Entering last Saturday's game with Kansas State, all eyes were on Texas Tech's quarterback situation and specifically whether or not Red Raiders' quarterback Patrick Mahomes would be able to play after suffering a sprained AC joint against Kansas. The answer was a resounding yes as the junior gunslinger threw for over 500 yards and a pair of touchdowns against the Big 12's No.1 defense. It's a safe bet that Mahomes will again get the nod to start against West Virginia this week, but when asked about Mahomes' status, Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury implied that the quarterback is still not 100 percent and displayed some shoulder discomfort late in the KSU game. Nonetheless, Kingsbury praised his quarterback's toughness for making the start.
"He's doing ok," Kingsbury said. "We're still taking it day-to-day but he really powered through that. You can tell his shoulder was bothering him late in the game but he hung in there and made some incredible throws. He played last year with an MCL that most players would have missed some time with and this year he has a shoulder that a lot of guys would sit out with. He kept playing and I have a ton of respect for that young man."
This week Mahomes and the Red Raiders will return to the friendly confines of Jones AT&T Stadium, a venue where Texas Tech's offense has seemingly been unstoppable as it has scored over 50 points in each of its last nine home contests. When asked about why TTU plays so well at home, Kingsbury couldn't pinpoint one particular reason why, but stated his players are just comfortable there and feel the need to defend their home turf.
"I think our fans give us a great home field advantage," Kingsbury said. "There's energy and there's a comfort level of playing on that turf but I really don't have an answer outside of that our players feel comfortable and they really take pride in representing the home crowd.I think our players really just get energized and they do a great job of trying to protect that stadium and that's all I can charge it up to."
After Kingsbury evaluated his own offense he also took some time to discuss how some of the other offenses around the Big 12 have evolved in recent years, specifically the rise aggressive downfield passes and the emphasis placed on establishing the vertical passing game.
"You just see a progression," Kingsbury said. "When defenses try and take away your quick screens and your underneath stuff that have been in these style of offenses, now you have to take shots and throw it over their heads. I think as defenses progress and make adjustments and say 'we're not going to give those easy throws over and over' and their walking down, the answer is now to run behind them and take shots. I think what you're seeing is both sides making adjustments."
Kingsbury also said the emphasis that referees are putting on pass interference penalties has also impacted the rise of the deep ball.
"I know (pass interference) was an emphasis this year both ways," Kingsbury said. "We have had a couple of offensive pass interference penalties that I have never seen called before, some touchy-feely type stuff. So I think there's a high emphasis on pass interference in general and when you're thinking that two out of the three outcomes when you take a shot can be positive for the offense, then I think the risk-reward can be in your favor."
There is no doubt that Saturday's match-up between the Red Raiders and the Mountaineers will feature its fair share of long balls. Both offenses are chock full of weapons in the passing game and both Kingsbury and Dana Holgorsen are two of the most innovative offensive minds in college football. It could be a long day for both defenses and the game will likely come down to whether or not one defense can either force a couple of turnovers or get the opposing punter on the field a few times. One thing is for sure, if another prototypical Big 12 shootout ensues, it won't surprise anyone.