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The Huddle: West Virginia Mountaineers vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders

We take a long look at the game between the West Virginia Mountaineers and the Texas Tech Red Raiders, with thoughts on why Texas Tech is struggling, the uniform tracker, the best players for WVU, keys to the game and so much more.

Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Learning Lessons. One of the things that’s been rolling around in my head for a few weeks is that there are three areas of concern for this team that somewhat relate to the 5-7 team from 2011, specifically, what were the things that I thought that were important and the similarities between those two teams.

Game Information
West Virginia
Texas Tech

When: October 11th at 11:00 am
Where: Jones AT&T Stadium | Lubbock, TX
Watch: FS1
Key Injuries: Tony Morales, Alfredo Morales, Jah'Shawn Johnson

I should point out, that we really need to start watching with this current recruiting cycle. The pipeline has to start and it can't stop. The recruiting part of the equation means that you have to recruit players at each of these positions, consistently each year, otherwise, you'll find yourself grasping for straws for some recruiting cycle.

1. Cornerbacks. My first conclusion is that both the 2014 and the 2011 teams both serious lacked a decent player at cornerback. Oh, sure, there were players there, but go back to that 2011 season and there just aren't any cornerbacks that were decent. Maybe the best cornerback was Tre' Porter, who ended up moving to safety, but other than that, you had Jared Flannel and Derrick Mays and Cornelius Douglas all manning the cornerback spot. Not exactly all-conference caliber players. Now, the difference between 2011 and 2014 is that some of those cornerbacks had some experience, like Flannel and Mays and Douglas, but they just weren't that great. In 2014, the only cornerbacks are cornerbacks that are young and completely inexperienced. In fact, Kevin Curtis has pretty much decided that any cornerbacks that have any sort of experience, like La'Darius Newbold or Tyler Middleton, who had a cup of coffee at cornerback, or Theirry Nguema. So, Texas Tech is opting for the absolutely most inexperienced group that you can imagine at cornerback with the hope that they can

2. Defensive Line. Part two of the equation is to stay on the defensive side of the ball and address the defensive line. Any time that a team is pretty much replacing entire chunks of the defensive line and your name is not Bill Snyder, then you can pretty much be assured that the defense is going to be horrible. This isn't a situation that Kingsbury necessarily put himself into, especially given the departures of Delvon Simmons and Michael Starts, but those were the guys that were supposed to bridge the gap between Kerry Hyder and Dartwan Bush. Because they were gone or transferred or asked to leave, there was no bridge. No bridge at all. Wallerstedt and Kingsbury ended up having to put all of their eggs in the baskets of the four JUCO defensive linemen to play significant roles this year. And if you ever needed confirmation of this theory, this is that year. It takes time for JUCO guys to develop. It just takes time. These guys just aren't in the same type of weight room and conditioning programs that they have at Texas Tech. Now, with the four JUCO players, Texas Tech should be okay at defensive line next year . . . but . . . it's after 2015 that should scare you. Right now, Texas Tech only has two defensive line commits, Breiden Fehoko and Broderick Washington, and they are the only high school defensive line commits for the 2014 and 2015 classes. This has to change. This has to change in the 2015 class and not with JUCO players. If that happens again, then you're on the same treadmill as this year.

3. Wide Receivers. This third item is admittedly a bit shaky, but here goes: experienced wide receivers. I'm drawing a distinction between the inside and wide receivers as I tend to think that the guys inside have it a bit easier than the guys on the outside. The guys on the outside have to learn how to make plays and learn how to go fight for the ball. The first thing to note from 2011 is that this was Eric Ward's breakout year and as a redshirt sophomore, he was terrific and would be a staple at this position for two more years. But other than that, you also had first year starter, Darrin Moore, who was a JUCO guy and also Alex Torres, who, if I remember correctly, played both inside and outside receiver, but was moved outside when Moore was injured because there were no other options. You get the idea here. Other than Ward, who ended up being unproven and inexperienced prior to the 2011 season, there were a lot of questions at that outside receiver spot, especially after Moore went down. Right now, Texas Tech is searching for a threat from the outside spot and as of right now, there really hasn't been any player that's stepped up. You have a ton of young and/or inexperienced receivers that have yet to figure out how to play the game. And it takes time to play this position, more time than you probably give them credit. The good thing is that Texas Tech really dipped heavy into the receiver ranks in 2014 and you can expect a lot of these guys to make impacts through the years, from Ian Sadler, Jakari Dillard, Byron Daniels (who didn't qualify, but I'd guess he ends back up at Texas Tech), Devin Lauderdale, and Cameron Batson. I'm not so worried about this group, but starting in 2016, you'll probably see more receivers here. I should mention that Jonathan Giles is a really nice looking athlete that's expected to play receiver. He's a productive player.

Uniform Tracker. Because at the heart of it all, VTM is a fashion blog.

Uniform Tracker
Opponent Helmet Jersey Pants Result Photo Photo Credit
Central Arkansas W, 42-35 Michael C. Johnson -
USA Today Sports
UTEP W, 42-35 John Weast
Arkansas L, 49-28 John Weast
Oklahoma State ** L, 45-35 Brett Deering
Kansas State L, 45-13 Scott Sewell

* Click photos to embiggen.
** The color intended to be depicted is ombré.


I had no recollection that West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen talked so much, but here you go. Lots of words from the WVU head coach:

Opening Statement: In preparation for this week's game against Texas Tech out in Lubbock, Texas, the first thing that comes to mind is that when I think Texas Tech, I've got a history with Texas Tech as everybody knows. I've been out there a bunch. Everything kind of starts offensively when you think about Texas Tech and think about (coach) Kliff (Kingsbury) and what he's already been able to accomplish there. You immediately think offensive football. Based on what they did last year, they're a different team in general, but they're pretty much the same offensively. Things are going to start with their quarterback. Davis Webb is still the Davis Webb that he was last year when he came out here and beat us in the second half. He's got a couple of inexperienced guys at receiver. They're going to continue to be able to get on the same page. I would expect to see improvement with them each and every week moving forward. I do think they're doing a little bit better job of running the ball this year. DeAndre Washington is a good back - as good a back as we will see. He's quick and shifty - has been productive. I would anticipate that they will continue to do things with him. They've got two outstanding inside receivers in Jakeem Grant and Bradley Marquez. Those guys are good players. They've been around there for the last couple years. They're extremely productive. That's his (Webb's) comfort zone at this point in time. He's got big tackles, and an experienced offensive line that is used to pass blocking. They will continue to show improvements on offense, and already they're scoring a bunch of points.

Defensively is probably where I see the biggest difference with them. I studied what they did prior to two weeks ago, when they made the change at defensive coordinator - promoted Mike Smith. They've simplified, and I've seen better effort. I see a defense playing with more energy. They have simplified what they're doing slightly - not doing as much as what they were doing. I think that's going to put them in position to be able to be better on defense. What they are doing with on defense is what we dealt with on offense last year. They've got a lot of new faces. They were very senior-oriented last year. Nine of the guys who played against us last year are not there. They replaced them with some very talented true freshman, and a bunch of junior college guys who are starting to get their feet underneath them. Again, I would anticipate tremendous improvement from them week in and week out defensively.

Special teams, they're great in the return game. It's problematic - punt return and kick return they've got guys who can go. The (Jakeem) Grant kid is really good. The (Cameron) Batson kid who is a true freshman is extremely quick. They do a great job at the point of attack. Everybody says 'well you have to have a great returner in order to be good in the return game.' If you don't block at the point of attack, you're going to have problems. That's one of the bigger problems I see with our punt return team right now is we're not blocking at the point of attack. Last year, we were not on the front line on kickoff returns. This year, we're doing a much better job of that, and you can see the improvement has been there. We have to stop the return stuff, which is a great week for us to challenge our punt team and our kickoff team to get better and be more consistent and get down the field and make plays. And do it at a consistent level regardless of what the score is and regardless of who is in the game.

On if there are similarities between Kliff Kingsbury as a quarterback and Clint Trickett as a quarterback and on the friendship between Holgorsen and Kingsbury: I have a soft spot for coach's kids when it comes to quarterbacks. I've said that a bunch in here. Kliff was a coach's kid at quarterback and a student of the game. He was around it his whole life. His dad was a coach. He would come in and want to watch a ton of film and knew how to be a leader in the locker room - knew how to be a leader in the huddle. He was extremely competitive. I see all of those qualities with Clint. The physical qualities are much different. I don't want to go into any of that, but being a coach's kid and understanding the game of football. It's important to him. He's a great leader in the locker room. He's a great leader in the huddle. Being competitive out there, I see a lot of other similarities than just that. Just like I see similarities with (former Houston quarterback) Case Keenum and (former Texas Tech quarterback) Graham Harrell. Other coach's kids, they all possess that same quality.

I always knew Kliff was going to be a great coach, just because of that. The same reason why Clint is going to be a great coach. Those qualities translate into a good coach - Kliff could never let go of the game. When he went to the NFL, he bounced around four or five different places. He could never let it go, because he was so competitive, and he wanted to play. It started to fizzle out for him - I was always in contact with him - so I said 'move to Houston, keep training, if you get an opportunity, great. If you don't, then see if this coaching thing is worth your time. He worked out every day when he was at Houston and never got that opportunity to keep playing. At some point, he just said 'I'm done with it,' then went full throttle into coaching and has obviously been successful ever since.

On how the passing on the outside has opened up the run game: It's a cat and mouse game. If you're able to do both, then it becomes getting a bead on what their plan is. Their plan could change from series to series. It could change within the course of the series. It could change from set to set. Our job is to figure what their plan is. It's all about dropping in coverage and giving you a weak box. Or coming toward the line of scrimmage, and giving you a heavy box. Then you have to be able to figure out how you attack it. If they're going to give us a weak box, we're going to run it a bunch. If they're going to give us a heavy box, we're still going to try to run the ball a little bit. We're just not expecting 10 yards a pop. We just try to figure out what their plan is going to be. You have to have experienced guys like Clint (Trickett), which is one reason why we're having success. Not to the point to where we're truly dominating people. We haven't done that yet. But we're having success, because we identify what they're doing, and we're able to execute based on calling the appropriate plays.

I was going to stop with that last quote, because, well, this preview is on the edge of 4,200 words, but I Holgorsen's answer to this question was interesting and fantastic.

On how Holgorsen's offense has evolved over the years: How much time you got? We're going to wrap things up here in a few minutes. To make a long story short, my background with (Washington State head coach) Mike Leach is throw the ball everywhere. Him throwing it 70 times and having 800,000 yards passing is no surprise to me. When I went to Houston, me and (Texas A&M coach Kevin) Sumlin got together and wanted to run the ball more with more up-tempo. Keep in mind, Kevin was at Oklahoma and had just gotten throttled by West Virginia. That was a lot of up-tempo run game, which is what (former WVU coach) Rich (Rodriguez) did with some movement. So we incorporated some of that. I went to Oklahoma State - and that was with (Joe) Wickline - it was little bit more of a dig your hands in the dirt and come off the ball and strike you. The more I did that, the more I realized it makes throwing the ball a little easier when you've got more people up in the box. We kept our core principles in the pass game with our progressions, and the routes that we run. We just added to it with being able to come off the ball and smack you, or create some movement and tempo to be able to run the ball a little bit as well. Enter (WVU offensive line coach) Ron Crook, who has a little bit more of a heavier set - not talking about his weight - heavier set offensive game plans with tight ends - that Stanford inside zone power. That sort of thing. He was really good at that stuff, and that's why I was very interested in bringing him on board. We've evolved a little bit into that as well. I'd like to think we can do any of what I just said. We could spread it out and throw it. We could go fast and run it, go fast and throw it. Use movement and run it, use movement and throw it. And then dig our knuckles in the ground and come off the ball and whack you if we need to do that as well. It takes a while to get there, but I think we've gotten to the point where we're there.


Total Offense 552.6 (10) 470.4 (32)
Rushing Offense 170.8 (65) 135.0 (93)
Passing Offense 381.8 (6) 335.4 (11)
Scoring Offense 36.6 (32) 29.6 (67)
Total Defense 358.6 (43) 470.4 (110)
Rushing Defense 171.8 (79) 247.4 (121)
Passing Defense 186.8 (21) 213.0 (36)
Scoring Defense 25.8 (71) 40.0 (117)
Turnover Margin -1.60 (117) -1.60 (117)
3rd Down % Off. 49.4% (13) 48.4% (20)
3rd Down % Def. 35.9% (49) 43.% (90)
Yds/Play Def. 5.30 (61) 5.80 (82)

The WVU offense is one of the best in the country and the only problem that they appear to be having is scoring, which is similar to Texas Tech, but they're a good touchdown better and have played Alabama. The most depressing thing in updating these numbers is the rushing rank for Texas Tech, which, I think was in the 60 or so last week to 93rd best rushing team in the nation. Despite the score, I hope Kingsbury doesn't abandon the run like he did last week.

Defensively, the rush defense is much better than Texas Tech's and part of the reason why WVU has such good numbers against the pass is that they only allowed 80 yards passing against Towson, Oklahoma only passed for 200 yards and Kansas is still pretty poor at passing the ball, only netting 111 yards through the air.

Perhaps the biggest battle of wills will be Texas Tech's third down conversion rate on offense to West Virginia's third down conversion rate on offense. To only allow 36% or so of third downs to be converted is a huge part of the defensive success for a team.


Hey! Make sure and follow the official Twitter account for the men's basketball team (if you want).

I cannot remember if I posted this last week, but here is your new linebacker's coach, Matt Brock.

Lady Raider Minta Spears!

Five Things

1. Three Players to Watch on Offense for West Virginia.

1) QB Clint Trickett (6-2/186): Just on passer rating alone, Trickett has made significant strides, going from a quarterback rating of around 116 to his current rating of 157. Trickett has gone from 200 yards a game to around 380 this year, which is really nothing short of incredible. Kudos to Trickett. Of course, he was injured quite a bit last year and there were times where he struggled to complete much of anything, but the light has gone on for him this year and he's been terrific.

2) WR Kevin White (6-2/211): Well, those freshmen Texas Tech cornerbacks had better be ready because White has caught over 100 yards a game this year and is averaging about 16 yards a catch. For the year, White is averaging about 150 yards a game and he's caught 4 touchdowns thus far this season. White can really do it all. He's not afraid to go over the middle and he's terrific at going up and getting a ball and making a play. This is, without a doubt, the toughest match-up for Texas Tech.

3) WR Mario Alford (5-9/177): Alford also lines up on the outside, but he's smaller in size that White, but he's got a second gear. Alford started slow, but he's really picked things up as of late and has been effective since the third game of the season, catching 11 passes for 137 yards against Maryland, 7 for 101 against Oklahoma and 4 for 80 against Kansas.

2. Three Players to Watch on Defense for West Virginia.

1) S Karl Joseph (5-11/196): Joseph has turned into a fantastic player for WVU. Started as a freshman (I think) and has really matured into the leader for the Mountaineer defense. Joseph has 38 tackles and at the safety position, he's definitely got the size to handle the run and he's really matured as a cover safety. And he's also a really good open-field tackler.

2) LB Nick Kwiatkoski (6-2/236): Kwiatkoski is second on the team in tackles at 37 and already has 6 tackles for a loss this early in the season. Kwiatkoski is a productive player and led the team in tackles last year at 86. Kwiatkoski is not your slow, plodding run-stuffing linebacker, but he's very mobile and from what I can tell, WVU runs a 3-4 type of defense (they call their Raider linebacker a Spur linebacker) and Kwiatkoski is pretty much on the field every play.

3) LB Wes Tonkery (6-2/223): We'll feature Tonkery here, because, as mentioned above, there's some movement on the defensive front and I think that Tonkery is still very much part of the equation. Tonkery is currently third on the team with 27 tackles and he's also got 4 tackles for a loss this year and 1.5 sacks.

3. Three Keys to the Game.

1) WVU is Daring Texas Tech to Run the Ball. Earlier this week, Holgorsen mentioned that they are preparing to go with smaller and faster players to better take on the more wide open offenses of the Big 12. For big parts of the Kansas game, they took off the field, a 288 pound end and 265 pound end and replaced them with a 242 pound end and a 228 pound linebacker. I'm all about match-ups and making attempts to force a will on someone, but if West Virginia goes small, nothing would make me happier than to see DeAndre Washington get a ton of carries to then force West Virginia into playing those bigger players and maybe giving the passing game an advantage.

2) Get to Trickett. This isn't just a great stat, but it's okay. West Virginia is giving up about 2 sacks a game, which is tied for 70th in the nation with a ton of other teams. This is one of those times to create opportunities for yourself, the ones where it seems that Texas Tech hasn't had any sort of opportunities of late. Texas Tech forced a fumble against Kansas State, the first one since Central Arkansas and recorded 3 sacks against Kansas State, their highest count all season, to go along with 9, yes 9, tackles for a loss against Kansas State. Those are all huge improvements on the defensive side of the ball, although it didn't show on the scoreboard. If a team creates enough of those sorts of opportunities, then Texas Tech should have some opportunities are some turnovers and the offense needs as many chances as it can get.

3) Contain the Running Game. Not exactly an easy task for a team that is giving up almost 250 yards rushing, but in West Virginia's two losses, against Alabama and against Oklahoma, they only rushed for 28 and 137 rushing yards. I think it is impossible for Texas Tech to have Alabama's results, 24 carries and 28 yards rushing, but I would love to see the sort of results that West Virginia had against Oklahoma, 40 carries and only 137 yards would be great. And make mos mistake, despite what you might think, West Virginia is averaging, yes averaging, 43 carries a game. If Texas Tech is picking their poison, I'd gamble with Trickett because if that WVU running game gets going, it could be church.

4. Two Reasons Why Texas Tech Will Win.

1) Special Teams Will Be Special. I think it's going to happen here, Texas Tech will flip the penalty script on special teams and Texas Tech will earn some easy points against WVU's special teams, which have already allowed 2 punt touchdowns, 1 against Maryland and 1 against Kansas, and a kickoff returned for a touchdown by Oklahoma. Texas Tech has teetered on the edge of success with special teams, they've just had too many get called back. That stops this week. Book it.

2) Turnover Streak. Texas Tech will will the turnover battle on Saturday morning (or afternoon). West Virginia and Texas Tech are both awful at turning the ball over, including an astounding 7 fumbles lost. I've already mentioned that the Texas Tech defense is making more and more plays and that's eventually going to result in some turnovers. Saturday is the day that the defense celebrates some turnovers.  WVU has been in the red in turnover margin every game and over the last three games, WVU has been -3, -2 and -3.

5. Two Reasons Why Texas Tech Will Lose.

1) Can't Keep Pace. Trickett is clearly better than Webb right now and West Virginia has a better offense. Not only that, but White and Alford are probably the best receivers that Texas Tech has faced this year (not talking about explosive players, but actual receivers. For my money, White and Alford along with Trickett could really pile the dirt on early and often if the freshmen don't step up and play at a higher level. Those Texas Tech cornerbacks simply cannot get abused like they did against Oklahoma State and Kansas State and for my money, that's a really tall task given their last two games.

2) We're Talking 100 Yards Better. Nope, not the offense, but the defense. And to be a bit more accurate, the overall defense for West Virginia is about 110 yards better than Texas Tech's porous defense. Kansas State was a very good offensive team, but by no means where they elite. and they still had over 500 yards of total offense. With the prospects of playing WVU, Texas Tech is going to have to hold in check the #6 passing offense and the #10 total offense in the nation.