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Battle for the Basement: Can Texas Tech find their first road win of the season in Morgantown?

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Another winnable game, another chance to get a road victory for Matt Wells and Texas Tech.

Iowa State v Texas Tech Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images

Almost heaven, West Virginia,

Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River,

Life is old there, older than the trees,

Younger than the mountains, blowing like a breeze

Country roads, take me home to the place I belong

West Virginia, mountain mamma, take me home, country roads.

As soon as you start talking West Virginia week, it’s almost like former Texas Tech student John Denver’s 1971 hit and one of the four official state anthems of West Virginia, finds its way into your head and you cannot get it out.

Coming off a loss to Kansas, a bye weekend, a Sunday spent laughing at Baker Mayfield’s complete failure at the next leveland a highly anticipated season opener for Chris Beard’s basketball team, it was almost weird for me gearing up for this game.

Yet, here we are. Four games left and you gotta win three. Banged up. Demoralized after a loss in Lawrence. And still searching for your first road win this season. Although Morgantown hasn’t been friendly to the Red Raiders, if the last bye week was any indicator, I wouldn’t doubt this team just yet.

First Down - The Enemy:

Texas v West Virginia Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

West Virginia is lead by one-time Texas Tech Offensive Coordinator, multiple times Texas Tech head coaching target, Neal Brown. I was finishing up at Tech when the Neal Brown “NASCAR” offense was being installed. Even while being guided by one of the most clueless head coaches in Texas Tech’s history, Brown was able to lead Texas Tech in the top-10 nationally three consecutive years in passing yards per game.

Brown runs a spread style offense, but he isn’t in love with the pass as much as the guy he replaces in Dana Holgorsen. Neal Brown’s system is based around the run setting up the pass, but setting up the run has been difficult thus far this season in Morgantown. The Mountaineers have really struggled to string big plays together or pulling any consistency on the offensive side of the ball. This is just part of a system/culture change, but that’s good news for the Red Raiders, who have had big plays beat them every week.

Texas v West Virginia Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Historically, West Virginia has been a rough matchup for Texas Tech, who ran a similar style of defense that Iowa State runs now. The defensive scheme under new defensive coordinator Vic Koenning now forces the defensive line to be more of a factor in making plays, rather than sitting back and letting the second level players clear up.

Second Down - Key Players:

At quarterback, Neal Brown has the former Oklahoma transfer Austin Kendall. Kendall has been completing 62% of his passes for 6.3 yards per attempt and 12 touchdowns to 8 interceptions. It’s been a really up and down season with Kendall. Sometimes he looks the part of Big 12 starter, then there are times he has trouble connecting on down field passes. Although, to his credit, the WVU offensive line hasn’t really been able to provide consistent protection, if any. It also doesn’t help that the offense has been plagues with receivers dropping passes lately. These are the growing pains associated with having a ton of young players in key spots

Texas v West Virginia Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Defensively, the Mountaineers have had some serious success lately being aggressive and getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks, including an eight sack total game last week against Baylor. Two names to look out for are brother Darius and Dante Stills, who combined for five of those eight sacks last week and are the strength to this surprisingly good defensive line unit for the Mountaineers. The defensive backs for West Virginia haven’t been horrible, but the leading tackler does happen to be safety Josh Norwood.

Texas v West Virginia Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Third Down - By the Numbers:

  • To get a good picture of the inept WVU offense so far: They are only scoring 21.6 points on average, have only 139 first downs, are only gaining 2.6 yards per attempt rushing, and are only encompassing an average of 302 yards per game.
  • Tech is a currently a 3-point favorite. They are 0-2 in games where they have been a 3-point favorite (Arizona, Kansas).
  • Pat McAfee attended West Virginia University. Pat McAfee is also one of my favorite humans on earth.

Fourth Down - Prediction:

Listen, here’s some cold hard truth – with Kansas on a bye week this week, Texas Tech is basically playing to not be last in the Big 12 next week. That sucked to type as much as it probably did for you to read.

While the WVU defensive line scares me because of the inconsistent product that is the Texas Tech offensive line, I look at the last time Texas Tech came out of a bye week after a demoralizing loss, against an opponent that had a “moral victory”.

The Red Raiders thrashed.

West Virginia, 21

Texas Tech, 35