We've analyzed West Virginia's defensive goals to hold down Texas Tech's offense, but a countering stat could also come strongly into play. WVU is allowing opponents to convert 46% of its third down conversions, while its own success rate is identical. That ratio probably needs to swing in West Virginia's favor if it is to bring home a win in its first true road game of the year.
Just as three-and-outs and third down stops are lifeblood to defensive coordinator Tony Gibson, they are anathema for the offensive stylings of head coach Dana Holgorsen. Other than points, third down conversions, play counts and sustained drives are the things that Holgorsen looks for to win games, and that 46% conversion rate, while not bad, is something that has to improve to string drives together. We'll all be watching West Virginia's efforts to get off the field, but WVU's work to stay on it while on offense will be just as critical.
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Holgorsen made a comment during the week that is a bit surprising, but one that makes sense upon further examination. Long a proponent of winning the turnover battle (obviously), Holgorsen noted that coming up one short in that department isn't a killer, or even a big concern for him. It's when the margin creeps higher that it can become an issue.
That is a fair general assessment, but in a game like this one, every possession is crucial. For a team like Texas Tech, even one extra chance with the ball could mean a difference in outcome. So, while the overall logic in Holgorsen's statement is true, this could be the week that proves the exception. WVU can't afford to give the Red Raiders any extra chances. Tech has just six turnovers this year, while the Mountaineers have eight.
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With all due respect to West Virginia's last-second win in Lubbock two years ago, the Mountaineers' win over the Red Raiders in the Sun Bowl in 1938 stands as the best victory in the series. That victory capped an 8-1-1 season, with the appearance marking WVU's second-longest ever trip from campus for a game to that point (the 1922 East West Bowl in San Diego held top honors). WVU broke a 16-year bowl drought in the game played at Kidd Field in El Paso, Tex., and moved to 2-0 in bowl games with the victory.
The contest, as many close games do, hinged on turnovers. (What a nice segue from the preceding item!) The Mountaineers recoved a fumble on Tech's three-yard line, but took four plays to score, with the last featuring a recovered fumble of its own on the way into the end zone. Tech responded with a scoring drive of its own, but WVU blocked the extra point to get the win.
WVU Hall of Famer Harry “Flash” Clarke was credited with 132 rushing yards on 26 carries, and would have had a 200-yard day had a 92-yard scoring run not been called back due to a penalty.
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Texas Tech's rushing defense has been maligned, but the Red Raiders are actually giving up fewer yards per game on the ground (179.4) than West Virginia (191.2). Again, though, yardage isn't the biggest of deals to the Mountaineer defensive staff, which hangs its hat on other metrics as more important. Still, this is a somewhat under-evaluated area of this game that could be key. If Tech can rush the ball for 150 yards or more, it's likely going to pile up its fair share of points. Other than quarterback Patrick Mahomes, its backs are pedestrian, and if they have a big day it could spell a long one for the Mountaineers.
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The 11:00 a.m. kick time for this game will be the earliest, by seven hours, for the Red Raiders this year. All five of their previous games have begun at 6:00 p.m. or later.
Along with that fact comes a weather front that will return the Lubbock area to its normal baked status. After a few days of temperatures in the 60s and low 70s, Saturday will see the thermometer head toward 90. The highest temps are expected in the late afternoon and early evening, but this will still be a change from what both schools have experienced during the week of practice. Advantage to either side? Perhaps a small one to Tech.
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The Red Raiders have seen a few receivers hampered by injury recently, but as that may be the deepest position on the team, theeffects on the game could be minimal. Dylan Cantrell apparently injured a hand or a wrist against Kansas State, while T.J Vasher and Derrick Willies both have knee problems. They join Ja'Deion High, whose foot injury has kept him out of all action this year.