AP Sports Writer
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia’s days of slinging the ball all over the field in the Big 12 seem to be over for now, and the Mountaineers don’t mind it a bit as long as they keep winning.
Skyler Howard threw two touchdown passes and ran for another score, and Wendell Smallwood rushed for 165 yards to lead West Virginia to a 38-20 win over Texas on Saturday.
West Virginia (5-4, 2-4 Big 12) scored 24 points off four Texas turnovers. The Mountaineers can qualify for a bowl with a win at Kansas next weekend.
“We got together a couple of weeks ago and we set a goal,” said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen. “We’re on track for accomplishing that goal.”
Howard, who had completed just 43 percent of his passes in conference games entering play Saturday, went 10 of 12 passes for 122 yards. All three were season lows as the Mountaineers kept their offense mostly focused on the ground.
“He is capable of working and throwing the ball more,” Holgorsen said. “It gets to a point where, you know what, I want to win this game. What we’re doing is working, so let’s just keep doing it.”
Texas entered the game with seven turnovers all season but had five on Saturday.
The Longhorns (4-6, 3-4) fell to 0-4 on the road despite outgaining West Virginia 439-379 and must win their remaining two games against Texas Tech at home and at Baylor to qualify for a bowl.
“We still have a chance,” Texas coach Charlie Strong said.
Strong wanted foremost to slow West Virginia’s running game. But Smallwood compiled a career high for the second straight week after rushing for 163 yards a week ago against Texas Tech.
“We were over-pursuing the ball,” Strong said. “They have really good running backs and the ball was getting behind us.”
Smallwood’s 24 carries were a season high.
“I just wanted to keep it going,” Smallwood said. “Dana said he was going to keep running the ball and keep giving it to us, and I think we took advantage of it. I thought I got the ball just enough. I was getting a little winded. When I was winded, we passed the ball and it was touchdowns both times.”
Howard said he felt the Mountaineers took advantage of its limited opportunities to throw the ball.
“When you can run the ball like that, you’re going to be a team hard to beat,” Howard said. “We’re playing physical. Those backs are running like animals. I’m proud of them. We won as a unit.”
Howard threw an 8-yard fade to Daikiel Shorts in the left corner of the end zone to put the Mountaineers ahead 28-17 late in the third quarter.
Kris Boyd fumbled away the ensuing kickoff at the Texas 22 and West Virginia got a short field goal.
Jerrod Heard had plenty of chances to rally the Longhorns in the fourth quarter but was intercepted twice by Daryl Worley and Nick Kwiatkoski, and Texas also managed only a field goal after driving to the West Virginia 10.
After Heard’s second interception, West Virginia ran the ball eight straight times and Howard capped the 52-yard drive with a 2-yard TD run to finish the scoring with 3:30 left.
Texas sophomore D’Onta Foreman rushed for 147 yards. He left the game for one series in the third quarter after injuring a finger.
In the first quarter, West Virginia linebacker Jared Barber returned Foreman’s fumble 42 yards for a touchdown. Foreman made up for the gaffe on the next play from scrimmage, running 65 yards untouched for a score. But Texas never led again.
Backup Tyrone Swoopes drove Texas to the West Virginia 20 late in the first half before he fumbled on a third-down run and Worley recovered. Howard then threw a 53-yard scoring toss to freshman Jovon Durante to put West Virginia ahead 21-10 at halftime.