No. 11 Mountaineers give ‘props’ to elusive Texas running back
West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen wants his defense to have plenty of bear hugs ready for Big 12 rushing leader D’Onta Foreman of Texas.
More like TFL — tackles for loss.
Holgorsen figures the best way to limit the 249-pound Foreman’s yards on Saturday will be making sure he’s brought down not long after he’s handed the ball.
“You’ve got to get him on the ground, and that’s easier said than done,” Holgorsen said. “He’s a big, powerful, bruising back. I think everybody says that’s what he is, but then he gets out in the open. He turns the corner on people and outruns people as well. So getting him down early in the run I think is incredibly important.”
Foreman used a mix of long runs and short, punishing ones to compile 341 yards and three touchdowns against Texas Tech last week, giving him 1,446 yards this season. His 181 yards per game leads the nation.
“Those numbers are crazy,” said West Virginia defensive lineman Noble Nwachukwu. “I don’t really know what’s going on. I don’t know if it’s their line or if it’s just him or what it is. But props to him.”
Foreman can tie Earl Campbell’s 1977 school record of 11 straight 100-yard games on Saturday when the Longhorns (5-4, 3-3) host No. 11 West Virginia (7-1, 4-1).
Whether Foreman can lead Texas to victory remains to be seen. The Longhorns want this one in order to become bowl eligible. West Virginia wants this one to stay in contention in the Big 12 title race heading into a showdown with first-place Oklahoma next week in Morgantown.
The Mountaineers’ 3-3-5 defensive scheme doesn’t lend itself to completely shutting down the run, although West Virginia has surrendered a Big 12-low seven rushing TDs all season and is fourth in the league with 148 yards allowed on the ground per game.
Foreman has 13 TDs all by himself. A year ago he ran for 147 yards in a loss to West Virginia, which has almost all new starters on defense in 2016.
One of those newbies, linebacker and leading tackler Justin Arndt, said Foreman “is legit. Without a doubt he’s the best back we’ll face so far.”
The Mountaineers have allowed just three 100-yard rushing efforts this season, including BYU’s Jamaal Williams (169 yards) and Taysom Hill (101) in the same game. Opponents have five rushing plays of more than 20 yards, including a 59-yarder by Williams.
West Virginia already has but the damper on national passing leader Patrick Mahomes of Texas Tech, limiting him to 305 yards, far below his season average.
Foreman is sure to leave some defenders in need of some rest after Saturday.
“He’s a big dude and I know that’s really the struggle — nobody wants to really hit him,” Nwachukwu said. “But we’re going to get him down on the ground so I don’t think it’s going to be so much of a problem.”
Foreman finished off a 74-yard TD run against Texas Tech with one shoe on. Texas coach Charlie Strong said defensive backs pursuing Foreman from the proper angles often come up short.
“Our guys think they’re fast, and they can’t catch him,” Strong said. “It’s just been fun to watch it.”