Last season, West Virginia running back Andrew Buie rushed for over 200 yards, helping lift the Mountaineers to a marquee victory over Texas in Austin. This year, establishing the run game will be just as important against the Longhorns.
Crook says the offensive line is looking forward to the physical nature of Saturday's game.
"In any game you go into it, you start (with the run game)," said offensive line coach Ron Crook. "You always try to get the running game going because that opens things up for the passing game. I think it’s going to be a big part of it."
Although Texas had a rough time defending the run early in the year, new defensive coordinator Greg Robinson has helped turn things around. Most importantly, he has emphasized physicality - and that's something the Mountaineer offensive line is looking forward to.
"We’re going to have to play well," said Crook. "It’s going to be a challenge for us, but we’re looking forward to it. Our guys love playing in this type of game. It’s going to be real physical game. It’s going to be tough and we’re going to have to fight for every inch. Our guys like that, so we’re excited about it."
After an impressive showing last week, where senior Charles Sims ran for 154 yards, Crook feels his unit is making strides and can continue to do so again this Saturday.
"We feel like we’ve gotten better every week and it’s something we need to do again," he said.
Sims was in agreement.
"I feel like they're getting better every game," said the senior transfer. "It helps a lot... them getting better every game is important."
For offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson, the improvement along the offensive line is definitely noticeable - "That was probably one of their better performances, no doubt." - but he feels the offense will take the next step because of another factor.
"I think there’s a lot more trust right now overall with quarterback to o-line, quarterback to receiver, running back to o-line," he said. "Those guys are starting to trust that the other people are going to do the right thing."
That type of trust resulted in some big plays down the stretch and an eventual win over TCU on Saturday.
"I think the best thing that happened was that we finished in the fourth quarter," said Dawson. "We scored some points in the fourth quarter and we finished."
The hope for Dawson is that strong finish, combined with the atmosphere for Saturday's nationally-televised game, will lead to a motivated effort from the Mountaineers.
"I think it’s big. We view it as the biggest game because it’s the next game. Obviously, it’s a night game here in Morgantown and we’re coming off a win, so it should be a good atmosphere. Hopefully we won’t need much to get him to play hard."
Dawson also took a moment to talk about true freshman Daikiel Shorts, someone he obviously feels has a bright future in Morgantown.
"He’s been solid. He has some freshman moments, no doubt. Every week you can see it, but there are times where he doesn’t look like a freshman," said Dawson. "That kid’s development has just started, so to have him for the rest of his career will be fun. It’s going to get better and better. The best thing with him is that he’s a great kid. He doesn’t do anything wrong; he’s consistent in his personal life. That definitely shows and carries over to the field."
EerSports' Alissa Hudak contributed to this story.