I was messaging with a Texas Tech fan last week. We were talking about how Tech has had WVU’s number the last two seasons and I mentioned that I thought Neal Brown really wanted this game and I’d be very surprised if we came out flat. Good thing I didn’t put any money on it, because my gut was dead wrong. West Virginia came out sluggish once again versus the Red Raiders and found themselves in a 17-0 hole at the half. Unlike all previous games this season, WVU came out slow but found their way in the second half and drew the game level at 17. Ultimately, spotting the opponent a three possession lead was too much for the Mountaineers, and Neal Brown dropped his third straight game to Texas Tech.
I think this loss hurts even more after looking at the numbers. Post-game win percentage, a number that measures the expected win percentage if the game were to be played again with each team attaining the same stats, gives the Mountaineers an 84% win percentage based on how they played. The Mountaineers had a higher available yards percentage, better success on first down, and had larger predicted points added for both passing and rushing plays. Unfortunately, Texas Tech made big plays at more opportune times. For example, Texas Tech’s trick play interception left WVU starting deep in their own territory, while WVU’s turnover left Tech in good field position that led to a touchdown. Texas Tech picked up an unlikely 3rd and 13 on the final drive of the first half that led to a field goal while West Virginia failed to convert a 4th and 2 from inside the opponent’s 35-yard line.
Context matters in football. A false start on the goal line can be much more impactful than a false start on 2nd and 1 from the 50 yard line. Right now, this team doesn’t have the talent level to shoot themselves in the foot and get away with it. This was on display in Oklahoma and once again versus Texas Tech. In the first half, a 3rd and 1 from the TTU 33 became a 3rd and 6 due to a false start. This led to a 4th and 2 attempt that failed. Another false start happened on 2nd and 6 from the TTU 11. This pushed the Mountaineers to a difficult 2nd and long inside the redzone, ultimately leading to a field goal instead of a touchdown.The Mountaineers had six penalties costing them 48 yards, but these two in particular really feel like they cost more than just 5 yards.
Another topic that needs addressed is the timeout management. It’s been a theme that the majority of Neal’s timeouts come in non-clock management situations. Two timeouts had to be burned early in the second half, leaving only one remaining when the clock began to be a factor in the game. Having all three timeouts at the end of the game could have been the difference between the offense taking over with 1:38 remaining instead of just a mere 18 seconds. I said it last week and I’ll say it again—I don’t think I’m equipped to talk about the logistics of getting a play call in, but week after week the Mountaineers are burning timeouts to do so and are left helpless as the clock runs late in the game. I have to add this tweet because it’s so funny and true.
ESPN got a reaction of me screaming "Wake up! Every game!" as wasted timeouts occur on a weekly basis. In the 2nd half, WVU wasted two timeouts on first downs and needed them to get in field goal range at the end. The undisciplined game management has me feeling some type of way. pic.twitter.com/V3vCVrPfHY— Ben Booth (@TheBenBoothShow) October 3, 2021
The Big 12 feels pretty wide open this year. I think almost any team can beat another on any given Saturday. The Mountaineers are bound to be in more close games this season, and if they want to win those games they have to cut down on preventable mistakes. West Virginia now has three losses on the season by a combined 12 points.