First and foremost of those was to closely monitor the leg fatigue of Mike Molina. Molina will, for now, handle all of WVU's place kicks, as well as its kickoffs. That amount of usage won't be an immediate hindrance, but could cause a cumulative effect as the Mountaineers play their final eight regular season games in as many weeks. West Virginia has used both of its open weeks, and will play just its fifth game of the season already into the mid-point of October.
"We are going to have to gauge it week to week based upon how Mike feels," special teams coach Mark Scott said. "We've had two bye weeks in six weeks so that problem really hasn't popped up yet, but looking ahead with eight straight games and no bye weeks in between, it's something we will have to monitor closely."
Molina will assume full-time duties after converting five of six field goals and all 14 extra points over the first four games. Lambert was suspended by the Big 12 for the first three contests, or the entirety of the nonconference slate, and went 1-of-2 on field goals during his return against Kansas State on Oct. 1. Lambert, who has already graduated, leaves the program ranked second all-time in school history in field goals made (69), needing just six more to become the all-time leader. He is also third in career points with 340, needing 45 to become the leader. It is highly possible Lambert would have held both marks if he played the final eight games of the season.
In response, WVU has elevated starting punter Billy Kinney to the back-up slot for kickoffs according to the depth chart, and it might have to pull the redshirt off of Jonn Young if the workload needs further spread. Scott listed Young as the "next man up" for kickoffs, and the freshman has displayed excellent leg strength with a mixture of results on placement. Scott noted, however, that his consistency must improve. Of now, however, the Mountaineers will use two kickers, with Molina for field goals, point afters and kickoffs, and Kinney as the punter. Kinney, a sophomore, has averaged 44.2 yards per punt, with five inside the 20-yard line and three punts of 50-plus yards.
"We were trying to get (the kickers) back to 100 percent," Scott said of the open week work. "Kinda lighten the load on them to where they feel really good coming in to this week. And then continue to look at ourselves and make ourselves better while introducing Texas Tech. Obviously that ramps up today and moving through the week."
West Virginia also dialed in on kickoff return and coverage. The Mountaineers struggled there at times, being flagged for numerous holding and block in the back calls, as well as handing both the offense and defense difficult field position - especially in the contest with BYU. Foes are averaging 25.9 yards per kickoff return, or more than one-fourth of the field. WVU's net kickoff average is more than four yards behind that of Texas Tech; the Red Raiders haven't been that effective in the return game, however, managing just 17.9 yards on kickoff returns to the Mountaineers' 21.3.
"Kickoff return really changes week-to-week based on different schemes," Scott said. "I don't think we've seen the same scheme two weeks in a row in terms of where the align, where they are kicking the ball, what lane assignments are. Just continue to work on identifying who we need to block and getting better on technique. It's really a technique thing and we worked that hard last week. Texas Tech is another scheme we haven't seen in terms of what they want to do. So it's getting them comfortable with that.
"In terms of kickoffs, it starts with the kick. Having great ball placement, kicking it deep, short, pooch kicks, whatever we are going to do. Getting the right hang time, getting the right ball location. Then having our guys fit certain blocks and certain returns how they need to fit it. Based on where we are kicking it will change up blocks and how we fit things. Get those guys cleaned up on that and have them playing fast and physical. The biggest thing is the first play is defense. Get off blocks and get to the returner."