WVU different from last trip to Lubbock

As the West Virginia football team prepared to go into Lubbock two years ago to take on Texas Tech, things were a little different for the Mountaineers.

WVU was fresh off a road win in Austin against a ranked Texas team and came in as the No. 5 team in the country with all the momentum in the world in its favor. Then, a few hours and a 49-14 defeat at the hands of the Red Raiders later, things started going downhill for the West Virginia program.

It was a loss that kick-started a run of 14 losses in 20 games through the end of the 2013 season.

But now, as the Mountaineers head back into Lubbock this week, they do so as a much different team. Those freshmen and sophomores that were just getting a taste of college football for the first time ever are now polished upperclassmen who are ready to bounce back and provide a little payback for what happened there a few years ago when West Virginia was still in its first year in the Big 12 and didn't know what to expect in its first trip to Lubbock.

"I specifically remember trying to explain to them what the Big 12 was like and what specific venues were like," said West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen during Monday's Big 12 coaches teleconference. "That's obviously part of our job (as coaches), but if you don't have guys in the locker room that have been there and done that, it makes things tough. We've got probably 30-40 guys that made that trip a couple years ago when we were really young and inexperienced and just didn't understand what the situation was. I think we're in a much better spot now."

Holgorsen is happy with his team through five games, as the Mountaineers come into this week's game with a 3-2 record - the same mark it had through the first five games of last season's 4-8 campaign.

Obviously there are things he saw they could have done better, but the fourth-year head coach is seeing some of the progress he was hoping he would get up to this point in the season.

"I'd be a lot happier if we were 5-0. We had very poor performances against Maryland a year ago, and a very poor performance against Kansas a year ago, so this year we beat Maryland and had a good performance against Kansas," Holgorsen said. "What's done is done - whether you're happy with it or not - and you have to move to your preparation to play your next opponent, which is Texas Tech. We need to do everything we possibly can to continue to improve to get ourselves in position to be able to make that happen."

A big improvement so far came from the progression the offense has made from last year through the early portion of this season. Led by Clint Trickett, Kevin White, Mario Alford, WVU is back among the top teams in the country in total offense. That is thanks in large part, according to Holgorsen, to a solid and consistent rushing attack that has helped set the table for the passing game that it has not had since Holgorsen arrived at WVU.

"We've worked hard for the last couple of years on getting our run game where it needs to be. Coach (Ron) Crook has done a great job of bringing a different mentality to what we've done with our offense over the last couple years," Holgorsen said. "We've recruited backs to be able to stay healthy. When I was first here, we had (Andrew) Buie and (Dustin) Garrison who were carrying the load, so we've got more depth. Up front we're playing pretty good, which is why I named (Quinton) Spain and (Mark) Glowinski the Players of the Week because everything starts up front, everything starts with the run game.

"When guys have to stop the run, a lot of people are putting guys in the box and that allows you to move the ball better. The run game brings a different element to the game."

And under new defensive coordinator Tony Gibson, the West Virginia defense has also been able to make some impressive strides this season. The Mountaineers dominated Kansas, limiting the Jayhawks to just a handful of plays in WVU territory during the 33-14 victory Saturday.

But against Texas Tech, the Mountaineers will see a much different attack, as the Red Raiders are typically one of the most dangerous aerial attacks in the country year in and year out.

"Both are spread attacks. We knew (Kansas) was going to play three and four wide, but what they were going to do out of it was going to be a little bit different (than Texas Tech)," Holgorsen said. "Tech is primarily going to throw the ball, but they do have the ability to run it. (Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury) is running the ball more than he has in the past. (Deandre Washington) is a great running back and he's as good a back as there is in the Big 12 and we need to be able to stop the run. We need to be able to prepare for that. But with that said, we know that they like to throw the ball. Webb has proven to be able to throw it all over the place, they've got a couple of good slot receivers. They're inexperienced on the outside but they're going to be able to continue to get better."

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