The 20th ranked West Virginia Mountaineers have proven at least for now, that they are for real.
After hearing all week how they would be run out of Lubbock, Texas because of the lethal offense of their opponent, the Mountaineers dominated from start to finish en route to a huge 48-17 road win over the Texas Tech Red Raiders on Saturday afternoon.
With all the prognosticators projecting the “first to 50 wins”, it was the defenses that starred on the first two possessions of the game that saw both teams trade punts.
But on the Mountaineers second series, the offense hit their stride.
Starting from their own 9-yard line, Skyler Howard was dinking and dunking passes and picking up solid yardage, and when the Red Raider defense got sucked in he hit Daikiel Shorts down the field for a huge 55-yard gain. Two plays later, Justin Crawford rumbled for 13 yards. Then it was Crawford again who found the end zone from nine yards out as he capped a 9 play, 91-yard drive for a 7-0 Mountaineer lead.
WVU’s defense continued to play well on the next possession as David Long made a tackle for loss and Christian Brown then sacked Patrick Mahomes on third down to force another punt.
However, West Virginia (5-0) failed to capitalize on a golden opportunity when they had the ball and the lead. Ka’Raun White caught a 10-yard pass, then Shorts hauled in a 17 yarder. But just two total yards on the next three plays forced a Mike Molina 43-yard field goal attempt which he missed, and the lead stayed at 7-0 midway through the first quarter.
Momentum switched for the time being on Texas Tech’s ensuing drive.
Mahomes hit Ian Sadler for 37 yards on a 3rd-and-10 play that seemed to break the defense’s spirits. And if that didn’t break them, the conclusion of the drive did. After an offensive pass interference call on TTU, they were faced with a 3rd-and-29 from the 44-yard line. Mahomes dropped back and just heaved the ball as far as he could and it fell right in the arms of Jonathan Giles for a 44-yard score as Giles had snuck behind safety Jeremy Tyler. After the score, the game was tied at 7-7.
But the Mountaineers would answer. Jovon Durante hauled in a 55-yard catch. Howard then ran for 20 more. Crawford would score an impressive touchdown on the next play, but a hold on guard Tony Matteo and an unsportsmanlike flag on Shelton Gibson made it first-and-goal from the 30-yard line. Molina then redeemed himself with a 34-yard boot to extend the WVU lead to 10-7.
That’s when the WVU defense decided to amp it up.
Sean Walters made a gorgeous interception of Mahomes when he dove into the receiver who had the ball, but Walters one-handed it away from him and got the pick. The Mountaineer bench went wild and the momentum was back in WVU’s favor.
Capitalizing on that miscue was top priority for Dana Holgorsen as Howard hit Gary Jennings for a 46-yard pass down the field. Durante then caught a 14 yarder, and Crawford capped it with a 5-yard touchdown catch and a 17-7 lead after the 10 play, 89 yard drive.
With 4:22 left in the half, Howard scored on an 8-yard run around the right side as tight end Trevon Wesco paved the way with an impressive seal block.
That left the halftime score at 24-7, WVU.
Rasul Douglas had a monster sack on the first drive of the second half, a very important series for Texas Tech (3-3), that resulted in a Clayton Hatfield 42-yard field goal. That made the score 24-10 with 10:04 left in the third.
A Molina 22-yard field goal made the score 27-10 with 6:04 to go.
On the next Mountaineers possession, after a Texas Tech punt, Kennedy McKoy burst onto the scene. On the fourth play McKoy, in the game due to a first half injury to Crawford, gained 35 yards. Two snaps later, he followed a great Grant Lingafelter block and got to the 1-yard line on a 21-yard gain. The very next play Howard snuck it across the goal line for a commanding 34-10 lead early in the fourth.
And the scoring was not quite finished.
Rushel Shell scored on a nifty 14-yard run. Texas Tech’s defense seemed to quit on the drive as the Mountaineers were stepping on their throat and not letting up. With 10:24 remaining, WVU led 41-10.
West Virginia was hit with some bad luck late in the game. After McKoy gained 56 yards on just two carries on the possession, he went down and came up holding his left collar bone. Shell replaced him and capped the game with a 3-yard touchdown run and put the finishing touches on the contest.
McKoy left the game in noticeable pain and coupled with Crawford’s injury, leaves the Mountaineers with just Shell and true freshman Martell Pettaway (who they hope to redshirt). It will be a situation to keep a close eye on this coming week.
Other than that, the game was all Mountaineers. The defense was great with sacks, an interception and multiple big hits all day.
West Virginia gained 650 yards and held the often dominant Texas Tech offense to just 379 yards.
Howard was stellar all day and finished 21-31 for 318 yards and a touchdown. He also ran 12 times for 89 yards and a score.
Shell led a balanced rushing attack with 104 yards and two TD’s on 21 carries. McKoy had 99 yards on just four carries and Crawford had 47 total yards and two scores in one half.
Shorts led the receiving corps with three receptions for 100 yards. Durante (4-83) and White (7-67) also contributed.
WVU returns home next Saturday, October 22 to face TCU. Kickoff is set for 3:30 PM.