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The run-and-gun was out in full force in the first half in Lubbock. Two weeks off for the Red Raiders paid dividends in a first half that saw them score touchdowns on 2 of their first 3 drives. Short decisive throws and a fantastic running game kept the WVU defensive line from quarterback Henry Colombi early. Colombi brought a new element to an opposing offense that the Mountaineers have yet to see this season, mobility. The up tempo style that Tech brings caught the WVU defense off guard for a couple key plays early that gave them an early lead after one quarter of play.
The Red Raiders created two plays of over 40 yards in the first half, something this Mountaineer defense hasn’t been accustomed to much this season. Tony Fields was caught flat footed on a run up the middle that SaRodorick Thompson took 48 yards for a touchdown. A fumbled exchange on the extra point kept Texas Tech from adding to their lead and kept the score 13-7. On the next drive for Tech, Fields was then ejected for a questionable targeting call. Fields put a shoulder to Colombi as he was sliding to a stop and while the contact wasn’t exactly a huge hit, by rule it was targeting.
As we see each week, the WVU offense just couldn’t get out of its own way. Dropped passes, a holding call on a TD catch, and a delay of game after a kickoff kept them going in reverse after some forward momentum. Jarret Doege struggled with accuracy issues at times in the first half. It was tough to tell if this was due to Doege himself or the swirling wind in Lubbock. Either way, the same issues they’ve had all year plagued the WVU pass game in the first half.
Texas Tech made a point early to key on Leddie Brown and the run game and it worked on a few key third down plays. Despite this, Brown still found the endzone for the Mountaineers first score from 3 yards out. Doege was able to take advantage of the flats early with the attention on the run game. Neal Brown found creative ways to battle this game plan with Winston Wright being used out of the backfield for swing passes that complimented the run game nicely. Unfortunately, the WVU offense still fizzled out as they got within 35 yards of the endzone. In a nice turn of events, Evan Staley converted two 40+ yard field goal attempts to keep the score 20-13 at the half.
The WVU defense started the 3rd quarter looking like the #1 defense in the country when Dante Stills recovered a fumble forced by Jeffrey Pooler on the first play. It took the Mountaineers just 3 plays to find TJ Banks for a 2 yard TD score. The Red Raiders then answered with a touchdown of their own at the aid of a facemask penalty. Leddie Brown punched in his second rushing touchdown of the night on the ensuing drive, giving WVU a touchdown on their first two possessions of the second half.
The two defenses buckled down after this, forcing 6 straight punts. The only scoring came on a Sam James fumble that was scooped up by Zech McPhearson and returned for a costly touchdown putting Texas Tech back on top 34-27. James’ nightmare of a season didn’t get any better tonight against Texas Tech with another dropped pass and this fumble. Eventually the dropped passes by the entire receiving corps were too much for the WVU offense to convert 3rd downs. Texas Tech was able to bleed almost 5 minutes off the clock late in the 4th quarter, leaving WVU with only 42 seconds to go 83 yards to tie the game. Doege’s final effort came up short and gave the Red Raiders their first Big 12 win of the year 34-27. More stupid mistakes keeps a growing Mountaineer team from an important victory.
Jarret Doege played his best game of the 2020 season with 302 yards and a TD pass. He finally went through an entire game without turning the ball over. Some passes were off target, but not enough of them that killed this team’s chance of winning. He will not win games by himself. Good thing this is a team sport. Doege is a fighter and reminds me of Skyler Howard. Before you throw your hands up, let’s not forget that kid did what only 5 other WVU quarterbacks did. Win 10 games.
Running back: B
Alex Sinkfield was put in some bad spots but made some smart plays. His stats won’t jump off the page but he plays with his head. Leddie Brown continues to be a man amongst boys. More than half his yards this season are after contact. Even with the entire Texas Tech defense keying on him and 7 to 9 man boxes, he still gutted out 3.7 yards a carry. Is that great? No. But what’s 3.7 + 3.7 + 3.7? A first down.
I’ll take the pleasure in dubbing this receiving corps as the worst in the entire country. Sam James can be blamed all you want but every one of them are equally to blame. Seven drops, SEVEN. I know Gerad Parker takes these in stride but eventually it needs to be addressed. He calls it “an issue that we can’t let be an issue”. 2 or 3 drops, fine, that might not change the course of a game. But seven drops will change a game and possibly the course of a season. It’s unacceptable. There’s one goal to the game of football and it’s to hold on to the football.
Offensive Line: C
In addition to Doege, the line played their best game of the season. No, Leddie Brown didn’t run for 100 yards. But Doege only got sacked one time and was not under much pressure all night. The line finally had the same starting 5 in consecutive games for the first time all year and it seemed this unit is starting to build continuity. A holding call on a TD throw and a sack given up on a three man rush bumps this grade down from a B to a C.
Defensive Line: B
Another mediocre to decent performance for the defensive line. There was good and there was bad. The good, both Stills brothers had a sack. This gave WVU two sacks and Texas Tech had only given up three sacks all year. The bad, outside contain late. Jeffrey Pooler had an opportunity to save 2 minutes late in the 4th quarter by not allowing the third string running back outside. Instead he went for the arm tackle and lost contain. This pretty much put the game away.
The linebackers played a below average game. Tony Fields being ejected for targeting didn’t help much. But being flagged 15 yards for running on the field after being ejected is just stupid. Henry Colombi’s escape ability became the linebacker’s problem. They didn’t do a terrible job containing him, but they could’ve done better. This led to some running lanes for the Red Raiders backs that weren’t plugged by linebackers. Zone coverage across the middle wasn’t good. The stops on the 3rd and intermediate downs just didn’t come.
Defensive Backs: B
The secondary continues to be solid not allowing anything behind them. Texas Tech’s biggest play through the air was 44 yards. This came on the first drive. Once the scripted plays were over, this group settled down. The few top shots Colombi took were well covered. Alonzo Addae and Tykee Smith continued to be huge in run support. This isn’t a flashy group, but we can all appreciate that they continue to be the most consistent unit on the team. They could even add some depth converting the receivers over to defense. Hell, they’re the best at PBU’s in the Big 12 anyway.
Special Teams: B
Evan Staley made TWO kicks over 40 yards!!!!! Both punters did a great job keeping WVU in good field position. Kick coverage kept returns to an average of 15 yards. I never believed it would be true but this unit is improving. Kudos to them. The rest of the team should take some lessons.
Offensive Player of the Game: Offensive Line
If you would’ve told me the offensive line would ever win this award 4 weeks ago I would’ve thought you were crazy. This unit has steadily improved since that time. I asked for no sacks, they gave up one. I’ll take it. They gave Jarret Doege and the offense every single opportunity to win. The running lanes were sometimes and other times they weren’t. All in all they paved the way for another 400+ yard day for the offense, which should be more than enough to win almost every single game. Keep up the steady improvement and other unit’s mistakes won’t be as costly (receivers).
Defensive Player of the Game: Exree Loe
I’ve been waiting for the day Exree Loe got significant playing time for what feels like two years now. This kid seems to have massive potential. He got his break tonight with Fields’ ejection and boy did he take advantage of it. 9 tackles in replacement duty is not a bad way to get some more playing time. His pass coverage may need a big of fine tuning but for an up tempo, quick game plan designed to get the ball out quick; Loe did a great job swimming and not sinking. This shows depth at a position the coaching staff may have been thinking was the thinnest position on the roster.
WVU returns home to host nationally ranked Kansas State next week at noon. Kansas State demolished Kansas today 55-14.