And if this scenario seems like déjà vu all over again, that’s because to a significant degree it is. Only two years ago the Red Raiders, 4-1 but coming off a 41-20 drubbing at the hands of Oklahoma, met a West Virginia team in Jones Stadium that was undefeated and ranked No. 5.
Few people gave Tech a chance to hang with Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey that day, yet not only did the Red Raiders “hang,” but hung almost half a hunnert on WVU, spanking the visitors 49-14. It was the high water mark of Tommy Tuberville’s Tech tenure, and precipitated a Mountaineer tailspin that saw them lose five straight games before finishing 7-6.
Having said that, the task confronting this Tech team may be even more daunting simply because the Red Raiders have shown almost nothing through the first five games of the season to make one think they've got anything for West Virginia. Still, there is a roadmap to victory.
To wit, the running game could pay dividends for Tech if Kliff Kingsbury is willing to use it. The Mountaineers allow 4.64 yards per carry, which is No. 89 nationally. Not so good. The Red Raiders, on the other hand, average 5.19 yards per tote, which is No. 30. If Tech makes a concerted effort to pound the ball at the WVU defense, the chances of success are good.
And this strategy has another advantage. As is well known, the Red Raiders have been perhaps the worst turnover-committing and turnover-generating team in the nation lately, having lost the turnover battle 13 straight times. But in point of fact, West Virginia has its own troubles in this area, ranking only No. 120 nationally in turnover margin coming into the clash with Tech. Thus, if the Red Raiders take the ball out of Davis Webb’s errant throwing hand and place it in DeAndre Washington’s shifty frame, they can lessen the likelihood of turnovers, increase the odds of winning the turnover battle, and perforce, the game.
There is one other key area that Tech must exploit. Specifically, the Mountaineers are horrendous in punt and kickoff coverage, ranking No. 128 in the former and No. 117 in the latter. The Red Raider return game, meanwhile, has looked rather explosive, but has been stymied by penalties. If Tech can somehow avoid crushing penalties in the return game, there is a real chance that they can own field position in this contest. This advantage, in turn, could make up for the advantage that WVU’s offense has over Tech’s. It must be a point of emphasis in the gameplan.