There’s Familiarity Between WVU, Texas Tech
MORGANTOWN – A bye week couldn’t have come at a better time for the West Virginia Mountaineers.
Though WVU sits at .500, it’s been a seesaw start to the season.
The Mountaineers had gone six straight grueling weeks where four of the six opponents they faced were undefeated at the time, with three ranked in the Top 25.
“We gave the team this past Friday, Saturday and Sunday off,” West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. “Assistant coaches were able to get out on the road and recruit, and I am really happy with how that is going. The reception has been very good. Our theory and motivation on this was to get the team away from everything Friday, Saturday and Sunday.”
Now it’s back to the grind as the Mountaineers will play host to their fifth undefeated opponent, No. 16-ranked Texas Tech.
Holgorsen, who was an assistant coach for the Red Raiders from 2000-07, believes his team will be ready to handle all of what Texas Tech brings to the table.
“Offensively, it is something that we know very well,” he said. “Obviously, (I have a) history with (Texas Tech coach) Kliff (Kingsbury), and I know what he has done offensively and how he operates. We are both cut from the same cloth. So, we are going to know what they do offensively. Obviously, the challenge is to stop it. They play very up-tempo and very high energy.”
The two team’s offenses are so similar, in fact, Holgorsen had his No. 1 defense go against his No. 1 offense in practice instead of the scout team, so the defense could get accustomed to the speed of the game.
One player the West Virginia offense would have trouble replicating in practice, though, is Red Raiders tight end Jace Amaro. The 6-foot, 5, 260-pound junior has caught 47 passes for 606 yards, but has only one touchdown reception. In last week’s 42-35 victory against Iowa State, Amaro had nine catches for 143 yards, which made it five straight games he has had at least eight receptions.
“He is big, fast and strong, and he blocks well and catches well,” Holgorsen said. “He is pretty good. He should come out after his junior year (to the NFL Draft). What happened last year is that we injured him so he had to come out, and he was on the shelf the rest of the year. This year he has been hard to contain.
“He is a guy that can do a lot of different things. He creates a tremendous amount of mismatches, not just for us, but everybody they have played since then. I do not know how to stop him; you try to double cover him, but that opens up room for some other good skill guys as well. He poses a lot of problems, and they have done a good job at utilizing him to get first downs and open up things for some other people.”
While West Virginia knows who the Texas Tech quarterback will be throwing to, it’s still to be determined who its quarterback will be.
Freshman Baker Mayfield started the season under center for the Red Raiders and earned Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week honors in his first career start against SMU.
Mayfield, however, injured his right knee two weeks ago against Kansas which opened the door for fellow freshman QB Davis Webb to take control of the nation’s third-ranked passing offense.
Webb was last week’s Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week after he threw for 415 yards against the Cyclones.
“Now there are two of them that have done that,” Kingsbury said. “It’s fun to see. (Webb) was disappointed earlier in the year, obviously, at not being named the starter, but never blinked an eye. Kept working and kept getting better and he’s progressed and progressed and progressed, and really played well and made some big-time throws. I’m excited to see him have that success, and I’m sure he’s going to keep getting better.”
Kingsbury noted he won’t know which quarterback will get the start until the end of the week.
Whomever it is, he may be in for a tough time at Mountaineer Field against a WVU defense that has played solid at home, holding opponents to 15 points per game.
“The biggest deal, you watch the film, is how multiple they are.” Kingsbury said of the Mountaineers D. “They’re playing with a lot of confidence. I know they had a rough night in Waco, but aside from that, they’ve played really good defense. They’ve turned people over, lots of negative plays wreaking havoc. You never know where they’re going to lineup. Week in and week out, they look like a completely different team as far as games go. That obviously is a challenge for a young quarterback.”
It’ll be interesting to see how the unit will bounce back after giving up a conference-record 864 yards against the Bears. However, Holgorsen says his defense has the right mindset moving forward.
“They overcame (the loss to Baylor) – kids are resilient. It was a poor performance defensively and offensively. It was a little bit of a buzz saw because Baylor played very well. You cannot sit there and dwell on it forever – you have to put that one to rest and get back out there and keep working. That is what we did, and we expect to have a lot better of a defensive performance on Saturday.”