Texas Tech-West Virginia: How They Match Up
Texas Tech and West Virginia are two of the six teams in the Big 12 who already have at least two losses in conference play. Each team is halfway toward becoming bowl eligible as they prepare to face each other at 2 p.m. Saturday at Jones AT&T Stadium.
Texas Tech has won each of the past three games in the series. Neal Brown was the West Virginia coach for all three, and Matt Wells was the Tech coach for those three. Under new coach Joey McGuire, the Red Raiders (3-3, 1-2) are coming off a stretch of five consecutive games against ranked opponents, during which they went 2-3 with triumphs over Houston and Texas.
After an open date, the Red Raiders are home for four of their last six regular-season games. Here's a look at how Tech and West Virginia match up.
When Tech passes
Texas Tech QB Behren Morton impressed in his first college start two weeks ago at Oklahoma State. He threw for 379 yards, ran for 53 yards and led the Red Raiders to three touchdowns and a field goal in a stretch of four series. With QB Donovan Smith available again after a shoulder injury, it's not a given that Morton will start against WVU, but McGuire said Morton began the week taking most of the snaps with the first team. WRs Jerand Bradley (24-317-3), Xavier White (23-270-2) and Trey Cleveland (19-291-0) have seen a lot of balls come their way lately while leading receiver Myles Price has missed time with an ankle injury. WVU ranks No. 116 in the FBS in pass-efficiency defense, but DT Dante Stills is always a threat in the pass rush. Tech's 23 sacks allowed are fourth most in the FBS. Advantage: Texas Tech
When Tech runs
Texas Tech ranks 102nd in rushing offense, and West Virginia sits No. 26 and second in the Big 12 in rushing defense. Are the Mountaineers a stone wall up front, or are opponents just picking on their more vulnerable pass defense? Either way, Tech has yet to have a 100-yard rusher this year with SaRodorick Thompson (64-310-2) and Tahj Brooks (53-215-4) not finding a lot of daylight. The high-water mark came in the last game, when Thompson carried 20 times for 87 yards and a TD at Oklahoma State. They'll try to elude MLB Lee Kpogba (38 tackles, 3 tackles for loss), DT Dante Stills (15 tackles, four TFL) and DE Sean Martin (19 tackles, 4 1/2 TFL). Stills has 47 1/2 career tackles for loss, tying the WVU career record last week. Advantage: West Virginia
When WVU passes
Fifth-year senior QB J.T. Daniels is on his third stop after two seasons apiece at Southern California and Georgia. The Mountaineers' QB has completed 64 percent of his passes for 1,492 yards and nine touchdowns. Wide receiver Sam James (23-357-2) had career highs of 14 catches for 223 yards in the 2019 WVU-Tech game. This year, WR Bryce Ford-Wheaton (40-463-4) caught 11 for 152 and two TDs against Kansas, and Kaden Prather (36-369-3) caught eight for 109 and a TD in the Mountaineers' 43-40 conquest of Baylor last week. Tech CBs Malik Dunlap and Rayshad Williams, who share the Big 12 lead with seven pass breakups apiece, will try to blanket the receivers with their 6-3 frames. Tech DE Tyree Wilson will lead the chase against Daniels. Wilson, in the top 10 in the FBS in tackles for loss (nine) and sacks (six), received midseason all-America recognition this week from The Athletic. Advantage: Even
When WVU runs
West Virginia boasts five individual 100-yard rushing performances in six games with 240-pound freshman C.J. Donaldson doing it against Pittsburgh (7-125-1), Towson (9-101-3) and Virginia Tech (23-106-0) and Tony Mathis reaching it against Towson (17-104-2) and last week against Baylor (22-163-2). Donaldson went into concussion protocol during the Oct. 1 game against Texas, but could be back this week. Tech's 71st-ranked rushing defense, led by MLB Krishon Merriweather (50 tackles, fourth in the Big 12), could have its hands full with Mathis (92-459-5), Donaldson (56-389-6) and Justin Johnson (52-235-3). The effective ground game has the Mountaineers leading the Big 12 and 13th in the FBS in time of possession. Advantage: West Virginia
West Virginia PK Casey Legg has made 10 of 10 field goals, all inside of 40 yards. He and Tech PK Trey Wolff both have made clutch kicks this season: Legg hit from 22 yards with 33 seconds left to beat Baylor last week. Wolff made a 47-yarder at the end of regulation against Houston, a game Tech won in overtime, and made a 20-yard game-ender to beat Texas in overtime. He's made three from outside 40 yards. Tech P Austin McNamara, though uncharacteristically inconsistent this season, still is averaging 43.3 yards, whereas WVU's Oliver Straw has the lowest average among Big 12 punters (40.0). However, the Mountaineers have allowed only two returns for 4 yards, good for 11th in the FBS in punt coverage. Tech WR Xavier White is fifth in the conference with a 24.1-yard kickoff return average, and WVU's Jeremiah Aaron ranks ninth (19.0). In WVU's win over Baylor last week, DT Dante Stills blocked a PAT that DB Jacolby Spells returned for two points, providing an emotional spark in the fourth quarter. Advantage: Even
This article originally appeared on Lubbock Avalanche-Journal: Texas Tech-West Virginia: How They Match Up-Big-12-football-Oct.-22-2002