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Planning for success: West Virginia

The road was unkind to West Virginia during its first two seasons in the Big 12.

The Mountaineers won 3 of 10 road games in 2012 and 2013 as Dana Holgorsen's team struggled to adjust to a new conference while also playing with a defense full of inexperience.

This season, WVU is undefeated in true road games with wins at Maryland, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. This week the Mountaineers will tackle another road test, facing Texas in Austin.

"We've been a good road team this year," Holgorsen said. "We've won three big games on the road, we won in Austin two years ago. Our guys are confident right now, a lot of that has to do with the defensive success we've had. But as a team we've won some big games on the road and we're going to attack this week the same way we have other weeks."

The last time WVU visited Darrell K. Royal Stadium, the defense was full of bright-eyed freshman but escaped with a 48-45 win thanks largely to the brilliance of future NFL players Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey. This season it's been the defense's turn to carry the load in several WVU wins including victories over Oklahoma State and Baylor.

"We have a lot of guys that are playing well for us that have been through two years in the Big 12, I think that makes a huge difference," Holgorsen said of a defense that ranks second in the Big 12 in passing yards allowed (212.6) and third down conversion percentage (30.8 percent). "Now that they're juniors, it's paying off, that's for sure."

Safety Karl Joseph, linebacker Wes Tonkery and Shaq Petteway are just a few of the juniors who played a role in the win over Texas as freshman. Those players join linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski, safety K.J. Dillon and others to form the foundation of a defense that has helped the Mountaineers become one of the surprises of the Big 12.

As experienced and confident as the defense has become in Year 3 in the conference, WVU's confidence still took a hit with the heartbreaking 31-30 loss to TCU as time expired last weekend. It was the type of loss that could linger if they let it.

"Nobody feels good about it," Holgorsen said. "Coaches and players both were upset because it was a close game. There's nothing for us to be ashamed about that's for sure. Someone has to win a game like that, someone has to lose it. We have to bury it move on and get ready for Texas."

It will be critical for Holgorsen and the Mountaineers to be able to turn the page and forget about the loss to the Horned Frogs or risk a second straight defeat, this time at the hands of an improving Longhorns squad.

"It's challenging," Holgorsen said. "Each and every week is challenging in the Big 12. You can throw records out the window. I give our guys a lot of credit, they've buried the previous game and moved onto the next game each and every week this year."