Staring Down The Musket At...The Texas Tech Red Raiders: A Blogger Conversation With Viva The Matadors

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Seth and WVUIE97 changed things up a bit this week and instead of the old "here's five questions and I'll answer yours," we exchanged emails through the week to keep it more conversational.

Seth C: Would it be safe to say that there may not be a lot of teams that maybe needed a bye week more than West Virginia? Some beat up quarterbacks and a great win against Oklahoma St., but a pretty bad loss to Baylor. What do you think that WVU worked on during their bye week?

WVUIE97: Normally I loathe bye weeks, but this one was well timed, if not a week late. From the reports that we've been able to glean information from, it seemed to be mostly a week to recover, get a few guys healthy and get back to basics. Obviously we still have quarterback health issues that weren't going to go away in a week, so that's still a concern. We hope to know more after Tuesday's presser. In addition to the quarterbacks, we have several defenders nicked up as well. I know there are others, but linebacker and one of the leading tacklers (before missing the Baylor game) Nick Kwiatkoski is the first that comes to mind. Senior receiver Ivan McCartney should be back from a concussion this week as well.

How about you guys? We know a little bit about your quarterback injury situation, would you like to elaborate on it a bit? Anybody else of note that TT would depend on that maybe has some health issues?

Seth C: From what we can tell, we think that we've had at least two healthy quarterbacks almost the entire year, or at least the ones that Kingsbury is happy with, and one that's been a bit banged up. Michael Brewer had some sort of back injury for the better half of the year and saw his first bit of action against Kansas, while Baker Mayfield has been a god-send and he played almost all the way through the Kansas game before getting hurt. Then Davis Webb got the call against Iowa St. The quarterbacks have had a rough go at it, something WVU fans are probably all too familiar. I tried to guess last week and thought that Brewer would get the call and Kingsbury is tough to read. Right now, I'd guess conservatively and think that Webb gets the call again.

So I'm trying to figure out what WVU is, both offensively and defensively. There are times where they look really good, hard-fought and really intense games like Oklahoma and Oklahoma St., but then . . . Baylor. What can we expect from the defense and what has DC Patterson done differently last year?

WVUIE97: Patterson has two things going for him this season that DeForest had going against him....experience coordinating and experienced players. Our defensive depth was woefully thin last season and obviously, it showed. Many on the two-deep were freshman and redshirt freshman. A couple of them are special players, especially S Karl Joseph and LB Isaiah Bruce. With a year's experience in the Big 12 and another offseason in the program, they've become better. Also, there was a bit of a leadership void on that side of the ball especially. Senior S Darwin Cook has a completely different, better attitude about him. He, along with others like DL Shaq Rowell have really taken this team by the reins and have made it their mission to hold everyone accountable and not repeat the 2012 debacle on defense.

Patterson also has the experience of coordinating a defense where last season DeForest was a rookie coordinator (he's since been demoted to Special Teams coordinator). It's been well written that Patterson prefers to make the offense adjust to him, rather than vice versa. Other than the Maryland game where they were dealt extremely short fields to defend and the Baylor buzzsaw, most fans have been pleased with the results. Now we just need to make sure it's consistent and avoid the letdowns of a game ago. That said, despite the year of growth, we still are relatively young on the defensive side.

Along those same lines, I've seen where Tech is among the national leaders in forcing 3-and-outs. This doesn't bode well for a Mountaineer team struggling on 3rd down this season (29% I believe I saw somewhere). Who or what has been the catalyst in Lubbock to the defense out there? Is the defense for real or does at least some of it have to do with the offensive teams you've faced (no disrespect intended)?

Seth C: I think questioning the talent level of the competition is totally reasonable, so that's definitely part of the equation. Kansas isn't known as an offensive juggernaut, and truthfully, Texas Tech hasn't faced an offensive-minded team all year. Texas Tech still has OU, OSU, Baylor, and Texas on the back-end of the schedule. Even then, the team still has to do a good job of stopping those opposing teams.

Take Iowa St. for example, Texas allowed ISU to convert 10 of their 20 third downs, while Texas Tech only allowed 5 of 18. Not everything is equal, UT was playing on the road and all of that other stuff, but the defense, I think has been better. I think a big key has been the opposing quarterbacks haven't been all that great and I think the biggest key is that the Texas Tech rush defense has just been fantastic. Even though I don't really have the numbers to back this up, if I had to guess, it would be that quarterbacks are just not completing those third downs at a very high passing rate, generally because they are in a third and long situation, and teams aren't able to convert on the run because Texas Tech has just been that much better on the ground. Allowing only a bit over 3 yards an attempt.

Offensively for WVU, I saw your fantastic Q&A with Smart Football to discuss West Virginia's offensive woes. Now that you've had about a week to think about Chris's thoughts do you come to any different conclusions?

Also, I know of a handful of folks that are going to the game and are excited about heading to West Virgina and you all at The Smoking Musket have done a fantastic job of putting together visitor's guides so they can know where to get their drank-on. Every state and/or area or region has their stereotypes, but I want to know the absolute best thing about the state of West Virginia and the University.

WVUIE97: Chris did, as always, an excellent breakdown of the situation and I really have to agree with him on all points. One thing that was missing, yet sort of implied, was the mention of chemistry between the players. That is another key to this offense and the repetitions are the only way to develop it. There have been injuries and some players just not having their heads on straight all the time, leading to a mixed up lineup. I guess what I'm saying is that WVU hasn't had the luxury of a set lineup long enough to develop that cohesion necessary to have this thing firing on all cylinders.

It's hard to pinpoint one greatest thing about the state and University, but when pressed, I'd have to say the people. The geography of the state leads to several distinct regions, and with those regions varying allegiances to pro teams since there are none in WV. The one thing though, that unites us all is the Mountaineers. Our fans are fiercely loyal when backed against a wall, but at the same time extremely fickle. That's a big contradiction, I realize, but it's true and really hard to explain. We have a lot of hard working people in this state and we all (we don't count the 200k around Huntington who support Marshall) support our Mountaineers. You won't find a more friendly and overall welcoming crowd (excluding the students at times). We do have a somewhat overblown reputation as a rude fanbase to opposing fans. Some of it is deserved, but most is not. That said, we have really taken advantage of this Big 12 opportunity to overhaul that stigma and welcome folks from all over. With every new visiting team, we see several notes or message board posts of how welcome they felt and well they were treated.

Back to football...the Tech fans never seemed to embrace Tuberville (and vice versa) after having such a free spirited coach in Mike Leach. Now's your chance to gush over Ryan Gosling, er, Kliff Kingsbury and what he's brought back to Tech with him...

Seth C: Yes, you could say that Tuberville never really fit and embraced everything and that's probably a good explanation. I remember the Kentucky fans warning me about my excitement about Texas Tech hiring Billy Gillispie and I brushed them aside telling them that Gillispie had changed and that Texas Tech was on it's way. I was wrong. So wrong. If and when Cincinnati fans ask me if we feel bad that Tuberville "left" Texas Tech for a better job at Cincinnati and try to politely let them know that Tuberville leaving, and Cincy having to pay $900,000 for the buyout, was the best thing that happened at Texas Tech.

Without a doubt, Kingsbury has helped unify the fanbase and that's what this thing needed more than anything else and that's what Kingsbury has brought. I know that he gets press for the shades and the v-necks, but from what we can tell early on, he's really a hard-working coach that is very much dedicated to his craft of coaching. That other stuff is ancillary and fun for us, but I actually think he's a pretty no-nonsense.

So let's talk a bit about the game. What's going to be the keys for West Virginia?

WVUIE97: SmithFire12 and I spoke about this on our podcast this week. We are of the opinion that the old standbys are the key...controlling the line of scrimmage (on both sides), generating turnovers and third down efficiency on both sides. It's amazing how many good things happen in a football game when you can accomplish those three things (not that they're ever easy to do, especially all three in the same game).

What about for Tech? What are the keys for Tech this week?

Seth C: I thought a good place to look for keys to the game was the Oklahoma St. game and what West Virginia did during that game to hold OSU back and get a pretty convincing win. I've been using some metrics that Matt Hinton used at the first of the year and I've been tracking games that way. In any event, he uses things like Swing Points (+) and Swing Points (-) to designate when a team does or does not score in the redzone or from a turnover in that area of the field, turnovers, wasted yards, etc.

What WVU did really well was committing very few penalties, 6 penalties for 39 yards, winning the turnover battle 3-2, converting on third downs and holding back OSU from their average on third downs, and getting 7 swing points from a kickoff return. Those were huge in getting that win and Texas Tech did an awful job of those things last week. Texas Tech won despite too many turnovers and permitting 14 swing points in ISU's favor while not converting on one of their own opportunities. Essentially, if Texas Tech can just not do all of the bad things they did last week, then I think the Red Raiders have a pretty good chance of getting a win in Morgantown.

So what's your final score prediction?

WVUIE97: Prediction? PAIN.
(That's something that plays on the WVU scoreboard before every opening kickoff, for the Tech fans reading this)


I knew this was coming. Just so you know, I hate making predictions...they have a way of biting me in the ass more times than not. This season, more than any other I can remember has been so back and forth, that I have absolutely no idea what to expect. On one hand, I've been impressed by the defensive performances at home. On the other, we have yet to show any kind of offensive consistency to be confident in that. That said, I'll make a prediction with a caveat.

If...IF WVU can win the turnover battle (and maybe sneak in a defensive score), this game could play out like the OSU game with a similar score 30-21. If we lose the turnover battle, I'm afraid we don't have the offensive capability to keep up. Of course, I hope I'm wrong with the second part.

And your prediction?

Seth C: Ha! I hate predictions too! I'm picking Texas Tech 40, West Virginia 27. It was great talking to you this week and we wish you the best of luck this weekend and I thank you for your time.

WVUIE97: Thank you Seth for conversing along this week. It's been a pleasure. Best of luck to you as well.

Be sure to check out Viva The Matadors for more of Seth's outstanding Red Raider coverage.

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