 on Saturday, but Buie's effort helped the Mountaineers overcome both of Smith's fumbles and move into the driver's seat for the Big 12 title.
"We're not going to force the ball. We're not going to force the issue. We'll take what you give us. I'm a smart quarterback, I understand defenses. I understand how to exploit them." Smith said. "The offensive line did a great job of getting all those guys, finishing blocks, getting to the second level. Buie was reading it and cutting back. Yards after contact was big. He ran hard tonight."