Date: November 9th, 2019
Time: 12:00pm EST
Venue: Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium - Morgantown, WV
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN
Streaming: ESPN app
Radio: Click HERE for a complete list of radio affiliates in West Virginia. If you live outside of the state, or don’t live close enough to a radio affiliate, you can listen to the Mountaineer Sports Network from IMG on TuneIn Radio.
Spread: West Virginia +2.5
It vexes me that we're home dogs against a 3-5 opponent that has yet to win a road game. I'm terribly vexed.
True blue in honor of Veteran's Day. Can't hate on that.
Tech is rocking their all whites. If nothing else, the game is going to be beautiful to look at.
KNOW THE ENEMY
Series History: (6-2). We've done some good work to swing this thing in our favor over the last half-decade with five wins on the trot. For those of you keeping score at home, that means we're undefeated against Pat Mahomes.
2019 Record: (3-5). Despite their record, Tech has played just about everybody tough this year with the exception of Oklahoma. The high point is undoubtedly the 45-35 win against Oklahoma State in Lubbock, but the subsequent three-game skid should have them as hungry for a win as we are.
Head Coach: Matt Wells. Another week, another worthy adversary prowling the opposing sidelines. Wells is in his first year in Lubbock after a successful six-year run at Utah State that featured two 10-win seasons and 2018 Mountain West Coach of the Year honors.
Offensive Coordinator: David Yost. Yost is in his first year in Lubbock after serving as Wells' OC for the previous two seasons at Utah State. He's been involved in some of the best offenses in the country over the past decade, with prior stints at Missouri (2001-2012), Washington State (2013-2015), and Oregon (2016).
Defensive Coordinator: Keith Patterson. Patterson is also in his first year in Lubbock after previously serving as Wells' defensive coordinator at Utah State. Some of you might remember him from his time in Morgantown when he put together one of the worst defenses in school history.
WHEN WE HAVE THE BALL...
WVU players to watch: QB Austin Kendall, QB Jarret Doege, RB Leddie Brown, WR Sam James, WR George Campbell, WR Ali Jennings
Texas Tech players to watch: LB Jordyn Brooks, DT Broderick Washington Jr, LB Riko Jeffers, S Douglas Coleman
Texas Tech doesn't exactly have a reputation as a top-tier defense, but that hasn't stopped them from having some top-tier players on that side of the ball over the years. 2019 is a microcosm of that trend, and they enter this weekend in the lower end of the middle of the pack in most major categories with the exception of two: tackles for loss and interceptions. And that's again because they have some really good players at all three levels surrounded by blah.
The best of the bunch is definitely linebacker Jordyn Brooks, who's leading the team (and conference) in both tackles and tackles for loss for what feels like the 10th straight year. His senior year has been exceptional even by his own lofty standards, with his per game numbers of 10.9 tackles and 1.9 TFL both ranking in the top 7 nationally. Anchoring the unit up front is Broderick Washington Jr, who plays the Dante Stills 3-technique for them. He provides great production for an interior lineman, ranking 2nd and 3rd on the team in TFL and sacks, respectively. Holding down the back-end is safety Douglas Coleman III. Coleman has been extremely active this year, ranking 3rd on the team in tackles while leading the entire country with 7 interceptions.
There are a few other standout performers in addition to the aforementioned Big 3. Brooks' PIC Riko Jeffers is having a solid junior season and ranks 2nd on the team in tackles from his linebacker spot, defensive end Eli Howard and edge Evan Rambo have both been decently productive as pass rushers, and Zech McPhearson has been solid at the other safety position. However, provided that we can occasionally block Brooks, I think this is a group that even our lowly offense can expect to have some small amount of success against.
Defining success: Just play Doege. Please and thank you.
We're currently last in the conference by some distance in scoring, total offense, first downs, 3rd down conversion percentage, red zone scoring percentage, explosive plays, and I stopped scrolling and gouged my eyes out. That's certainly not all on Austin Kendall, but the time has come to make a change, and the bar has been set so low that I’ll consider it a win simply if we do so.
Enter Jarrett Doege (probably). As most of you know, Doege was a late-summer transfer from Bowling Green, where he led the MAC in passing during the regular season a year ago. He won't provide much of an upgrade athletically, but based on what I've seen of him he should be better than Austin at, you know, throwing. We can't realistically expect him to light the Red Raider defense on fire in his first game action, but I think we'd all take any sort of rhythm and/or consistency in the short-to-intermediate passing game as a huge win. Anything more than that would be a bonus.
WHEN THEY HAVE THE BALL...
WVU players to watch: DT Dante Stills, NT Darius Stills, SPEAR Kwantel Raines, FS Tykee Smith
Texas Tech players to watch: QB Jett Duffey, RB Ta'Zhawn Henry, RB SaRodorick Thompson, WR TJ Vasher
On the other side of the ball, the Red Raiders up-tempo air raid offense has been their calling card for most of this century. That's generally true again this year even with the new staff - they've taken a small step backwards in terms of both efficiency and explosiveness, but with 44 pass attempts per game and a snap every ~22 seconds they're still the pass-happiest, fastest moving offense in the league.
They'll be led again this week by backup Jett Duffey, but before we do any rejoicing we would do well to remember that it was Duffey, and not starter Alan Bowman, who nearly led them all the way back from a 35-7 deficit against us in Lubbock last year. Duffey has been better with his accuracy this year, and has been doing an especially good job of getting the ball out on time and to the right people when they attack downfield in the RPO and play-action passing game. You'll also remember that he's a very good runner, though he's been doing less of that this year under Wells and Yost (6.5 attempts per game this year vs 9.9 last year).
The backfield is more of a "by committee" group than it's been in years passed, but they're certainly continuing the Red Raider tradition of being more than good enough to make you pay if you sleep on them. Freshman SaRodorick Thompson has emerged as the workhorse but both Armand Shyne and Ta'Zhawn Henry both get about 7 carries per game, as well, and as a group they're averaging an enviable 5.4 ypc. One thing we need to be cognizant of with these guys is that they're all very capable receivers out of the backfield - the trio has combined to catch 53 passes through 8 games, which is by far the most of any "position" on their offense.
Out wide they're not as explosive as they traditionally are but still have a handful of guys who know how to get open and do a good job of winning contested balls. The one you'll recognize is TJ Vasher, who at 6'6 210 offers an exceptional target in the red zone, but RJ Turner, Dalton Rigdon, and Erik Ezukanma have all flashed some decent YAC-ability and catch multiple balls per game.
As solid as the skills guys are, however, the strength of the offense is probably the group up front. They feature three multi-year starters, two of which will likely receive postseason recognition for their performances, and rank in the top 30 nationally in both sacks and TFL allowed.
Defining success: Continue to dominate up front; watch the backs out of the backfield
See above - we need our defensive line to pick up where they left off against Baylor and create havoc up front, and it's crucial that they do it this week without help from the second and third levels. If they can control things along the line of scrimmage on their own then it should leave our backers and safeties free to deal with their intermediate passing game and especially mitigate the threat of those backs out of the backfield.
Neal Brown gave Tech's special teams a "solid" grade across the board in his Tuesday presser, and as usual, we're going to take his word for it. As for our own special teams, they've often been a beacon of hope this year when all else seems lost. That was certainly the case last week against Baylor, and with my man Winston Wright finally bursting onto the scene I think we can feel confident that it will continue. I can't tell you how good it feels to not only not have to worry about the third phase, but indeed feel confident that it can give us a decided advantage after *checks watch* just about an entire lifetime of watching us punt and kick and field balls through terrified fingers.
Not gonna lie here gang, I'm more than a little bit put off by the fact that 3-5, winless-on-the-road Texas Tech is walking into our house as the favorites. I'd like to think our team will be bit put off by it too, and you know that Mountaineer Nation will be more than happy to lean into the underdog narrative, especially with the extra beverage or two that we'll need to manage the cold. I think we come out and play our most complete game of the year, and kick start that stretch run to a Year 0 bowl game for Real Deal Neal. Let's go.
West Virginia 31-17 Texas Tech