One-game snapshots in a 12-game season are uncertain at best and unreliable at worst, but it’s difficult to overlook the dominance displayed by West Virginia.
The Mountaineers’ trip to Lubbock for Saturday’s game was considered one of those “uh-oh, better look out” journeys. In 2012, West Virginia’s first season in the Big 12, its 5-0 start cratered in a blowout loss to the Red Raiders.
Saturday, West Virginia turned the tables.
The Mountaineers’ 48-17 blowout of the Red Raiders proved that – for this week, at least – West Virginia’s position as a Big 12 challenger is legitimate. Oklahoma and Baylor, the two other undefeated teams, won easily while the two teams (TCU and Oklahoma State) with one loss sat and watched with byes.
“What the media says, what other people think about us and the recognition we’re starting to get doesn’t really affect anything we do on the field,” West Virginia quarterback Skyler Howard said. “We’re just going to go out there and play our game. This is a team that don’t quit fighting. We’re going to fight until the end.”
Howard is one of several outstanding quarterbacks in the Big 12, but against Texas Tech he was superior to his counterpart, Patrick Mahomes. As WVU piled up 650 yards in total offense, Howard was 21-of-31 for 318 yards. He also had 89 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 12 carries as the Mountaineers collected 332 rushing yards.
“There plan was to not let us run the ball but we got into some big sets and we still went over 300,” West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. “We were able to throw it early and then we were able to control it and run it out.”
Texas Tech is particularly dangerous at home considering it had set an NCAA record, scoring 50 or more points in nine consecutive games at Jones AT&T Stadium. Going back to last season, in its last nine home games Texas Tech was averaging 60.1 points and 668.1 yards per game.
The Red Raiders fell far short of those numbers. In addition to 345 yards in total offense – on the same number (77) of plays run by the opposition, Texas Tech committed 10 penalties for 103 yards and allowed four sacks.
“It’s the worst I’ve seen since I’ve been associated with Texas Tech,” said Red Raiders coach Kliff Kingsbury, who is now 1-11 against ranked Big 12 teams and 2-12 vs. top 25 teams.
“I’ve never seen a team play that poorly, coaches coach that poorly and just get embarrassed. So I have to apologize to the fans, student body, alumni. That was as bad as it gets.
“They wanted to play more than us. We weren’t focused. Weren’t locked in. We did a poor job, obviously, preparing as coaches during the week. They took advantage of it.”
West Virginia employs a unique 3-3-5 scheme favored by underrated defensive coordinator Tony Gibson. The alignment is ever changing. While there are eight players who can drop in coverage, the Mountaineers also get quarterback pressure from different angles.
WVU befuddled and bewitched Mahomes with pass coverage that left few receivers open and brought pressure that kept him antsy. In the third quarter, the Mountaineers got pressure with three rushers to force a throw-away. On the next play Gibson brought a late blitzer that led to West Virginia’s fourth sack.
“That’s our defense, that’s what we do, that’s how we play,” Gibson said. “In this league, other than Kansas State, everybody is four or five wide and tempo. We feel our defense fits us and our kids.”
The Mountaineers responded with 17 consecutive points after the Red Raiders tied it at 7-all on a fluky touchdown. On 3rd and 29, Mahomes heaved the ball about 60 yards into the end zone and Jonathan Giles snagged it as the WVU defender failed to make a play on the ball. Instead of fueling Texas Tech’s momentum, however, that play angered the Mountaineers. The visitors took control instead.
“Texas Tech is known for starting fast and jumping out ahead of you,” Holgorsen said. “I liked the way we attacked early and we were the ones who took control. It was the best game of the year for us.”