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Texas West Virginia Football

Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger (11) celebrates a touchdown against West Virginia.

The state of Texas has three beloved guys named Sam.

Sam Houston.

Yosemite Sam.

Sam Ehlinger.

Not necessarily in that order.

It’s the latter Sam that concerns West Virginia University when it plays No. 22 Texas at noon Saturday at Darrell Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas.

That’s because the 6-foot-3, 225-pound Ehlinger is a senior quarterback who is playing at the pinnacle of his game. He already has completed 132 of 219 passes for 1,650 yards and 20 touchdowns with five interceptions.

But he’s also the Longhorns leading rusher with 284 yards and seven TDs on 78 carries.

Besides all that, Ehlinger is even a hometown boy.

Add it all together and Ehlinger commands a lot of respect.

“I think watching him — especially over the last two years — I think he is probably the best competitor in our league,” said Jordan Lesley, WVU co-defensive coordinator. “Talent, I think it speaks for itself.

“But a lot of things that he does, a lot of plays he makes — it’s almost like he kind of wills them. That’s competitiveness. I’ve got a lot of respect for that kid. He plays hard. He makes them go. He’s a huge challenge.”

Is he ever.

Ehlinger has accounted for more passing TDs (88), rushing touchdowns by a quarterback (32) and total offense by a quarterback (12,334 yards) than any active FBS player.

That’s why he’s a Texas-sized problem for the Mountaineers.

“They are a group that plays really, really well from behind,” said WVU coach Neal Brown. “I think that just speaks to his calm. You just think about how many games he has played throughout his career, how many close games have came down to the wire. Just think about that.

“He plays his best in the fourth quarter. I guess they have had three overtime games, and he really has brought them back in the fourth quarter. I just think, first of all, he’s talented. He just comes off to me as a winner. He has some mental toughness about him. He’s got some charisma and leadership where guys follow him.

“When you have that kind of personality combined with the talent he has, guys are going to follow him. He has been able to step-up in those crunch-time moments and make plays.”

That is what sets Ehlinger apart.

So, the question becomes: What does WVU need to do to get Ehlinger out of his comfort zone?

“I think anytime that you can get to any quarterback and hit him,” said Lesley, “not anything egregious or anything, if you can just get there and make contact with him and get him on that back foot, then it’s an advantage for you. It’s like boxing with body blows. If you can get those landed, get him off of his spot, then with any quarterback that’s what you are trying to do. The problem with Ehlinger is he’s pretty good when he’s off his spot.”

That’s why Texas is going to win 31-24.

As for Marshall’s game against beleaguered UMass at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in Joan C. Edwards Stadium … well, there isn’t much to say.

A 45-point spread sort of says it all.

Looks like Marshall will get its second 59-0 win of the season.