Texas Tech Seizes Initiative In Runaway Win Over WVU
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia and Texas Tech entered November with identical 3-5 records. Big 12 title hopes dashed, both programs set their sights on six wins and a bowl berth.
If the Red Raiders proved nothing else after beating the Mountaineers 38-17 Saturday at Milan Puskar Stadium to snap a three-game losing streak, it’s that they possess a better sense of urgency. They scored five touchdowns on their first five possessions, putting WVU quickly into their rear-view mirror and demonstrating the “backs-to-the-wall” mentality preached by their coach Matt Wells. It’s been a team mantra ever since a disastrous 37-34 loss at Kansas Oct. 26.
“They responded in a great way during the bye week and obviously this week,” Wells said. “I’m proud of our guys’ effort and tenacity that they continue to play with. Hopefully, this will springboard us for the way we practice next week and the way we think about things.”
Texas Tech’s 35 points was the most an opponent has hung on WVU in a first half this year. Despite the game starting at 11 a.m., Lubbock, Texas time, it was the Mountaineers who seemed to have overslept.
How were the Red Raiders able to show up with guns blazing?
“We came out with a great focus and we have to continue to do that,” quarterback Jett Duffey said. “There were no mental errors that I can remember … everybody did their job.”
Duffey, who earned the starting job after an injury to Alan Bowman, completed 24 of 34 passes for 354 yards 271 in the first half, including an 81-yard touchdown to Dalton Rigdon in the first quarter that put Texas Tech up 14-3.
“My o-line did a great job all day, the receivers were getting open, the offense was executing,” Duffey said. “I just did the easy part.”
The WVU defense was coming off an inspired eight-sack performance in a tough loss at Baylor Oct. 31. Duffey was not sacked, not pressured much and generally not bothered by the Mountaineers’ defense Saturday.
“We used the play action game more than the drop back game and we used quick throws on the perimeter,” Wells said. “Also, our offensive line did a nice job.”
Texas Tech hosts TCU and Kansas State the next two weeks before visiting Texas on Nov. 29. The players know that two wins will get them to a bowl, but they’re also not going to get caught up in looking ahead of their next game.
“This is a big confidence boost,” Duffey said about the WVU win. “The defense knows the offense is going to throw (a touchdown) and the offense knows the defense is going to force a turnover. Energy feeds off energy.”
Indeed, while the Red Raiders were moving up and down the field with ease, the Mountaineers struggled to dent the end zone. Their only first-half touchdown was on a gadget play: Quarterback Austin Kendall threw a pass to receiver Isaiah Esdale who tossed downfield to running back Kennedy McKoy for a 24-yard score.
In all, WVU had six possessions inside the Texas Tech 30-yard line. Three resulted in failed first-down conversions, two in turnovers and one on Casey Legg’s 30-yard field goal at the 7:43 mark of the first quarter.
Although it threw for 498 yards, WVU’s offense managed just 51 yards rushing. The continued woes of the WVU rushing game dovetailed with Wells’ philosophy.
“I truly believe that you have to run the ball and stop the run in November,” he said. “That belief is a spark that we hope starts a big fire.”
The Red Raiders gained 127 yards on the ground, with Ta’Zhawn Henry leading the way with 67 and two touchdowns.