There are certainly some weeks that are better than others for college football teams to have bye weeks, but it appears that West Virginia's second bye of the season came at a good time, as it gave the Mountaineers' banged up secondary a chance to get healthier before taking on the most prolific passing offense in the country. The Mountaineers should have Toyous Avery and Antonio Crawford back in the two deep and the hope is that Maurice Fleming is ready to go as well. Cornerbacks coach Blue Adams welcomes the return of the players as he knows all to well how important depth will be when West Virginia squares off with the Red Raiders on Saturday at noon.
"It's the nature of the game," Adams said. "You're going to have some injuries and there are going to be some guys that go down. You just try to sustain as you get bodies back. I'll take as many bodies as I can get."
After Fleming exited the Kansas State game, the Mountaineers got a much-needed boost from junior college transfer Elijah Battle, who was often in position and provided tight coverage against the Wildcats' receivers. Battle's performance earned praise from defensive coordinator Tony Gibson, who after the game stated that Battle was the defensive player of the game. Although Battle and Rasul Douglas played very well in the depleted secondary, Adams knows that it will be imperative to rotate players in and out and keep fresh bodies on the field to deal with Tech's high-powered offense, which will likely run near 100 plays in Saturday's contest. When specifically asked about the Red Raiders offense, which averages 544 passing yards per game, Adams acknowledged that the unit is good, but said it doesn't necessarily worry him and that his focus is just on preparing his corners to compete.
"They're a good, high-powered offense," Adams said. "I'm not necessarily worried about them. It's all about us. If we continue to answer the challenge and accept the challenge I think we'll be fine. It's not going to be easy because they do so many things well but at least we'll have an opportunity to win."
Adams did however discuss what makes TTU's offense so powerful, saying it's efficient it's a more physical group than people realize.
"I think they're just efficient," Adams said. "I think they have some physical players and I think they play physical. They have guys that will finish blocks and backs that will run. They have receivers that will finish runs and I think they're a physical team as well as very efficient."
While keeping fresh legs on the field is always important, starting bandit safety Jarrod Harper revealed one of the crucial aspects of dealing with an offense as fast as Tech's is pre-snap communication and getting in the right sets as quickly as possible.
"(Communication) is definitely key," Harper said. "One of the most important things heading into this game is communicating prior to the snap and being able to line up. As long as we can get lined up and stay up-tempo with them we'll be alright."
In order to prepare for Tech's up-tempo style of attack, defenders spent portions of the bye week emphasizing conditioning and participating in different drills to try and acclimate them to the tempo that they will see from Patrick Mahomes and the Red Raider offense.
"Last week coach was stressing (conditioning)," Harper said. "Coach Blue was running around with us at practice on different sides of the field and after every play we had to run over and touch his hand and get back."
In theory, these drills should definitely help the Mountaineers adjust to communicating quickly and aligning the right way before the ball is snapped, but replicating Tech's offensive speed is something that is nearly impossible on a practice field. The Mountaineers did have the benefit of playing a Missouri Tigers team earlier in the season who ran over 100 plays and moved at a blistering tempo, but those Tigers are much less effective on the offensive end than this Texas Tech team and TTU quarterback Patrick Mahomes is a big reason why.
"He's definitely making more plays on his feet and extending plays," Harper said. "He's rolling out and finding receivers downfield and I think he looks better than what he did last year."
Harper was also asked about whether or not he could tell that Mahomes, who threw for a pair of scores and over 500 yards was playing with an injured shoulder in last Saturday's contest against Kansas State. His response?
Mahomes and the Tech offense will likely come out of the gate firing on all cylinders in Saturday's game. TTU likes to script the first several plays of the game, moving quickly down field and avoiding signaling a play from the sideline, so the Mountaineers could be forced to play a lot of base defense to deal with the tempo in the first drive, but that's something Harper and defensive coordinator Tony Gibson are more than comfortable doing. The Mountaineers will likely surrender some points in its game with TTU, but the defense's emphasis is on stopping Tech on third downs and surviving the initial surge that Tech will move with in the beginning of Saturday's game.