Football, Sports, WVU Sports

WVU faces a must-win situation on the road against Texas Tech

MORGANTOWN — Analyze it, break it down, check out ESPN’s power rankings and even begin to look at what awaits the West Virginia football team down the road.

All mathematical possibilities seem to be pointing in this direction: The Mountaineers face a must-win situation at 3 p.m. Saturday on the road at Texas Tech if WVU is to have a real shot at becoming bowl-eligible.

Therein lies the problem, because the Red Raiders (3-3, 1-2 Big 12) have won the last three against the Mountaineers, who haven’t won at Jones AT&T Stadium since 2018.

“It’s my third time out there,” WVU defensive lineman Dante Stills said. “I haven’t beat Texas Tech, so I definitely want to beat them for my last year. That’s for everybody, but definitely Texas Tech. I’ll have my mind on this game.”

So, too will his coaches and teammates. WVU (3-3, 1-2) has won three of its last four, but weird things seem to happen once the schedule reads Texas Tech.

“Texas Tech has had our number the past couple of years,” WVU receiver Sam James said. “It’s not that they’re necessarily a tough team to play, but it’s their offense. They pass the ball and they want to run a lot of plays. Their last game, they ran over 100 plays. That’s absolutely absurd to me to run that many plays in a game.

“You have to try and keep up with that, so it turns out to be a shoot-out, so it does comes down to who can eliminate the most mistakes.”

Texas Tech won in Morgantown last season by kicking a field goal with 18 seconds left to play.

A year earlier, it was Red Raiders defensive back Zech McPhearson picking up a fumble and returning it 56 yards for the winning touchdown.

Go back even further, it was Texas Tech on a windy day in Lubbock back in 2012 that took down Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey and gave an undefeated-at-the-time Mountaineers the shock of the season in a 49-14 win.

What can be expected Saturday? Here’s some talking points:

Who will play QB for Tech?

It is widely expected that redshirt freshman Behren Morton will get the start, even though both Tyler Shough and Donovan Smith will likely dress and be cleared for action.

Smith and Shough have battled through shoulder injuries, but the Red Raiders are coming off a bye, giving both an extra week to get better.

Morton threw 62 times against Oklahoma State and passed for 379 yards and two scores in a 41-31 loss against the Cowboys.

WVU, meanwhile, has been giving up big plays through the air all season. The Mountaineers are giving up 15.3 yards per completion, the most in the Big 12, so it may not exactly matter which quarterback Texas Tech starts.

“I think all three of them are really good,” WVU head coach Neal Brown said.

Who is in and out?

Per Brown’s comments on his weekly radio show: WVU defensive back Wesley McCormick was upgraded from questionable to being a game-time decision.

Defensive end Sean Martin will travel with the team and be a game-time decision.

Defensive back Charles Woods has continued to practice and progress, but he will only play in a limited role. Woods is coming off ankle surgery after the season-opener.

Running back C.J. Donaldson is expected to be back at his normal capacity after coming out of concussion protocols.

Key to the game

Texas Tech’s offensive tempo.

Brown said during last season’s 23-20 defeat against Texas Tech that his players were getting tired and worn down some as the game progressed.

That’s because the Red Raiders don’t allow opponents much time to gather their thoughts, let alone their collective breath.

Brown said the team would do different things this week to prepare for the Red Raiders’ tempo.

“I think they had, like, 108 plays in their last game. That’s the most I’ve seen,” Stills said. “It’s really about getting lined up, because they are very high-tempo. I was watching them play Oklahoma State on TV, and it was like only 20 seconds from the snap of the ball to the next play.”

And finally

According to Stills, there is one thing for sure the Mountaineers can expect in Lubbock.

“The locker room is horrible,” he said. “At the same time, it doesn’t have to be perfect, because it’s the away team’s locker room.”

WVU at Texas Tech

WHEN: 3 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Jones AT&T Stadium, Lubbock, Texas
TV: FS1 (Comcast 30, HD 857; DirecTV 219; DISH 150)

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