AUSTIN, Texas — In true shootout fashion, the Texas Longhorns and West Virginia Mountaineers gave the fans at DKR a fireworks show until the final seconds of the game.
All signs pointed to another UT home win after sophomore quarterback Sam Ehlinger hit Devin Duvernay on a double move for a 48-yard touchdown with just over two minutes left in the game. But, senior quarterback Will Grier and the Mountaineers had other plans.
Grier orchestrated a seven-play, 75-yard drive which ended with a 33-yard touchdown pass to Gary Jennings Jr.
From there, the next move was obvious for Dana Holgorsen and his staff.
Go for two and win the game now.
Despite allowing big plays in the passing game, Texas head coach Tom Herman took notice to the effort of the guys who stepped in on the secondary unit, replacing an injured Brandon Jones.
"I know this: they battled their butts off," Herman said. " Whatever issues we had, they weren't lack of effort."
Technically, West Virginia converted the two-point conversion twice. Grier connected with wide receiver David Sills V on a slant, but Texas used its final timeout before the ball wa snapped. On the next try, Grier scampered into the end zone for two points to give West Virginia a 42-41 lead with 16 seconds left.
This was West Virginia's first lead since the team led 24-21 with 7:36 to go in the second quarter.
Grier was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct and the penalty was enforced on the ensuing kickoff. Texas' Lil'Jordan Humphrey returned the ball to the 41-yard line.
However, with no timeouts and less than 10 seconds remaining, the Longhorns had only enough time for two plays. Ehlinger's first pass was almost intercepted and one second remained on the clock. A hail mary pass was out of the question, so Texas completed a short pass and started the lateral game, which ended with a fumble recovered by the Mountaineers.
From the get go, though, this game felt like it would be one that would be competitive throughout. West Virginia came in with all the offensive hype but it was Texas’ offense that got going first.
With the help of an incredible 24-yard catch by Humphrey at the goal line, that set up the Longhorns to strike first. Ehlinger punched it in from one-yard out to take a 7-3 lead.
Then, West Virginia’s explosiveness made an appearance. A 60-yard touchdown pass from Will Grier to David Sills V quickly put the game back in the Mountaineers favor with a 10-7 lead.
That was just the start of a back-and-forth boxing match between these two offenses. Texas responded with another Ehlinger-Humphrey connection, this one a 21-yard completion for a touchdown. The Horns only needed 1:18 to take back the lead, 14-10.
Seven straight series would end in touchdowns in the first half. In 21 minutes of the first half, 38 points were scored, but the streak and the lead changes would just continue from there. West Virginia scored on a 44-yard field goal by Evan Staley to pull within one point right before halftime, 28-27. Texas rode that the lead into the half.
The scoring stalled in the third quarter. Texas turned the ball over on downs at the four-yard line after Ehlinger failed to pick up a short yardage fourth down. This would be only the third stop of the game with less than 8 minutes to go in the third quarter.
Shortly after, Texas scored the only points of the third quarter to take a 31-27 lead and another field goal midway through the fourth quarter put the Longhorns up by seven points, 34-27.
Grier and the Mountaineers offense responded though with a rhythmic, 11-play, 75-yard drive to tie the game. Martell Pettaway capped off the drive with a 13-yard touchdown run. Pettaway finished the game with a team-high 121 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
Ehlinger's response to retake the lead 41-34 left just a little too much time on the clock for West Virginia, though. The 48-yard touchdown pass left Grier and the Mountaineers with 2:34 on the clock and two timeouts at their disposal.
When asked if he was concerned about the amount of time left on the clock, Herman simply said, "yeah."
Because of Grier's late-game heroics, Texas lost its first home game of the season and third overall -- putting the Longhorns on the outside looking in for a berth to the Big 12 Championship game. UT is also now 3-5 all-time against the Mountaineers.
West Virginia and Oklahoma now control their own destiny's and UT will need some help in order for a Big 12 title to become a reality.
In the meantime, Texas has lost its second straight game after being ranked No. 6 in the nation a few weeks ago and will travel to Lubbock next weekend to face the Texas Tech Red Raiders.