The West Virginia Mountaineers had one of their most impressive performances in recent memory this past Saturday afternoon when they went on the road to Lubbock, Texas and completely dominated the Texas Tech Red Raiders 48-17 in a game that wasn’t really even that close.
It has been a good couple of days for WVU since the victory. On Sunday, they moved up in the national rankings to number 12 and 13, respectively, in the AP and USA Today coaches poll, went from barely talked about to now being mentioned as a possible playoff contender and if those two things were not enough, they received a verbal commitment from the top prospect in the state of West Virginia, South Charleston safety, Derek Pitts.
So how did the Mountaineers have such a good weekend?
It started with the road win so let’s revisit my top three keys to victory prior to the game.
WVU Defense vs Texas Tech Quarterback Patrick Mahomes
I had the feeling and even made the comment that the Mountaineers could struggle in this matchup, but still have a chance to be successful.
That’s almost exactly what happened. Mahomes was able to throw for over 300 yards, 306 to be exact, and he also tossed a touchdown pass. But the WVU defense was still very good and got the better of Mahomes all day. Outside of the scoring toss which was a third-and-29 hail mary heave for a score that may never happen again, if ever, Mahomes struggled. He came into the contest leading the nation in passing and had orchestrated the second highest scoring offense in football.
But the defense hit him, picked him off, hit him some more and made him so uncomfortable all day that he was eventually replaced by backup Nic Shimonek because the game had gotten so far out of hand. Kyzir White, Maurice Fleming, David Long, Rasul Douglas, Jeremy Tyler and Sean Walters hit everyone hard all day so the Red Raider receivers didn’t exactly help their QB out. After the game, some Texas Tech players even admitted they were a little intimidated during the game because of the physicality of West Virginia.
WVU’s Running Backs vs Texas Tech’s Defense
Going into the game everyone knew that West Virginia needed to the run ball a lot and that they should have success doing so. They actually came out passing early with Skyler Howard throwing some basic out routes to Ka’Raun White and hitting Daikiel Shorts in the middle of field early.
Those throws made it even easier on the running game and it wasn’t too long after those passing plays that the running started. Rushel Shell ran hard (especially in the second half) and finished with 104 yards on 21 carries and two touchdowns. Justin Crawford scored two fist half touchdowns including one receiving and was running well before suffering a minor ankle injury that kept him out of the second half. Also, Kennedy McKoy got in on the action and gained 99 yards on just four carries. He had three runs where he just shot through the hole like a cannon, but on his last run he too came up gimpy which looked like a shoulder or collar bone injury.
Perhaps the most important runner of the day was Howard. He kept the Red Raiders defense honest by scrambling for several first downs and also scored two TD’s running the football. He finished the day with 12 carries, 89 yards and the two scores.
In total, the Mountaineers gained 332 yards on 46 carries, good for 7.2 yards per rush.
WVU Special Teams vs Texas Tech Special Teams
The special teams aspect of the game turned out to be not quite as important as originally thought. That’s not to say they were completely meaningless, but the way the Mountaineer offense and defense performed made Mike Molina and the kickoff units pretty stress free.
Molina did kick two field goals and routinely kicked the ball out of the end zone on kickoffs which did not allow for any big return yards for Texas Tech so that was a good thing.
Punter Billy Kinney trotted out on the field on the first possession of the game then rested comfortably the rest of the way as the offense controlled the rest of the contest.
All in all it was a very solid outing for the WVU special teams as they did what they had to do when they actually were called upon.
This weekend the Mountaineers return home to face the TCU Horned Frogs. The last time the Frogs were in Morgantown they snuck out with a 31-30 victory after a last second field goal. TCU handled WVU easily last season in Fort Worth so West Virginia will have their hands full. Kickoff is 3:30 PM and will be televised nationally on ABC.
Photo credit Micheal C Johnson, USA Today Sports