West Virginia Report Card

Grading Texas Tech's 37-34 loss to West Virginia on Saturday.

On the whole, the Red Raiders played their best game of the season against West Virginia, but it just wasn’t enough. At this point it is quite clear that Kliff Kingsbury and his program are rebuilding almost from the ground floor in Tommy Tuberville’s aftermath, and as such, improvement, rather than wins, is the key metric. Eventually, the improvement will produce wins.

Quarterback: Davis Webb did not have a stupendously good day, but unlike last week at Kansas State, one never got the sense that Tech would be better off with a Pat Mahomes behind center. Webb started off hot and the Air Raid actually looked somewhat like the offense that put Mike Leach on 60 Minutes and in the New York Times. Alas, Webb threw an interception on Tech’s final drive of the first half, which was compounded by the fact that Jakeem Grant was wide open down the seam. A touchdown was foregone in favor of a turnover. Webb never really caught fire again after that. Webb hit 11 different receivers, however, which is excellent ball distribution.
Grade: B

Receivers: To an extent, this was a bounce-back game for the receivers insofar as (not including DeAndre Washington) they dropped only two passes. Devin Lauderdale provided a huge spark with three receptions for 112 yards, two of which went for explosive touchdowns. With an incredibly acrobatic catch near the West Virginia goal line in the third quarter, Dylan Cantrell now indisputably owns the title of Best Hands on the Team. That is the good. For the bad, Kliff Kingsbury slated his outside receivers for failing to uncover in the second half against man defense. You can be certain that upcoming defensive coordinators will pick up on that.
Grade: B

Running Backs: Many of us have been begging Kliff Kingsbury to make more extensive use of his running backs and that is exactly what he did against West Virginia. And the results, for the most part, were positive. Deandre Washington wasn't spectacular, but he did churn for 132 yards on 29 big carries. He also dropped a couple of passes. Justin Stockton, who is Byron Hanspard Light, broke a draw play for 69 yards and a touchdown. Stockton may gain nothing for nine straight carries, and on the tenth, shake loose for a homerun.
Grade: A-

Offensive Line: Davis Webb was sacked only once and rarely experienced any real pressure. The push in the running game was sporadic, but Tech did find some paydirt around right tackle where Reshod Fortenberry holds sway. Baylen Brown, seeing snaps at left guard, had an excellent game. Le’Raven Clark struggled at times, and the line contributed more than its fair share of Tech’s 12 penalties.
Grade: B-

Defensive Line: Tech’s sacked Clint Trickett only once, but routinely flushed him from the pocket. Mike Smith has done a decent job of dialing up disruptive blitzes. Tech’s interior line play against the run is still iffy, however. Too often a Jackson Richards or a Rika Levy were moved out, although Richards did have a few nice plays, just to be fair. Branden Jackson had a silent game. Demetrious Alston recovered a fumble.
Grade: C

Linebackers: This may have been the best game of the season for Tech’s linebackers, for what that is worth. V.J. Fehoko played far and away his best game as a Red Raider, tallying eight tackles and one tackle for loss. Pete Robertson continues to come on. He had eight tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and a quarterback hurry. Andre Ross came out of nowhere and was all over the field, although he finished with a modest three tackles. He looks like a player who could help. Kris Williams also saw significant snaps for the first time in 2014. Mike Smith has really shaken up the linebacker rotation since becoming defensive coordinator.
Grade: B-

Secondary: The Red Raiders didn’t intercept Clint Trickett (Keenon Ward could have had one), but held him to an acceptable 301 yards passing. Kevin White, one of the nation’s top receivers, finished with 13 grabs for 123 yards and a touchdown, which actually speaks reasonably well of Tech’s young corners, especially Nigel Bethel who started and was on White most of the day. Bethel showed promise, and was also a physical presence against the run. Ward had a spectacular first half, and finished the day with 16 tackles and a pass breakup. A J.J. Gaines misread allowed a 56-yard Mountaineer touchdown pass in the third quarter. Josh Keys played some; he needs to play more.
Grade: C+

Special Teams: Given West Virginia’s difficulties in return coverage, special teams figured to be an area in which Tech could make some hay. Instead, this area, and special teams in general, were pretty much a non-factor. Tech had only one punt return for negative one yard, and averaged 18 yards on three kickoff returns. But Tech’s coverage units did well, as did punter Taylor Symmank. Ryan Bustin contributed a pair of chip shot field goals.
Grade: B

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