West Virginia is 6-4 all-time vs. Texas Tech and has dominated the series since joining the Big 12 Conference in 2012. After losing to the Red Raiders in its first two seasons in the league, WVU rattled off five straight victories. That streak was snapped in 2019, leading to an 0-2 mark against TTU in the Neal Brown era. Last season, it was a 34-27 loss in Lubbock. The year prior, Tech claimed a 38-17 win in Morgantown.
“Both years we moved the ball well. Only had one turnover last year but it was critical because it got boomeranged for a touchdown,” Neal Brown said. “If you look at two key points of why they have won and we have not won..well, there’s three — the two that stick out are rushing yardage and turnovers. The third would be in the red zone.”
In 2019, Tech put up 35 of its 38 points by halftime. WVU turned the ball over four times, including two interceptions thrown by Austin Kendall. On the ground, it only managed 51 yards compared to 127 for the Red Raiders. Tech was led by quarterback Jett Duffey, who completed 24-of-34 passing attempts for 354 yards and a touchdown and the WVU defense did not record a sack. Tech also had the advantage in the red zone, putting up points on five of its six trips while WVU only managed to score two of the five times it was in scoring range.
“They came in here in ’19 right after getting beat by Kansas and they handled us. Probably our worst performance that we’ve had. They were up 21-3 quickly,” the head coach said in an exclusive interview for the Neal Brown Show. “We turned the ball over four times that afternoon and we were never really in the game. Texas Tech dominated and that ended up keeping us from a bowl game. That would have been a significant step for us in year one.”
Last season, the Mountaineers only had one turnover in Lubbock but it was the difference in the game. The fumble by Sam James was returned 56 yards for the game-winning touchdown. As for rushing yards, WVU had 91 in that category while TTU had 179. Both teams were 3-for-3 on trips to the red zone.
“They used tempo. They ran the ball a lot better than we ran it. We have a critical turnover that leads to a touchdown and we have zero takeaways from them. They beat us and that probably kept us out of a Jan. 1 bowl game,” Brown said.
Quarterback Henry Colombi made his first career start for the Red Raiders in that contest vs. WVU and he will make his first start of the season on Saturday. He takes over this year for Tyler Shough who sustained a collarbone injury in the second quarter against Texas last weekend.
Colombi went 22-of-28 for 169 yards and a score against the Mountaineers last season. He also finished with 11 carries for 40 yards and a rushing touchdown.
“He gave us issues moving outside the pocket. He scrambled and found guys down the middle and converted some third downs on us last year,” Brown said. “The thing we have to be ready for is they take more shots downfield than a lot of teams and they use tempo. That’s something that has hurt us in the past and something we are really working on this week.”
As the saying goes, the third time’s a charm, and Brown hopes that will prove true this weekend.
“They have held us back from opportunities because we did not play well. They’ve executed and we have not. So, this is an opportunity to go out and prove that we have made progress and we can beat Texas Tech,” Brown said.
It’s also worth noting the two factors that Brown believes have been the difference the past two seasons, rushing yards and turnovers, are also two areas separating the Mountaineers from a higher number in the win column. West Virginia has had at least one turnover in all four games this season and in both of its losses, it was outrushed by its opponent.
WVU and Texas Tech will battle at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday at Milan Puskar Stadium.