West Virginia's defense will certainly face its stiffest test of the season on Saturday when the Mountaineers Take on Texas Tech, who is averaging an almost unheard of 55.2 points per game and racking up 544 yards per game through the air. Those numbers are enough to keep any defensive coordinator awake at night and from the sounds of things Tony Gibson has spent his fair share of time trying to wrap his head around ways to stop Tech's potent, fast-paced offense. Gibson started off his review of Tech's offense by praising the play of TTU quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who is leading the country in total offense per game.
"He's a really good player," Gibson sad of Mahomes. "He understands the offense and understands getting rid of the ball. He puts it in the right place at the right time an when he wants to throw it over the top he can do that as well. He's so big that guys are just falling off of him and he just keep plays alive."
Gibson also discussed what how challenging it can be to call plays and schematically prepare for the Red Raider offense.
"I haven't found (any areas of TTU's offense to exploit) yet," Gibson admitted. "I have been watching them for about 10 or 11 days now since we finished the K-State game. It's pick your poison. If you blitz them and they catch you they have one-on-one match-ups. Going back and watching last year we were probably 60-40 dropping back, about 40 percent of the time we brought some kind of pressure. You have to watch because they can hurt you."
Upon reviewing last year's contest when West Virginia was able to hold Texas Tech to just 26 points, Gibson credited the defense's ability to stall out Tech in the red zone. Gibson implied that this year's contest could simply come down to stopping the Red Raiders on third down.
"(Third down) is very big," Gibson said. "We have to try to limit possessions and that's how you do that, You have to be able to get off the field. A couple years ago they went for it on fourth down a few times and last year here they went for it on fourth down three times and converted two of the three. (Kingsbury) is a gambler. He's going to take his chances on fourth down and try to keep his offense out there. We have to do a great job on critical downs."
While Tony Gibson has the arduous task of preparing West Virginia's defense, Skyler Howard has been putting in film study and preparing for Tech's defense, which he said is much improved from last year.
"They are getting better on defense," Howard said. "People always like to talk about their offense and how we're going to need to outscore them but their defense has really stepped it up this year, a lot more than they had in past yeas. Up front they're a lot stronger, they move around fast and there's a lot more effort than last year."
This week is also challenging because it marks the Mountaineers' first true road test of the season, and Howard commented on the hostile environment and some of the unique TTU traditions that he expects to see in Saturday's game.
"They like to throw the tortillas out and waffles when it's a morning game," Howard recalled. "That's just their thing. It's a good atmosphere and that's the type of atmosphere you want to play in."
And while West Virginia's offense has only averaged 29 points per contest to this point in the season, Howard says he doesn't feel any added pressure to do anything differently just because TTU's offense is so potent.
"There's only a certain amount of things you can focus on going into a game," Howard said. On my end I'm just worried about the defense. We understand that they have scored a lot of points in the past games that they have played. We just have to score every time we get it. That's our goal any way."