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West Virginia in Search Of Much-Needed Win

Mountaineers to host Texas Tech

West Virginia wide receiver George Campbell (15) runs with a reception past Baylor cornerback Kalon Barnes (12) on the way to a touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Waco, Texas, Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019. (AP Photo/Jerry Larson)

MORGANTOWN — There are no moral victories in football.

WVU, a 17-point underdog, came within one score of upsetting unbeaten Baylor last week in Waco. However, a few hiccups resulted in a 17-14 setback, the fourth straight for the Mountaineers.

Bad snaps, a blocked field goal and an inept offense wasted an impressive Mountaineer defensive effort. The Mountaineers recorded eight QB sacks on the night against one of the nation’s most explosive offenses.

That being the case, Coach Neal Brown finds his youthful squad sitting at 3-5 and 1-4 in the Big 12. The Mountaineers now welcome a Texas Tech team that owns identical marks of 3-5 overall and 1-4 in conference play. The Red Raiders are coming off a bye week.

Game time is at noon and will be televised on ESPN2.

Brown felt his squad played well defensively and on special teams in the Baylor defeat.

“When we got that thing turned at Troy, that’s what we were doing in all three phases,” he said during Monday’s Big 12 coaches’ teleconference. “The other night defensively and special teams, we strained and played really, really physical football. Offensively, not so much. It was quality football in those two phases.”

The WVU defense was spearheaded by Darius Stills. The tenacious lineman had 10 tackles and three sacks.

Brown praised Stills, his brother Dante and senior Reese Donahue.

“Outside of the Oklahoma game, really for the rest of our conference schedule, we’ve played well up front,” Brown said during Monday’s presser. “Darius has been our most consistent guy as far as just making plays, and I’m really proud of his maturation as we’ve gone through the season. Reese is playing the best football of his career, and Dante has been up and down a little bit more, but his good has been at an extremely high level.”

Brown must figure out what to do with the quarterback situation.

Austin Kendall struggled at times against the Bears. The Oklahoma transfer completed 20 of 39 passes for 205 yards, 83 coming on a pass-and-run to George Campbell.

In Kendall’s defense, he received minimal support from the Mountaineers’ running game. WVU totaled just 62 rushing yards.

Brown said Tuesday that backup quarterback Jack Allison has entered the transfer portal.

WVU is averaging 21 points and 300 yards in offense per game. The Mountaineers’ ground game is producing just 78 yards a game. Kennedy McKoy, while battling injuries, leads the team with 241 rushing yards.

For the season, Kendall has completed 161 of 261 passes for 1,634 yards. He has thrown 12 touchdowns with eight interceptions. Freshman Sam James has been his favorite target, hauling in 44 passes for 400 yards and two TDs.

Texas Tech, meanwhile, is averaging 30 points and 478 yards in offense. The Red Raiders are lighting up the air lanes for 305 yards a game.

“Baylor was a tough emotional loss. We missed a great opportunity. I was proud of our effort. Offensively, we got whipped up front. Our margin for error on offense is really small,” Brown said during Tuesday’s press conference. “We are looking at the quarterback position like all positions on offense…we need to get better there.”

Matt Wells is in his first year at the Texas Tech helm after a successful six-year stint as Utah State head coach, his alma mater.

The Red Raiders three wins this year have come at the expense of Montana State, UTEP and Oklahoma State. The Lubbock-based squad enters Morgantown on a three-game slide, losses delivered by Baylor, Iowa State and Kansas.

“I think last week was good. It was a combination of practice and rest. They came in here this morning (Monday), even last night, I think refreshed, refocused. There’s a little bit of a renewed energy, I think for this stretch run. You got four games left, our guys know that this is a competitive league,” Wells said at his weekly press conference. “And a lot of games on Saturdays, especially the ones lately, have come down to the wire. We need to find a way to win one, to finish one. And I think they’re very well aware of that.”

Texas Tech features two quarterbacks who have passed for more than 1,000 yards this season.

Jett Duffey has completed 132 of 193 for 1,420 yards. He has thrown nine TDs while being intercepted twice. Alan Bowman has clicked on 101-of-184 throws for 1,020 yards. He has six TD tosses and three picks.

SaRodorick Thompson leads the Red Raider rushers with 549 yards and eight TDs. T.J. Vasher is the team’s top receiver with 37 grabs for 473 yards and six TDs.

“We approached this season as let’s get better. We want to win every game but it is important to get better,” Brown said. “There are still a lot of reasons to be excited.”

BUBBA’S EER BITS

∫ Saturday’s game is Military Appreciation Day and True Blue. All Mountaineer fans are encouraged to wear blue.

∫ WVU is ranked No. 1 in the Big 12 and No. 4 nationally in punt return defense.

∫ WVU leads the all-time series with Texas Tech, 6-2. The Mountaineers prevailed 42-34 last year in Lubbock.

∫ WVU has recorded 26 QB sacks this year to lead the conference while ranking No. 11 nationally.

∫ WVU’S road game at Kansas State on Saturday, Nov. 16 will kick off at 3:30 p.m.

∫ Texas Tech enters this weekend having won each of its last four games against unranked foes in weeks following a bye.

∫ This past weekend marked Texas Tech’s second open week of the 2019 season. The Red Raiders had not previously experienced two open dates on a schedule since 2014.

∫ Road teams are 9-16 in Big 12 play so far this season.

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