The 12th ranked Mountaineers and 25th Red Raiders faced off in Lubbock and this one was a tale of two halves. The first half was full of West Virginia touchdowns and not much of an answer from Texas Tech. The second half was all Texas Tech with the help of Backup quarterback Jett Duffey after young stud Alan Bowman left the game with an upper body injury. West Virginia nearly blew a 25 point lead, but a late pick six by Keith Washington made it a two possession game. Here’s what we learned from both squads on Saturday.
Flashbacks To Last Season
This is a bit of a two-part takeaway, with the second part being the next takeaway.
Last season, West Virginia struggled in the second halves of games, which ultimately derailed any Big 12 Championship dreams. So far this season, that seemed to have been fixed. If anything, the Mountaineers have been playing better in the second halves of games. That is, until they traveled to Lubbock.
West Virginia got nothing going offensively in the second half against Texas Tech, and needed a score from the defense late in the fourth quarter to ice the game and end the Red Raider’s comeback.
Will Grier isn’t at fault here, uncharacteristic drops and just weird penalty calls killed drives. The way those drives ended was so out of their control, it’s very possible this could never happen again, but you would hope a team full of seniors would be able to get through that adversity.
Texas Tech’s Defense Is Wearing Teams Out In The Second Half
And here’s the flip side of the Red Raider’s shutout of the Mountaineer’s offense in the final 30 minutes of the game: maybe it’s more about Texas Tech making adjustments than it was about anything West Virginia was doing, or not doing.
This defensive performance comes just a week after keeping Oklahoma State off the scoreboard in the final 30 minutes of the game in Stillwater. This time, The Red Raiders did it again against an even better offense. It’s not normal for the defense to be a positive about a Texas Tech team, but that’s what we’ve seen the past couple of weeks.
West Virginia receivers dropped a lot of passes, but that could be due to Texas Tech just paying them so roughly. I don’t know if the Red Raiders can keep it up, but the defense has shown signs of massive improvement.
One of their biggest areas of improvement is on third down. Last season opponents converted 42 percent of their third downs against Texas Tech. This season they are holding their opponents to just 32 percent on third down. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that the Red Raiders rank dead last in the Big 12 in total defense and are only above Baylor in scoring defense, so there’s still plenty of room for improvement. Because, while their second half defense was great, it a bit of too-little-too-late if they already gave up 35 points in the first half.
The Red Raider’s Slow Start Might Be On The Coaching Staff
Texas Tech often starts games well, especially at home. That was far from the case on Saturday and it just dampened the electric atmosphere. In his postgame presser, head coach Kliff Kingsbury blamed the slow start on himself.
“I would have left, too, if that was that poor of a performance and effort in the first half. ” Kingsbury replied when asked what he thought of the fans exiting the stadium so early into the game. “I don’t blame anybody for leaving.”
The Red Raiders first half drive chart was not great. They opened with an interception, and two punts before finally getting on the board with a score. They kicked a field goal on their next drive, but that was it for scoring in the first half. Their last two drives of the half resulted in a punt and another interception.
“I’m not sure,” Kingsbury said on what changed from the first half to the second. “You know, I think you want to avoid the letdown deal, but I did a poor job of preparing us because we were awful in that first half and they were really good. Came out and dominated us, and you get behind like that against a good team, you’re not going to stand a chance. So I don’t have an answer, but that’s on me for not having us prepared. I know that.”
Texas Tech now has two losses and will need better first halves if they want to make this a successful season and not limp into a bowl game like they have become accustomed to.
Despite Giving Up 34 Points, WVU’s Defense Was Still Impressive
West Virginia had been holding teams to 12.3 points per game before their trip to Lubbock. That obviously is no longer the case after giving up 34 points to Texas Tech. However, it might surprise you that this may be most impressive performance by Tony Gibsons’ defense this season.
If I said last week that WVU’s offense would only need 35 points to win in Lubbock, most wouldn’t agree. WVU had another tackle for a loss-filled performance and shut down the quarterback they game planned for. It’s hard to plan for one quarterback all week and then face a polar opposite quarterback. Especially, when the defense is on the field for most of the second half. The 24 second-half points shouldn’t concern Mountaineer fans too much.
The Mountaineers defense was keeping Alan Bowman in check, which neither Houston or Oklahoma State were able to do. Before Bowman’s injury, he was just 9 for 20, for 123 yards with one score and one interception.
Alan Bowman or Jett Duffey, Texas Tech Should Be Fine
Bowman’s injury seemed to be the point where Texas Tech woke up. Backup quarterback Jett Duffey threw a pick on his first drive, but in the second half he settled in and played great.
Other than the interception with three minutes left, he was electric when leaving the pocket and added a different aspect to the Texas Tech offense. He finished with 172 yards, and one passing touchdown and one rushing touchdown.
It looks like Bowman will be out this week as well, as it was reported that he suffered a partially collapsed lung, and as of Monday, he was still in the hospital under observation.
The Mountaineer’s weren’t ready for a mobile quarterback, and other defenses now will be. However, just because you know what is coming, doesn’t mean you will have any more success stopping it. Duffey brings a wrinkle to the Red Raider offense, so Texas Tech fans shouldn’t worry just yet.