Texas Tech Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury Wary Of WVU Skill
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Kliff Kingsbury laid it on the line early this week.
In reviewing the most recent series history against West Virginia, the Texas Tech head coach said his team must “play better, no question, or we will go up there and get embarrassed.
“This is a team we have struggled with,” Kingsbury added. “They have gotten after us the last few years. Hopefully we can play better.”
While not exactly revisionist history, the remarks are worth at least a cursory glance in the rear view. WVU has indeed beaten the Red Raiders three consecutive times, during the last of which the Mountaineer defense made quarterback Patrick Mahomes – now in the NFL with the Kansas City Chiefs – look more Pop Warner than John Heisman in a 48-17 throttling.
But the pair if previous victories were by scores of 31-26 and 37-34, the latter coming when West Virginia scored 17 points in the final 5:55, including placekicker Josh Lambert’s 55-yard field goal as time expired for a walk-off winner. The spreads of five and three points are hardly blowouts, and the game could have easily swung either way. The last four Big 12 meetings, in fact, have been decided by no more than 10 points, with the teams splitting at 2-2.
What Kingsbury is doing is setting the psychological and emotional match-up, putting the notion in the head of Tech players that they’ve been thumped, thrashed and thwacked as a program. But this isn’t the typical Red Raider teams of the past with the high-octane offense and defense as an afterthought. Under third-year defensive coordinator David Gibbs, Tech has finally found stability, and an influx of higher-end recruits and a dash of better execution has TTU’s once-maligned side of the ball in the middle of the Big 12 statistical rankings.
The numbers won’t impress elite level defenses. But they serve notice that Tech’s average points allowed per game are down from 43.5 to 27.8, and with that its ability to at least slow facets of an opposing offense are encouraging. The biggest reason – and WVU found this out with Tony Gibson – is Gibbs slammed shut the revolving door of coaches that saw Tech take on five defensive coordinators in six seasons before his arrival.
The changes in scheme, attrition from transfers and initial depth chart challenges have been lessened, and as a result Texas Tech (4-1, 1-1 Big 12) is back in the rankings at 24th for the first time since 2013.
“I think a combination of a lot of things,” Kingsbury said when asked about the defensive resurgence. “A lot of these guys are in their second and third year with coach Gibbs. We brought in some new faces. Having consistency at the defensive coordinator position where you can build and develop a culture in the program is huge. Everybody who has had success in our league has had stability at the defensive coordinator position.”
That includes West Virginia, which went through the same issues in hiring four coordinators in as many years before Gibson settled the spot in 2014.
“We are still trying to figure things out,” said Kingsbury, now 28-27 at Tech. “Turnovers are our biggest area of improvement. That’s something we struggled with since I have been at Texas Tech. That’s helped swing momentum to our side. (West Virginia is) very good offensively. They’re at the top of every category. Coach (Jake) Spavital has done a great job with the offense. They do a good job of distributing the football. We have to find ways to slow them down.”