Surprising West Virginia will put its four-game winning streak on the line and will look to remain unbeaten in Big 12 play when it visits struggling Houston on Thursday night.
It will be the initial meeting between the schools, as well as the first between Mountaineers coach Neal Brown and the Cougars (2-3, 0-2) and the first for Houston coach Dana Holgorsen against West Virginia (4-1, 2-0).
Holgorsen left West Virginia in 2018 after eight years at the helm and was replaced by Brown.
Both teams are coming off a bye week, but they enter this game heading in opposite directions.
The Mountaineers will return to Texas after a rousing 24-21 win at TCU in on Sept. 30 in their most recent game. West Virginia got 222 combined yards from quarterback Garrett Greene (142 passing and 80 more and two touchdowns on the ground) in the victory, the Mountaineers’ fourth straight after opening the season with a 38-15 loss at then-No. 7 Penn State.
West Virginia blocked two field-goal attempts in the final five minutes of the TCU game to stun the Horned Frog, and allowed TCU just a single yard of offense in 11 snaps in the pivotal third quarter.
“For us, it’s about continuing to get better,” Brown said. “We’re on this winning streak, but we really haven’t played a three-phase game yet. We’re the healthiest we’ve been from a skill perspective, and I think we’re on the verge of playing some good offensive football.”
Houston dropped its first two Big 12 games against TCU and Texas Tech by a combined 44 points. The Cougars’ wins this year are over UTSA and Sam Houston, both at home.
Donovan Smith passed for 336 yards and four TDS in the Cougars’ 49-28 loss at Texas Tech on Sept. 30. He connected with four different receivers on his scores, including Samuel Brown, who led Houston with 10 catches for 113 yards.
Holgorsen said the Cougars went back to the basics to prepare for West Virginia.
“We started with good old-fashioned blocking and tackling,” he said. “I mean, our tackling was horrendous (against Texas Tech) — I think it was over 20-some missed tackles. It’s as bad as it’s been since I’ve been here. Improving that was a focus.”