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|11-08-2014, 08:20 PM||#1|
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Gray pushes Texas over No. 24 West Virginia 33-16
Johnathan Gray scored three touchdowns and Texas inched closer to a possible bowl game in head coach Charlie Strong's first season with a 33-16 win over No. 24 West Virginia on Saturday.
Gray scored on runs of 39, 2 and 15 yards as Texas (5-5, 4-3 Big 12) ended a streak of nine straight home losses to ranked opponents. The Longhorns need to win one of their final two games to be eligible for a bowl. Texas last missed a bowl in 2010 when the Longhorns had a losing season the year after playing for the national championship.
Gray finished with 101 yards rushing on 10 carries.
Defensively, Texas held West Virginia (6-4, 4-3, No. 23 CFP) receiver Kevin White in check by keeping him out of the end zone. Mountaineers quarterback Clint Trickett passed for 248 yards, but had two turnovers and was tackled in the end zone for a late safety.
The Longhorns hadn't won two in a row this season and the pressure to reach a bowl came was starting to mount for Strong as the season dipped into November with his team well short of becoming eligible. Consecutive conference wins will brighten that outlook with games against Oklahoma State and No. 6 TCU left to play.
For West Virginia, two straight losses could be the start of yet another late-season swoon in the Big 12. The Mountaineers looked tired, both emotionally and physically after last week's last-second loss to TCU and the 1,400-mile trip to Austin.
Gray scored twice in the second quarter to propel Texas to 24-3 halftime lead. West Virginia made a late charge for a comeback when Dreamius Smith scored early in the fourth quarter. But after a long punt pinned West Virginia at its own 2, Trickett was sacked by Texas' Cedric Reed for a safety.
Those two points would loom large when the Mountaineers scored again but were still down by 16 and failed on a 2-point conversion. Gray put the game out of reach with his final touchdown with 3:06 to play.
Gray's big second quarter had him looking like the high school All-America who set national scoring records.
He had struggled to regain his burst and shifty running style after tearing an Achilles tendon against West Virginia last year. But Gray had his best run of the season on Texas' second touchdown when he cut to his left to avoid a tackle, then used a dazzling move in the open field to escape another before diving for the pylon.
Gray set up Texas' next touchdown with a 40-yard run before scoring. After Trickett threw an interception, Nick Rose kicked a 39-yard field goal to make it 24-3 at halftime.
West Virginia had a chance to make a game of by driving inside the Texas 10 early in the third quarter, but two big tackles by linebacker Jordan Hicks on third and fourth down stopped the drive.
Smith ran for 100 yards for West Virginia. White had 16 catches for 132 yards.
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