It’s not so much the quantity of our mistakes as it is the quality of them. False starts on the goal line. Missing gimmes to wide open receivers. Snap issues in field goal range. Shit even the late hit on their first kickoff return - Oklahoma would’ve never had the confidence to go for it on 4th down from their own 37. All told there were 127 combined plays run on Saturday night and it felt like we were the better team on about 100 of them. Can’t help but feel bad for our guys to have knocked them around as much as they did only to let them off the hook yet again. Anyways, on to Texas Tech.
In terms of surface-level narratives there’s a lot of things to like about this matchup. From our side, the team is pissed off about Oklahoma and should be pissed off that we gave one away against these guys last year. Meanwhile Tech is fresh off a spanking from Texas that probably wasn’t even as close as the 70-35 final score. Plus the kick was moved to 3:30. Anybody up for a little 2-for-1 demon exorcision?
Date: October 2nd, 2021
Kickoff: 3:30PM ET
Where: Mountaineer Field at Milan-Puskar Stadium - Morgantown, WV
Tickets: General Public
Online Streaming: WatchESPN app with a valid cable OR ESPN+ subscription
Cord Cutters: Mountaineer fans can catch all the action on fuboTV. fuboTV is an over-the-top streaming service that carries all the major networks, including CBS, NBC, FOX, and now....the ESPN Disney networks! It also carries ABC, CBS Sports Network, FS1, SEC Network, and more. fuboTV comes with a cloud DVR feature, so you can record the game and watch it later.
Radio Announcers: Tony Caridi (PBP), Dwight Wallace (analyst), and Jed Drenning (sideline)
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DEGENERATES UNITE (as of Monday, 9/27)
The Mountaineers open as 7-point favorites with the O/U set at 58. They say that Vegas always knows, but I’m not sure I’m buying what they’re selling here. If the game goes how we want it to then this line is a bit low and the O/U a bit high.
WEATHER FORECAST (as of Monday, 9/27)
The forecast looks absolutely pristine for an early October football game - crisp and clear in the morning before warming up to somewhere around 70 by kickoff. Bring your hoodies, but be prepared to ditch them for the march into Fortress Morgantown.
Where are they from? The Texas Tech Red Raiders invade from the windswept plains of Lubbock in West Texas.
All-time series record: 6-4. The good guys hold the advantage in the overall series, but Tech has taken two from us on the trot. Time to restore order.
Last game: Last year’s contest ended in a disappointing 34-27 defeat. We outgained the Red Raiders by nearly 100 yards but somehow never led in the game, and were ultimately done in by a fumble that was returned for the game-winning score.
Head coach: Matt Wells (3rd season, 11-15). Wells has returned mixed results in Lubbock. On the one hand, they’ve developed a handful of guys into first team All-Conference selections and NFL draft picks, but on the other, the results and recruiting probably haven’t matched their expectations after hiring Wells from Utah State.
2021 record: 3-1. Tech ran out to a 3-0 start that would be relatively impressive if you didn’t pay too much attention to who they were playing, but last Saturday’s beatdown in Austin reaffirmed that they still have a long way to go to compete with the big dogs in the Big 12.
NUMBERS THAT MAY INTEREST YOU
11.3 - The number of yards that Tech wideout Erik Ezukanma is gaining after each catch this year. Ezukanma is lapping the Big 12 pack in both YAC and yards per route run among receivers with at least 10 targets, and as their go-to guy he’s somebody we’ll have to keep a close eye on Saturday.
25 - The number of pressures that Texas Tech's starters have allowed through four games this year. 13 of those have come from tackles TJ Storment and Caleb Rogers with another 8 from guard Weston Wright. Our defensive line should be licking chops.
336 - The number of yards that Tech allowed on the ground against Texas last weekend at about 6.5 yards a pop. If we can't run it on these guys with Doege in there then we have to break glass and get Greene in the game.
28 - The number of points that Tech has been outscored by in first quarters this year. We’ve generally been at our offensive best in the first quarter this season, so hopefully we’re able to jump out to another quick lead.
KEYS TO THE GAME
MORE OF THE SAME FROM THE FRONT 4
Our defensive line is playing at an extremely high level across the board right now, with Akheem Mesidor, Dante Stills, Taijh Alston, and Jared Bartlett all ranking in the top 16 in the Big 12 in pressures generated and combining for 9.5 sacks and 14 TFL as a foursome. On the other side of the ball, Tech's offensive line has been pretty average, with Red Raiders quarterbacks seeing pressure on about 25% of their 132 combined dropbacks this year (9 allowed last weekend against Texas).
I see it as crucial for us defensively that we continue our dominance up front and win that matchup in the trenches decisively. If we're able to control the line of scrimmage and get after their QB with just four then we should be able to keep everything else in front of us and ultimately keep them off the scoreboard.
This is the big one for me offensively. We’ve only converted 50% of our red zone trips into touchdowns against our three FBS opponents this year. That's tied for 106th nationally. I know there have been penalties and missed opportunities and everything else but the simple fact of the matter is that’s not good enough. We have to clean it up or we’re going to continue to lose games that we shouldn’t.
A couple of thoughts here. First, according to the Musket’s WVUNite we’ve run 28 plays in the red zone against FBS opponents this year. Only 4 of those plays were handoffs to Leddie Brown, yielding 27 yards and a touchdown. I'm obviously not a coach or anything but that feels like a pretty low number of red zone carries for arguably our best offensive player, right? Maybe we should be leaning on him a bit more when we get inside the 20?
Second, the Garrett Greene red zone package bore immediate fruit against Oklahoma, and they're arguably the best defensive front we'll play this season. Not only was he able to run one in himself (our only touchdown), but it’s fairly obvious that Leddie has more room when he’s in there, as well. Maybe that’s something we should continue to utilize going forward, especially this week against a Tech team that Texas just ran all over?
STAY AGGRESSIVE OFFENSIVELY
This is the other big one. Our second half offensive struggles have been well-documented, so instead I'm going to focus more on a couple of things I think we can do to keep defenses on their heels and stay putting up points in second halves.
First, at some point we have to leave Greene in there on 3rd and more than 5 and see if he can figure it out. We're not doing him any favors by pulling the plug as soon as the going gets tough, and we're not doing Doege any favors by asking him to walk onto the field and immediately convert a 3rd and 11.
Second, we need to find creative ways to keep getting Winston Wright the ball. It seems like we've found a nice niche for Ford-Wheaton and James on these slants and underneath routes, but Winston is our most explosive guy and it seems like it should be easier to get him touches. The 9 targets against Oklahoma were much better than the previous two weeks and we did start to see him in some jet and orbit motion, but only 3 of those targets were in the second half and all were in the 3rd quarter. We have to keep him involved. Also, and this is a question I've asked for a few weeks now, but why not just hand him the ball as a running back every now and then? Our other backups look like they might need more time to develop but Leddie can't literally play every snap. So why not try the Jet back there? His explosiveness clearly strains defenses and I actually think he could provide a really effective change-of-pace, especially later in games against tired legs.
HOW AFRAID SHOULD WE BE?
4 out of 10. Colombi hit some nice deep balls on Texas after Shough got hurt last weekend, but Josh Chandler-Semedo’s post-game interview after Oklahoma has me ready to run through a wall for this defense and offense-be-damned I just can’t see that group letting Texas Tech walk out of our house with a win.
Oklahoma left a bad taste in everybody’s mouth, and there’s no better way to wash that nastiness out than to take your frustrations out on the next set of not-old gold-and-blue jerseys that cross your path.
I’m expecting an angry crowd and an even angrier team, and fast starts on both sides of the ball. Defense cracking skulls, offense grinding out drives and clock. Look for Greene to be even more involved this week if Tech does indeed prove unable to stop the run. I'm also expecting some more tight end involvement this week - lots of 12 personnel, play-action slide routes into the opposite flat, easy roll outs as part of Greene's RPO packages, that sort of thing. If all goes according to plan this game should whiz by pretty quickly and end in a multi-score win for the home team. LFG.
West Virginia 31-13 Texas Tech