WVU Defense To Face A Stiff Test At Texas Tech
Now we’re finally going to get to see what the Mountaineer defense is made of.
Through three games West Virginia’s rebuilt unit has performed very well. It is currently first in the FBS ranks in points allowed (12.3 per game), 62nd in rushing yards allowed (145.0 per game), 44th in passing yards allowed (193.0 per game) and 41st in total yards allowed (338.0 per game).
But much tougher tests are to come, starting this Saturday at Texas Tech (3-1).
WVU has run up its 3-0 record so far this season against teams that frankly are offensively challenged. Tennessee (2-2) is 78th nationally in total offense (397.8 ypg) and 71st in scoring offense (29.5 ppg). Youngstown State (1-2) is 29th in the FCS ranks in total offense (446.0 ypg) and 65th in scoring offense (26.7 ppg.). And Kansas State is 108th in total offense (347.0 ypg) and 113th in scoring offense (21.0 ppg).
The next contest for West Virginia is much different, though, as the Red Raiders’ offense is fifth in scoring (52.0 ppg), first in passing (435.8 ypg), 56th in rushing (187.8 ypg) and first in total yards (623.5 ypg).
“I feel like we’re as ready as we can be,” said WVU senior defensive end Ezekiel Rose of the challenge ahead. “Moving forward, I feel we’ll get more prepared for what’s going on and what’s going to happen. As of right now, we’re ready. We’ll see what happens.”
West Virginia’s coaches are stressing this week for the Mountaineer defense to have success on first down. The Red Raiders love to speed the tempo of their offense, but typically slow down if they’re not successful on first down in order to avoid a quick three-and-out. So, WVU feels it can slow the frantic Texas Tech pace if it limits TTU on first down.
“Winning first down is one of the things we are emphasizing in practice,” noted Rose. “If you win first down, there’s a greater chance you’ll win the whole series.”
In the past, Tech was passing dominant. Despite starting a freshman quarterback in Alan Bowman, who is averaging 389.2 passing yards a game, the air ways remain a strength for coach Kliff Kingsbury’s program. But Red Raiders are also having success running the ball. Led by Ta’Zhawn Henry (57.6 ypg), Demarcus Felton (48.2 ypg) and SaRodorick Thompson (35.3 ypg), TTU is currently fifth in the Big 12 in rushing offense. That’s a big surprise for a program that usually is near the bottom of the league when it comes to rushing yardage, even though it almost always at the top when it comes to passing yards.
“Their passing game is still really good, but their running backs can’t be slept on. They are very versatile,” said Rose. “It’s going to be a tough test for us.”
Kickoff will be noon (Eastern) on Saturday from AT&T Jones Stadium in Lubbock. The contest will be televised by ESPN2.
West Virginia holds a 5-2 lead in the all-time series and is sitting on a four-game win streak against the Red Raiders.
WVU is currently listed as a 3.5-point favorite for Saturday’s clash.