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West Virginia may need defense at some point

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - West Virginia is off to a blistering start in its first Big 12 season, piling up points behind quarterback Geno Smith.

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But if the No. 5 Mountaineers (5-0, 2-0) want to win the league and even challenge for a national title, they may have to eventually start playing some defense.

West Virginia has torched Baylor and Texas for 118 points the last two weeks, but also surrendered 108 in two wild, heart-pounding games.

Smith doesn't seem to care, so long as he can keep pushing the Mountaineers in to the end zone. Smith has 12 touchdown passes the last two weeks, with 24 on the season without an interception.

``We play as a team, we fight as a team. No matter what it takes to win the game, that's what we're going to do,'' Smith said after throwing for 268 yards and four touchdowns in a 48-45 win over No. 15 Texas that wasn't secured until the Mountaineers recovered an onside kick with 14 seconds to play.

Smith may have to be at his best every game the rest of the way. The Mountaineers still have to play No. 13 Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, which has the No. 1 total offense and scoring offense in the country, and No. 6 Kansas State, which has topped 50 points three times this season.

The Mountaineers rank No. 102 in total defense and scoring defense and surrender an average of 35 points per game.

Cornerback Pat Miller said it was difficult for the defense to shake off giving up 63 points to Baylor while preparing for Texas.

``It was a tough week mentally because it's hard to bounce back from a game like that. There were a lot of people criticizing me personally. But you know, we just feed off that,'' Carter said.

West Virginia's defense did make a couple of big plays to help get a huge road win at Texas.

The Longhorns led 28-27 at halftime and opened the third quarter with a 13-play drive that ate up seven minutes. But the Mountaineers got a key third-down stop that forced Texas to kick a field goal instead of scoring a touchdown. That kept Smith and the offense within one possession of taking the lead as the teams traded five more touchdowns.

In the fourth quarter, West Virginia forced a turnover on downs near midfield and didn't surrender any points after Smith lost his second fumble. Trailing 41-38 Texas had the ball on the Mountaineers' 12 with just over seven minutes to play.

Texas gained only four yards on two plays, then lost 16 yards when a shotgun snap sailed past quarterback David Ash as he turned his head to look at the play clock. Texas kicker Anthony Fera then missed a 41-yard field goal, another miscue that proved critical at the end.

``That was the difference in the game because momentum shifted. Defense just had to buckle up and stand up,'' linebacker Isaiah Bruce said.

While that mistake was self-inflicted by Texas, the Mountaineers took it as a break that went their way.

``It was a tremendous team victory. Defense came up with some big stops in key situations,'' West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. ``I thought they showed a lot of improvement.''

Texas left feeling as if it let one get away when that ball sailed past Ash and kept bouncing backward on the turf.

``When we had our opportunity to go ahead and didn't, that really hurt us,'' Texas coach Mack Brown said ``You've got to give (West Virginia) credit. They made the critical plays.''

Copyright 2017 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.
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