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West Virginia’s Keith Washington says he was just doing his job with game-saving interception

LUBBOCK, Texas — Keith Washington didn’t make much of a first impression at West Virginia, playing a measly four snaps in the opener against Tennessee.

Awarded his first start against Texas Tech on Saturday, he impressed plenty.

Washington’s 51-yard pick-six return in the final 3 minutes foiled the Red Raiders comeback and clinched a 42-34 victory.

“Just did my job,” he said of intercepting Jett Duffey’s pass. “He threw it straight to me and I made a play.”

Texas Tech possessed every morsel of momentum — not to mention the football — near midfield. A 25-point deficit trimmed to 35-27, Duffey had West Virginia reeling when he targeted Antoine Wesley on a sideline pattern.

But after a long afternoon of Washington and Wesley battling in man coverage, this time WVU went zone. When Duffey didn’t allow for Washington sitting underneath, the junior college transfer jumped for his first interception and began a dash to the end zone, needing only to make the quarterback whiff on a tackle attempt.

“That’s all natural — just get to the end zone,” joked Washington, who played quarterback and receiver in high school before signing with Michigan as a defensive back.

Washington learned Thursday that he would be elevated to starter, the news relayed to him during a conversation with cornerbacks coach Doug Belk. The move made defensive coordinator Tony Gibson look clairvoyant.

“He’s a baller,” Gibson said. “He can run and he’s skilled. He made a bunch of plays.”

Washington was credited with three breakups, all against the 6-foot-5 Wesley, who still registered eight catches for 110.

One catch that Wesley didn’t make was in the end zone early in the fourth quarter, a third-down crossing route deflected by Washington in tight coverage. Texas Tech settle for field goal to pull within 35-20.

On the Texas Tech’s next possession, Washington ran stride-for-stride down the sideline and deflected a pass only to see the flat-backed Wesley make an acrobatic 35-yard grab.

“Love that matchup. He’s a competitor and I’m a competitor,” Washington said, who had yet to see the replay of how Wesley collected the tipped pass.

“You put that play away, but at the same time you think, ‘I’ve got to make up for it.’ That’s just a DB’s mentality.”

A mentality that paid off on Duffey’s errant throw, which became Washington’s first interception and his first chance to wear the defense’s new turnover reward — the coal miner’s helmet.

The same helmet didn’t fit the head of safety Kenny Robinson, whose afro-fade includes a pile of hair up top. The helmet rattled loosely on Washington’s dome, however.

“They joke on me, calling me ‘Little Head,’ but that’s OK,” he said. “I still got to put on the helmet and autograph it.”

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