Texas Tech Provides Unforeseen Challenge For WVU
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — No one would have imagined that one of the big stumbling blocks on West Virginia’s push toward greatness for this 2018 season would be the game that was scheduled on September 29.
That was a trip to Texas Tech and the biggest worry for many Mountaineer fans was that maybe Dana Holgorsen wouldn’t get the chance to slap his old buddy Kliff Kingsbury around again.
WVU had won four in a row over Texas Tech and scored 162 points in the process … an average of 40.5 per game.
But the pressing question was whether Kingsbury would have his job four games into the season. They had gone 22-28 over the last 50 games. The Big 12 teams they beaten over the last four years — Kansas (four times), Iowa State (twice), Baylor (twice), Texas (twice) and TCU (once) had combined for a record of 43 and 105 in the years Texas Tech found a way to beat them.
In four years they beat no Big 12 team that won more than seven games in a season and had, incredibly, had found a way to lose four games in which they had scored 40 or more points.
Now they were coming into a new year with Kingsbury’s future clearly in doubt and what’s he do? He plays a true freshman quarterback going eyeball to eyeball with Will Grier.
It certainly didn’t look like much of a matchup.
But Alan Bowman has become Kingsbury’s savior. He debuted in a loss to Ole Miss but completed 29 of 49 passes for 273 yards and a touchdown, then hit a very unfreshmanlike 22 of 25 for 282 yards and two touchdowns in a 77-0 win over overmatched Lamar.
Surely he would be overmatched, however, as he went against Houston and its do-everything D’Eriq King. King did his part, throwing for 471 yards and five touchdowns, only to have Bowman outgain him by 134 yards as he threw for freshman record of 605 yards with five touchdowns.
All of a sudden, the world was focusing on Lubbock, for surely No. 17 Oklahoma State would put them in their place.
Wrong. Bowman led the Red Raiders to a 41-17 victory, completing 35 of 41 throws for 397 yards and a couple touchdowns, marred only by his first two interceptions of the season.
All of a sudden this has become almost more of a test of how good WVU is than it is for Texas Tech, which has a win over a ranked team on its ledger and a new flinging phenom in Bowman.
WVU comes in at No. 12 but no one dared predict that Texas Tech would be No. 25, which makes this an interesting renewal of the friendly rivalry between Kingsbury and Holgorsen.
Kingsbury spent his time in the Lubbock spotlight back in 2000 to 2002 as he was putting up record numbers throwing to a receiving crew coached by a young coach named Holgorsen.
And when Kingsbury was getting out of college, he wasn’t sure which direction he would take.
“I never thought I’d get into coaching,” Kingsbury said a couple of years back, repeating almost word for word what he had said when the two first met on the field. “He got me into coaching. Being around him, I learned about how to game plan, how to install offense. He was always thinking football and how to get better.”
Holgorsen explained back then what drew him to Kingsbury.
“(He) would come in and want to watch a ton of film and knew how to be a leader in the locker room. (He) knew how to be a leader in the huddle,” the West Virginia coach said.
Sounds a lot like the things he has said about Will Grier.
Now today, little has changed and Holgorsen is happy that Kingsbury has things back on track in Lubbock.
“The hard thing in this profession is you develop so many friendships, and then when you’re in the same conference it makes it kind of tough,” Holgorsen said. “I wish them well in every game they play but one, and this happens to be this one.”
In a way, getting off to a good start and playing well on defense isn’t terribly shocking to Kingsbury, who kind of hinted back during Big 12 Media Day that he thought his team was well-positioned.
“I know depth-wise we are light years ahead of where we have been,” Kingsbury said. “It starts with the D-line and having 8 to 12 bodies. We have linebackers we feel we can play with anybody. Hopefully, we are trending toward the top of the league on that side of the ball.”
And offensively Kingsbury knew his system worked, but as he came into camp he wasn’t sure he had a quarterback.
Nic Shimonek had thrown for nearly 4,000 yards and 33 touchdowns in 2017 but now he had no experienced player at the position and was using two players.
“We’d like it to be one guy. That’s how we do it, but whatever is best for the team and the offense we’ll do,” he said.
And that was the new face of Alan Bowman.
“[Bowman’s] being coached by one of the best that’s ever done it,” Holgorsen said. “Kliff was in that position himself as a young kid before we got to Texas Tech. He has that experience. He knows what he’s talking about.
“It’s not the first young kid that he’s had to deal with. It’s not surprising at all. If you get coached up by Kliff, you’ll be ready to go.”
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West Virginia’s Homecoming game against Kansas on Oct. 6 is set for noon and will be televised on either ESPN2 or ESPNU.
Put this under a public service announcement, now that sports betting is legal in West Virginia: The Mountaineers opened as a six-point favorite over Texas Tech but the line dropped quickly to 4.5 points.
This is probably one of those games where you might want the over instead of playing the spread. The two teams combined for 81 points last year.