WVU Gameday Blog

Report Card: Texas Tech

In what was truly a tale of two halves, West Virginia (4-2) pulled off its second largest fourth-quarter comeback ever Saturday to defeat No. 24 Texas Tech 46-35, ending a nine-game losing streak to ranked teams that dated back to 2014.

As you can expect, being that it was two very different teams on the field for the Mountaineers between the first and second halves (really the first three quarters and the fourth) the report card won’t be great.

 

Offense — C

This is the lowest grade the offense has gotten this year.

Will Grier was great, as always, completing 78 percent of his passes for five touchdowns, four of which came in the second half.

But the running game was practically non-existent.

Neither team finished the first quarter with positive rushing yardage, and the Mountaineers didn’t stay in the positives until late in the third quarter.

Two reasons stick out as to why, one that will be addressed here, and the other in another section.

The first is play calling.

Albeit, it is common for teams to abandon the run when trailing like WVU was, but for Justin Crawford to only carry the ball 14 times is odd.

And it highlights a trend that’s been growing over the last few weeks — West Virginia going to him early in the game and then going away from him for much of the first half.

 

Defense — D+

If not for a complete turn around in the fourth quarter, this group would’ve failed the test.

Missed tackles, bad coverage, not being able to recognize the opposing quarterback staring down his receivers, absolutely no push up front.

The troubling part was that early in the game Texas Tech wasn’t taking many chances down the field. It was a lot of screens and slants near, or behind, the line of scrimmage that turned into decent gains.

As we’ve seen before this year, though, the defense knows what time it is in the fourth. And you have to commend them for stopping one of the top offenses in the Big 12 when it mattered most.

However, giving up 190 yards on the ground to Texas Tech is disheartening. Texas Tech may be an improved team at running the ball, but to allow a team built around throwing the football to run it that well is sad.

You want to think a game next week against lowly Baylor could lead to some needed fixes, but that was the consensus heading into Lawrence, Kansas and it was not the case.

 

Special Teams — B-

It’s a good feeling to go a full 60 minutes of football and not see a kick-out-of-bounds penalty.

No missed field goals. Only allowing two yards on punt returns, and being better on kick return coverage all showed signs of improvement.

Compared to the lack of execution by Texas Tech and the Mountaineers special teams unit looked good.

You would like to see Marcus Simms be able to have better return lanes, especially when back to receive punts, but Texas Tech’s punt unit seemed faster than most.

West Virginia loses a full letter grade by allowing the long run on the fake punt. You could see it coming a mile away; Tech didn’t hide their intentions well yet it was defended even worse.

 

Linemen – D-

I won’t spend too much time here because it’s obvious to everyone. Line play is just not good.

Grier was sacked four times and was forced to move out of the pocket many others. Texas Tech also racked up five tackles for loss. On the other side, WVU was only able to register two sacks and four stops behind the line of scrimmage.

Offensive line play is the other reason I alluded to earlier as to why running the ball was so poor. The O-Line couldn’t get any push. Crawford is without a doubt the best running back in the Big 12, but he needs to have somewhere to go in order to help move the ball, and that wasn’t given to him Saturday.

 

Overall – D+

It was an amazing comeback despite a poor game played for three quarters, and Dana Holgorsen said that after the game. The Mountaineers have to be more consistent for the full four quarters if they want to continue to win ball games, especially with the meat of the schedule looming.

Scouting the Opponent: Texas Tech

West Virginia (3-2) looks to defend home turf Saturday when it hosts No. 24 Texas Tech (4-1). It’ll be the second-straight ranked opponent, and third overall this year, for the Mountaineers.

As WVU attempts to halt its losing streak against ranked teams, to whom it’s dropped each of the last nine games, we take a look at the squad it’ll try to stop it against.

Air-Raiders

Moving the ball through the air still remains as Options 1, 2, and 3 for Kliff Kingsbury and Texas Tech.

First-year-starting quarterback Nic Shimonek has led one of top offenses in the nation to an impressive start to the year.

Behind Shimonek, the Red Raiders have the highest scoring offense and the second-best passing attack in the Big 12.

They also like to spread the ball around. Five TTU receivers have caught at least 10 passes this year. For comparison, WVU has just five wideouts with at least five catches.

Keke Coutee is Texas Tech’s leading receiver. He’s hauled in 39 catches for nearly 600 yards. Cameron Batson, Dylan Cantrell have each caught at least 22 passes. Derrick Willies has been a big-play threat, averaging a team-best 17.8 yards per catch.

Improving the Ground Game

Fourth-year offensive coordinator Eric Morris has possibly followed Dana Holgorsen’s lead in recognizing how important a good running game can be.

Justin Stockton paces the TTU rushing attack with nearly 400 yards total this year, good enough for 77 yards per game.

Desmond Nisby leads Texas Tech with six rushing touchdowns.

Defense still not a strong suit

The mark against Texas Tech for years has been a lack of defense in Lubbock.

Despite improvements on the defensive side of the ball, it’s still not a group Red Raider fans should be hanging their hat on.

TTU is surrendering the eighth-most points per game in the conference, and ranks among the bottom three teams in both rush and pass defense.

A large number of one-on-one matchups on the outside, with undersized DBs no less, could be responsible for some of the underperformance by TTU.

Defensive players to watch out for

Jordyn Brooks (42) and Jah’Shawn Johnson (40) are the leading tacklers.

Kollin Hill and Eli Howard pace the Red Raiders in tackles for loss, and are two of the six players with at least two stops behind the line of scrimmage. Howard also leads the way in sacks with 2.5.

Oi, mate!

Holgorsen mentioned at his Tuesday press conference that Texas Tech punter Dominic Panazzolo punts with an Australian rugby style, which can be difficult for return men.

Panazzolo is averaging 40 yards per punt and has pinned opponents inside the 20-yard line five times.

Holgorsen press conference news and notes

The Mountaineers must bounce back from their second loss of the season when they host Texas Tech on Saturday.

Head coach Dana Holgorsen said that his team was obviously disappointed with the seven-point loss to TCU, but they appeared to respond with good energy when they met Sunday.

Here are some other takeaways from the team’s weekly media availability:

WR depth still a question

Depth at the wide receiver position has been an issue all season but was once again shown to be an issue on Saturday when only four wideouts caught passes.

Asked about the depth, Holgorsen, talking somewhat intensely, said they’d hoped this issues would’ve been taken care of a long time ago.

“Two months ago,” he said. Then followed that by saying it needs to improve, “Now!”

Offensive coordinator Jake Spavital said inexperience of the second group of receivers does play a part into the depth issues.

Reggie Roberson appears to be the next man up.

Finishing possessions

When asked about being unable to finish drives with points in the first half Saturday, the head coach agreed that was an area they needed to improve on in that game.

He did defend his offense, and rightly so, in that they’ve been more consistent at finishing lengthy drives this year than in recent seasons.

Fifteen times this season WVU has covered at least 75 yards in on possession and scored, with only one of those drives ending with a field goal.

Holgorsen pointed out that part of the problem Saturday was four times being pinned inside the 10-yard line in the first half against a well-coached TCU defense.

TTU playing better

Any questions about what the Texas Tech offense would look like in the post-Patrick-Mahomes era have been answered. It’s just as explosive.

“Texas Tech is playing good,” Holgorsen said. “They’re playing probably as good, or better, than we’ve seen since that first year we played them.”

Texas Tech has the highest-scoring offense in the Big 12, and quarterback Nic Shimonek is averaging over 386 passing yards per game.

Even though the stats may suggest that the Red Raider defense is still doing its best to maintain the Big 12’s “lack of defense” stature, Holgorsen said they can’t be taken lightly.

“We’ve got our work cut out for us when it comes to them,” Holgorsen said. “They’re sound in what they’re doing. They’re executing very well.”

Asked about the improvement of the TTU defense, Spavital said that he’s completely stopped looking at film of last year’s defense because this year’s Red Raider defensive unit is playing so much better.

Possibility for big days

Despite the improvements on defense in Lubbock, WVU wideouts may have the chance to have their best games yet.

Spavital said that Texas Tech’s defense creates a lot of one-on-one matchups with wide receivers.

“They’ve got some confidence in their guys,” Spavital said. “It’s a scheme that, they’re going to put us (in) one-on-one battles, and we’ve got to win them all.”

According to the depth chart, the Red Raiders are only planning on playing just two defensive backs taller than exactly 6 feet tall. That could bode well for West Virginia, that has David Sills V (6-4), Ka’Raun White (6-1), Gary Jennings (6-1), and Marcus Simms (6-0) that likely have the ability to get up higher than their defenders.

Big 12 Stock Evaluation

Non-conference play is a good litmus test for teams and conferences to see where they stand against their competitors.

Only four Big 12 teams – Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas Tech – remain undefeated through the first three weeks of the season, meaning their stock is in good shape.

On the other end of the spectrum, Baylor (0-3) is the only Power-5 team to have played two or more games that remains without a win, and with its upcoming schedule including at least two ranked opponents, you couldn’t sell its stock to anyone if you were an owner.

As for the rest of the conference, their stock remains somewhat in question. But here are a few answers.

Texas – Sell Now

Texas is back? It’s a question asked for a few years now that seems to have an answer, but comes into question on a semi-weekly basis.

The Longhorns looked good against USC Saturday, but are still not “back,” which is why you should sell.

After a bye week, Tom Herman’s club hits the road to take on an Iowa State team that knows it should be undefeated at this point. Following their trip to Ames, the Longhorns must face Kansas State, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

Stiff competition could bring out the best in Texas, but the program’s fourth 1-2 start in the last five years and the schedule that looms suggests otherwise.

Texas Tech – Buy Cautiously

In just two games, Texas Tech’s offense has put up 110 points and new quarterback Nic Shimonek is just 73 yards short of 1,000 passing yards. The post-Patrick-Mahomes-era is off to a good start.

The Red Raiders will look to move to 3-0 this weekend at Houston, but starting there things get tricky. The Cougar defense is giving up less than 10 points per game so far.

Next up is Oklahoma State, another quality defense. A trap-game trip to Kansas follows. Kliff Kingsbury’s offense will be tested over the next two weeks.

If you’re in a buying mood, take a look at the Red Raiders, but re-evaluate after Saturday.

West Virginia – Buy

Dana Holgorsen’s offense has been gaining yards at a frantic pace over the first three weeks of the season, and is coming off back-to-back 50-plus point performances.

The offense has been clicking and should continue to this weekend against the Jayhawks. The defense has not been as fluid, but potentially three consecutive weeks of a point differential of 30 or more looks good on paper, at least.

West Virginia will then have a week off to prepare for a trip to Dallas to face a ranked Horned Frog team.

Buy the Mountaineers for this reason: The schedule is still very manageable at this point. WVU should be no worse than 5-2, potentially 6-1, heading into its home game on October 28 against Oklahoma State. With that being the case, there is going to be a good return on investment for when the schedule strengthens up.

Oklahoma – Buy it all

The Sooners rank as the 12th-best defense in the Power-5 in terms of points allowed.

Oklahoma has already played what looks to be its toughest test until November, and Baker Mayfield has been one of the best quarterbacks in the country thus far.

With it looking more likely than not that the Sooners will enter the Bedlam rivalry undefeated, you should be all in on Oklahoma.

 

Big 12 Notebook: Week 2

Seven of the 10 teams in the Big 12 started the season on the right foot with wins last weekend. Arguably the biggest story line from the conference was Texas’ loss at home to Maryland, and that’s where we start this week’s Big 12 Notebook.

Longhorn Defense Anything but Perfect

After Tom Herman said in his Monday press conference that he thought his players tried to play “perfect” in their loss Saturday, almost every available player was asked about that Tuesday during Longhorn player availability.

Although some players denied that the team tried to play perfect, others agreed with the head coach.

“Definitely, it was more a sense of trying to be perfect, trying to be 100 percent on each and every play,” said linebacker Naashon Hughes.

Others agreed that during film review earlier this week, there were plenty of things that stood out.

“We didn’t look like (a) team,” said PJ Locke III. “Just didn’t look confidant, didn’t go full speed, kind of overthinking basically.”

Texas’ defense surrendered 263 rushing yards and four touchdowns on the ground to the Terps. One positive was that the Longhorns limited Maryland to just 3 of 11 on third downs.

Baylor loses RB for next month

Sophomore running back JaMycal Hasty is expected to miss a “minimum of four weeks” with a straight right knee. Hasty carried 11 times for 56 yards before sustaining the injury in Baylor’s 48-45 loss to Liberty, which was playing in its first game at the FBS level.

New QBs shine in Week 1

Many wondered what the status of the Texas Tech offense would be in the first season after Patrick Mahomes.

Early indications show that not much has changed.

In his first career start, Nic Shimonek completed each of his first 14 passes and ended the day with 384 passing yards in TTU’s 56-10 rout of Eastern Washington.

Kansas and West Virginia also saw good things out of their new QBs.

Jayhawk passer Peyton Bender completed 23 of 37 attempts for 364 yards and four scores in the Kansas win.

Will Grier, named Big 12 Player of the Week, was asked to throw the ball 53 times, completing 31 of those throws for 371 yards and three trips to the end zone. He also showed the ability to extend plays with his feet.

Bender’s showing is especially exciting for Jayhawk fans because of this:

Big 12 Notebook – August 14     

Texas Tech reinstates QB

Texas Tech has allowed redshirt freshman quarterback Jett Duffey to resume practicing with the team after he served a two-semester suspension. Duffey was suspended by the university in January after being found responsible for two counts of sexual misconduct.

Duffey was the No. 13 dual threat quarterback in the 2015 recruiting class by 247Sports, and despite the suspension, head coach Kliff Kingsbury said in February that he expects Duffey to, “slide right in and be very good.”

 

WVU’s Simms arrested

West Virginia wide receiver Marcus Simms was arrested early Sunday morning, and charged with DUI and driving with a revoked license. Neither WVU or the team have commented on the incident.

 

Gundy reacts to scrimmage

Oklahoma State held its first scrimmage Sunday morning, and head coach Mike Gundy addressed the media afterwards about the team’s progress.

The head coach, who recently celebrated his 50th birthday, said he likes where the team is at, but there are still decisions to be made at backup quarterback, running back and, “we’ve got to decide who’s going to be out there first in the secondary.”

 

Texas RB sustains injury

Chris Warren, the top returning running back for the Texas Longhorns, sustained a concussion during last Thursday’s practice, the latest in a history of injuries for the junior.

“He was having a good camp,” Herman. “He’s alert. He’s in the protocol. If he’s still out this time next week, yeah, that would be concerning. But right now, I’m not too concerned.”

Warren missed most of last season with a year-ending knee injury. He rushed for 366 yards through the first four games of the season before suffering the injury.

This is just the latest in a slew of injuries felt in the Longhorn camp. Right tackle Elijah Rodriguez, who was battling for a starting spot, underwent surgery on his right ankle Thursday. There is no timetable for his return.

Big 12 Notebook – August 10

AP photo
AP photo | Hey guys, Tom Herman isn’t jazzed about his team’s special teams play, either.

 

With football teams across the Big 12 landscape heading towards the midway point in fall training camp and practices before the start of the 2017 season, there are a number of points to go over.

But here are a few of the biggest notes from camps are some of the contenders in the conference, and one saddening note from off the gridiron.

Tom Herman, Texas HC

  • One similarity between WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen and Texas head coach Tom Herman’s media availabilities this week have been the importance of special teams. The Longhorns fell victim to four blocked kicks last year, which Herman said was, “unacceptable.”

“One blocked kick on the year, whether it be a PAT, field goal or punt is too many, and the stats back that up,” Herman said to reporters.

  • Herman’s first year in Austin should be highlighted by his quarterback Shane Buechele, offensively. However, the running back position could be a potential issue if no one emerges as the true lead back, as is the case so far according to the head coach. He did say, though, that’s OK as long as multiple tailbacks are putting in good work in practice.

“Would you like a guy to really, really separate himself? Yeah,” Herman said. “But if they don’t, but they’re all playing to an above-average to a winnable level, then I think that’s a good thing.

Texas is replacing the Big 12-leading rusher from a year ago D’Onta Foreman.

Oklahoma State

  • The Cowboys have been said by just about all college football experts to be one of the two best teams in the Big 12. Sports Illustrated recently went as far as to predict that Mike Gundy’s team would be one of the four to make the College Football Playoff. If that were to happen, OK-State would be the second team from the conference to make the CFP.

Both Gundy and his senior quarterback Mason Rudolph said it’s good for the program to get that sort of national attention. But, Gundy did say Rudolph and some of the other senior leaders have been a big help to him managing team expectations.

Oklahoma

  • Defensively there has been a shift in the scheming in Norman. The Sooners have made the change from a 3-4 to a 4-3 base defense, and even though it hasn’t been deployed in a regular season game yet, Oklahoma players appear to like the change.

“Honestly I just feel more free because there are fewer guards getting to me fast and more holes to fill,” senior linebacker Emmanuel Beal said to reporters Tuesday. “It allows us linebackers to play faster.”

Texas Tech

  • The Red Raiders are mourning the recent loss of incoming freshman Luke Gonsioroski, who passed away Monday after battling cancer.