West Virginia's Offense Faces Expected Shootout Versus Texas Tech; Must Finish Drives to Keep Pace

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - How does West Virginia's offense ensure it at least stays within striking distance of Texas Tech? The first step is a solid ability to finish drives.

It's an area which has lacked at times, and been steady at others. Now, With the unbeaten Mountaineers (4-0, 1-0 Big 12) facing arguably their most high-powered foe of the season, the onus is on the offense to end drives with touchdowns, not merely field goals.

"A couple times it's been red zone scoring," center Tyler Orlosky said. "We haven't been able to convert in the red zone. I was telling another guy, I think it has to do with our ability to make plays in space. When we get down there our space is condensed and we are not able to make those same plays. There's really no reason for that. We have specific formations for the red zone and goal line and we have to get in those formations and execute. We haven't been able to do that and it's been an Achillies' Heel for us."

West Virginia has mixed the run and pass well inside the 20-yard line, and has a dependable receiving threat in Daikiel Shorts. But it has been marred by turnovers, namely a fumble by Rushel Shell inside the five against Kansas State and a miscommunication between Orlosky and quarterback Skyler Howard that resulted in a late turnover versus BYU. By themselves, the miscues can be overcome. But combined with a lack of push up front at times, and an inability to manufacture touchdowns (along with a pair of close-range field goal misses) and West Virginia still has much to prove as it heads to Lubbock.

"I don't think it's anything we are lacking. I think it is executing better," Orlosky said. "We get down there and teams out-play us in the red zone. That's something we can't allow to happen."

Despite being ranked 20th in the nation, West Virginia looks to be a road underdog against an offense which leads the nation in passing yards with 544 a game, and ranks second in scoring with a whopping 55 points per game.

"They are a team which is going to score a lot of points regardless of the team they go against," Orlosky said. "They played Kansas State last week and still put up 38 against K-State who has a really good defensive line.  Offensively, we haven't been able to put up the numbers we would like to. We have to this week or we will not win the game if we don't score a lot of points. It's something that's more in focus. It's something you take into thought, that if we don't score more points, we aren't going to win this game. It sounds stupid, but that's how you win games, especially this week. It's more important this week than others."

Not only does WVU face an explosive offense, but a difficult environment with Texas Tech's crowd. Jones AT&T Stadium holds 60,454 and is among the rowdier atmospheres in the Big 12. The Mountaineers entered an eerily familiar scenario their first season in the league, sitting undefeated and inside the top 20 before being routed 49-14. West Virginia won its last game at Tech 37-34 after a 14-point rally over the final six minutes.

"I warned (the young guys). I was there four years ago when we were undefeated and got our (butt) kicked.  I told them about that. This is not a team to be taken lightly." Orlosky said.


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