Eight years ago West Virginia came into Lubbock with the number one offense in America, a stud quarterback, and a top five ranking in their first season in the Big 12. They came out completely demoralized after a 49-14 defeat, with Seth Doege and Neal Brown exploiting the weak West Virginia defense. The loss sent West Virginia into a spiral that would see them fall completely out of the rankings, and the team would never again reach a top five ranking under Dana Holgorsen.
In the three home games since that point, it was Tech that was getting exposed by the Mountaineers. First it was blowing a ten point lead in the midst of a miserable 2014 season. Then it was the game preceding the 2016 Oklahoma game, a 48-17 beatdown where the Tech offense could not stay in synch and the Tech defense got torched by Skylar Howard of all people. Finally, the 2018 game started with the Red Raiders being a ranked team with a star freshman quarterback, but by the end of the day the quarterback was in the hospital with a collapsed lung while the team had suffered yet another difficult loss. To put it mildly, West Virginia had dominated Tech in Lubbock since the 2012 game. With a stout Mountaineer defense coming to town and a new quarterback making his first collegiate start, there was reason to believe the trend of defeat would continue for Tech. Thankfully, this year was different.
Texas Tech outlasted West Virginia 34-27. The offense was not great, but they did just enough to attack the number one defense in America (in terms of YPG). Here is how they graded out:
Henry Colombi made his first career start in this game, and while he was not flashy or outstanding, he got the job done. He completed 22 of his 28 passes for 169 yards and 1 TD. Those numbers don’t leap off the page, but he also added 40 yards on the ground that helped spark what had been a very stagnant offense. His performance can best be described as smart and efficient.
Against Oklahoma, he will almost certainly be asked to do more. He only completed one pass for more than 20 yards against West Virginia, which will not get the job done against a far more high powered attack. But for this game, it was just enough to survive.
Running Backs: B+
This group was fairly difficult to grade, simply due to the injuries that were sustained throughout the game. Sarodorick Thompson had a strong start, including a 48 yard touchdown, but he got hurt on the Myles Price fumble (that was overturned), and eventually left the game for good in the third quarter. Xavier White looked decent, but suffered a shoulder injury as well.
That left Tahj Brooks, a true freshman with only one carry since the Houston Baptist game. Brooks carried the load in the fourth quarter, and was vital in allowing Tech to milk the clock. The numbers do not look great. He only averaged 3.7 yards per carry on 12 attempts, but it got the job done late in the game. That is what mattered, and it showed why Tech’s staff has been so high on Brooks since he arrived on campus.
Wide Receivers: B+
Injuries completely decimated the established group of receivers for this team. With no T.J. Vasher, Dalton Rigdon, McLane Mannix, or KeSean Carter this group relied on their young guns to get the job done. Not a single receiver that played Saturday had more than a year’s experience in college football, and four freshman saw playing time in the group.
Overall, the effort from the receivers was commendable. Myles Price led the way with 79 yards on the day, and with the exception of a near-fumble, he was extremely reliable in picking up efficient yardage. Erik Ezukanma only had 4 catches, but three of them came on third and fourth down, including one on a questionable 4th and 11 call. Ja’Lynn Polk had a rough game with a fumble and only 4.7 YPC, but he still remains a very dynamic young option for this offense. Trey Cleveland scored his first career touchdown and played a career high amount of snaps (Per PFF). Aside from the Polk fumble, it was a solid showing by the young guns. They will need some guys back for the Oklahoma game to have a reasonable shot, but it is nice to see the potential that has been recruited over the last two years.
Offensive Line: B-
West Virginia is the best remaining pass rushing unit Tech will face, and that showed. The left tackle spot in particular struggled to contain the West Virginia line, and the offensive line as a whole allowed two sacks.
As for the run blocking, a major concern coming into the week, the line was far improved. They controlled the point of attack and allowed Tech’s depleted backfield to rush for 139 yards, with Colombi adding another 40. The backs averaged 4.9 yards a carry, which is exactly what the line is asked to help deliver. On Thompson’s long run, the hole was massive and that allowed him to work his magic in the second level.
Holistically, there is still some improvements at both tackle spots that needs to be made. Ethan Carde has really struggled in pass protection this year, and Josh Burger has not been much better. In order to completely open up the playbook, both spots will need to improve quite a bit.