GAME NOTES: Led by Heisman Trophy candidate Geno Smith, the fifth-ranked West Virginia Mountaineers continue their assault on all comers, and they will play their second straight game in the Lone Star State this Saturday when they battle the Texas Tech Red Raiders in a Big 12 Conference showdown.
West Virginia is one of only a handful of teams still undefeated at this point in the season, having jumped out to a 5-0 start, which includes a 2-0 mark in its first season as a member of the Big 12. Both league bouts have been high- scoring affairs, with WVU outlasting both Baylor (70-63) and Texas (48-45).
Texas Tech enjoyed a fast start to the season as well, the team winning each of its first four games, all by double figures. The Red Raiders were really hoping to make a statement in last week's clash with the visiting Oklahoma Sooners, but a lackluster rushing attack and too many mistakes cost the team in what wound up as a 41-20 loss.
This game marks just the second meeting between West Virginia and Texas Tech on the football field, with the Mountaineers winning the first, 7-6, in the 1938 Sun Bowl.
With Smith setting the college football world on fire this season, the West Virginia offense is averaging 52.0 points and 570.8 total yards per game. Smith has been almost perfect in completing 81.4 percent (166-of-204) of his passes for 1,996 yards (399.2 ypg), and his TD-to-INT ratio is an unbelievable 24-0. His success wouldn't be assured if not for the outstanding play of WRs Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, the two combining for 107 catches, 1,372 yards and 21 TDs in only five games. When coach Dana Holgorsen decides to keep the ball on the ground, RB Andrew Buie gets the call more times than not, and he has responded by averaging better than five yards per carry in amassing 433 yards and five TDs.
Last week against Texas, Smith threw for 268 yards and four TDs, while Buie ran for a career-high 207 yards and two scores to help power the Mountaineers to the three-point victory. Austin finished with 10 receptions for 102 yards and a TD, while Bailey caught three TD passes in tallying eight grabs for 75 yards. Buie took three passes and turned them into 66 yards.
Holgorsen took a break from his usual praise of Smith to give credit to the guys who did most of the grunt work against the Longhorns.
"We just lined up and ran it right at them. I'm proud of Buie and I can't say enough about the offensive line."
The UT defense was credited with as many sacks (four) as the Mountaineers had allowed in their first four games combined. A couple of telling stats from the game -- while West Virginia converted a mere 3-of-12 third-down attempts, the Mountaineers made good on all five of their fourth-down tries. Additionally, they came away with point on all seven of their trips to the red zone, including five TDs.
West Virginia's weakness on defense is its effort against the pass, as foes are airing the football out to the tune of 339 ypg, although they've scored the same number of TDs both rushing and passing (11). Isaiah Bruce continues to pace the unit with 53 tackles, and he has recovered a pair of fumbles as well. Terence Garvin has four of the team's 14 sacks.
Texas generated 269 yards through the air against the WVU defense, but scored only one TD that way, instead relying on RB Joe Bergeron to sniff out the end zone, which he did four times on the day. Still, the Longhorns averaged just 3.5 yards per rush attempt in totaling 135 rushing yards.
Texas Tech, while not nearly as explosive an offensive squad as its counterpart in this one, still manages to produce 39.0 ppg, with its effort on the ground churning out 168.4 ypg and its aerial pursuits resulting in 341.2 ypg. QB Seth Doege has been solid in connecting on 69.4 percent of his passes for 1,392 yards with 15 TDs and six interceptions. Eric Ward and Darrin Moore are the team's top receivers, each hauling in 20 balls for a combined 480 yards and eight scores. As for the Tech running game, Kenny Williams has gained 345 yards and Eric Stephens another 292, the duo combining for five of the team's six rushing scores.
Despite throwing for more than 200 yards last week against Oklahoma, Doege was picked of three times and failed to throw a TD pass in what wound up as a 21- point loss to the visiting Sooners. Moore led all Texas Tech receivers with five catches for 80 yards, while SaDale Foster paced an anemic rushing attack with 44 yards and a TD on 11 carries. The unit as a whole finished with just 89 net rushing yards, and the Red Raiders lost the game even though they converted 60 percent (9-of-15) of their third-down tries.
While the offense has performed well this season, the real story for the Red Raiders has been the play of the defense. The unit is being scored upon for only 16.8 ppg, and its effort against both the run (92.6 ypg, three TDs) and pass (117.4 ypg, four TDs) has been exceptional. It's a good thing the unit has been as stout as it has at the point of attack, as a glaring lack of big plays (nine sacks, six turnovers) has to cause at least some concern for head coach Tommy Tuberville. DB Cody Davis is the team's top tackler with 32, and he and secondary mate Cornelius Douglas have two interceptions apiece.
Oklahoma used a methodic game plan, as it produced 131 yards on the ground and another 259 through the air last week against the Red Raiders. The Sooners were guilty of only one turnover, and Texas Tech failed to come up with a sack on 40 pass plays. OU was 6-of-6 in the red zone (four TDs, two FGs). Safety D.J. Johnson led the TTU stand with 10 tackles, nine of which were solo efforts, while Douglas made three of his seven stops behind the line of scrimmage.
Following the game, Tuberville expressed his dismay with the outcome while also giving credit to Oklahoma.
"We're not that bad a football team. We looked pretty bad at times, but good teams can make you look bad," he continued, "They were fresh. They were quick. They were fast. A lot quicker than I thought they would be. They made plays, and we just dug ourselves a hole we couldn't get out of. So we'll go back to the drawing board and get ready for next week."
Is there anyone who can stop Smith and WVU offense? Time will tell, but one thing is for sure ... the Red Raiders are going to try. Short of something happening to the Mountaineers' record-setting signal-caller, expect the visitors to keep their perfect record in tact as they stare down a month's worth of games against the likes of Kansas State, TCU, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: West Virginia 45, Texas Tech 35
10/10 10:33:56 ET
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