West Virginia Rips Texas Tech 48-17, Moves To 5-0 Atop Big 12

LUBBOCK, Texas - It was inarguably the most impressive road win by West Virginia in its Big 12 tenure, and it put the Mountaineers exactly where they wanted to be heading into late October. Here's some news, notes, analysis and observations.

There's much to cover, and it has to start with the defense. Coordinator Tony Gibson's unit wasn't totally dominant, but it wasn't far from it against an offense which ranked first in passing yards and second in scoring and total offense entering. The Red Raiders entered averaging 650 yards and 55 points per game, and left on the short end of a 48-17 whipping in which the offense failed to crack the teens until 8:13 remained in the fourth quarter. And it wasn't just that WVU limited Tech in a way few have, but that it did so by being able to collapse the pocket while also blanketing extremely explosive receivers.

Gibson overwhelmed QB Patrick Mahomes with a mix of zone and overload blitzes, while also backing out of the looks at times when the Raiders attempted to audible the play. The Mountaineers stacked the line with six to seven players, then dropped some while bringing pressure from other areas and angles. The end result was that Texas Tech and head coach Kliff Kingsbury were never able to get into the calls they were most comfortable with, and had to piecemeal drives together, which isn't the preference. WVU also managed to tackle well in the open field, exploit available gaps and generally disrupt an offense based on timing. It was everything Gibson's unit tried to do much of the preseason against their own offense, and the dividends were paid here.

Not only did Tech finish with just the 17 points, but it was the first time the Red Raiders were held below 50 points at Jones Stadium in 10 games. That snapped the nation's longest all-time streak, which had bested Yale's mark of eight in a row from 1887-88.

On the flipside, West Virginia's offense did almost anything it wanted. The No. 20 - and rising - Mountaineers were exceptionally balanced, amassing 650 yards in a near split between the 332 rushing and 318 passing. WVU gained 8.4 yards per play, had 28 first downs, punted just once and were eight-of-eight in the red zone wit six touchdowns while never turning the ball over.

Skyler Howard hit on 21-of-31 passes for 318 yards and a score, the touchdown sending him past Major Harris in all-time touchdown passes in school history. That's a stacked stat, obviously, with a different offense and a different time. But it does show that Howard has performed at a high level, especially of late, and that this offense has found its needed balance without putting it all on the signal caller. WVU used the ground game to set-up and complement the air attack, and it worked to perfection as Tech's shoddy defense could never find an answer. Even when the Mountaineers lost Justin Crawford to an ankle injury - the back will again be evaluated when the team returns to Morgantown - it simply inserted Kennedy McKoy and never missed a beat as the freshman paired with Rushel Shell an finished with 99 yards on four carries.

Add on Sean Walters' first career pick, the season-best four sacks while allowing none, solid placekicking after an early miss from Mike Molina and the offensive line's dominant display near the goal line, among other aspects, and the victory was as complete as any in the Holgorsen Big 12 era. Below, take a look at other observations from WVU's fifth consecutive win this season, and the Mountaineers' 10th in their last 11 games.

Chronological thoughts on the contest:

  • Colton McKivitz got the start at right tackle.
  • WVU went to its stacked receiver set earlier than usual, using it on both sides of the formation in a five-wide look on the initial third down of the game. Howard found Ka'Raun White for a first down to change field position. 
  • WVU forced a three-and-out on Tech's initial two possessions of the game. The Raiders gained two yards on the initial series, but then uncorked a 57-yard punt that pinned the Mountaineers at the nine-yard line.
  • That mattered little, WVU moving 91 yards in nine plays over just 2:59 to take a 7-0 lead. The Mountaineers got a huge 53-yard catch-and-run from Howard to Shorts to move the ball to the Tech 22-yard line. The run game then took over, Crawford rushing 12 and 10 yards, the latter for his third career score.
  • West Virginia seemed primed to build upon the lead from there when it forced another three-and-out - including what could have been a pick six on a poor throw by Patrick Mahomes - and quickly moved to the Tech 26. The drive stalled there, however, and Molina missed a 43-yard field goal try wide left to keep the lead within a single possession.
  • The Mountaineers seemed to have Tech stopped on its next possession after an offensive pass interference for holding downfield was called, pushing the Raiders back to the 44-yard line. But Mahomes found Jonathan Giles behind Jeremy Tyler's coverage for the long score and a 7-7 game.
  • West Virginia needed just three plays for an apparent score on the following series, as Durante took a flip pass 51 yards and Howard rushed for 18 down to the Tech 6. Crawford rushed in for the touchdown, but a holding call during the play negated the score before Shelton Gibson pushed a Tech defender after the whistle. That drew a 15-yard personal foul for unsportsmanlike conduct, putting WVU at the 27 facing first and goal. The Mountaineers settled for Molina's 34-yard field goal and a 10-7 edge.
  • Three Tech passes brought the first quarter to a close, with both teams having four possessions for eight total, an average of less than two minutes per series.
  • The Raiders began to use Mahome's scrambling ability to offset excellent downfield coverage by the secondary. Texas Tech marched 52 yards in 10 plays to start the second quarter, getting to the WVU 13-yard line before Sean Walters' intercepted a pass off the leg of a receiver as both jostled for the ball while falling. It was an imperative turnover at that point in the game, and Walters' first of his four-year career.
  • West Virginia pieced together an exceptional push from there, moving 89 yards in 10 plays to take a 17-7 advantage. Howard hit Gary Jennings deep down the seam for 47 yards before finding Jovon Durante across the defense for 14 more yards and a first down inside the 10. Holgorsen dialed up a nice call on third and goal from the five, bringing in Crawford for Shell and lining him up out wide with a pair of receivers. Howard got the ball out quick, and Crawford had blocking sealed to the outside and merely made an easy cut for the score, his second of the day.
  • The biggest aspect besides the points? The drive took 4:05 and rested the defense. When Tech was forced to punt on its next series, WVU regain possession with little more than six minutes left in the half. The Raiders had run just 29 plays to that point, and would run 38 in the half as a whole.
  • The game became almost a carbon copy drive after drive at that point. The Mountaineers again held the Red Raiders, forcing three consecutive incompletions after an initial 28-yard pickup between Mahomes and Giles, before the offense moved 72 yards in seven plays. The drive was highlighted by a 27-yard completion from Howard to Shorts, along with Howard's 20-yard scramble on a naked boot off the right side.
  • WVU punched in three plays later on third and five from the eight-yard line. Howard again kept, beating the Tech defenders to the corner for a 24-7 lead after Molina's PAT. The Raiders took their final possession of the half with 4:22 to play, but couldn't pick up a third and short before an illegal snap on fourth and one. That forced a fourth and six situation, and Kingsbury went for it from the 29-yard line as Mahomes pass fell incomplete along the sideline.
  • West Virginia had one final chance with 84 seconds remaining but simply ran out the clock.
  • Justin Crawford was injured during West Virginia's penultimate series, and would not return.
  • West Virginia and Texas Tech traded field goals to open the second half, the Raiders stalling just inside the red zone. The Mountaineer answered with an 11-play, 70-yard march that eventually ended at Tech's five-yard line when Howard tried to boot off play action. His pass was batted down by the oncoming linebacker off the edge, and WVU settled for Molina's second field goal of the game for a 27-10 edge with six minutes left in the third quarter.
  • Both teams slowed their approaches during the first drives of the second half. The Raiders ran the ball far more than they had, and were more methodical in the passing game as well. It seemed both sides wanted to slow he game a touch and poke and prod with underneath routes and the run game.
  • That changed on Tech's next series, but the result was worse when a personal foul and Waters' nine-yard sack of Mahomes off late pressure pushed the raiders back to midfield. They punted from there after another overload blitz forced Mahomes to throw the ball deep for an incompletion on second and long.
  • With Crawford sidelined, Kennedy McKoy entered and promptly ripped off runs of 35 and 21 yards on WVU's second series to move the ball to the Tech one-yard line. Howard plunged in from there, and it appeared the play might be reviewed. It never was, and West Virginia had built a 34-10 lead just nine seconds into the fourth quarter.
  • It was then, with 14:51 to play, that West Virginia's defense really snuffed much of any remaining hope for Tech. The Mountaineers allowed two first downs before forcing an incompletion and dropping the back for a loss of one. On third and 11 from the WVU 40-yard line, the secondary again blanketed the wideouts, forcing Mahomes to scramble. Under pressure, the QB dropped the ball and had to fall on it for a 22-yard sack by Darrien Howard. That left the Raiders with a fourth and 33, and it appeared Tech either had a bad snap or tried a very ill-advised fake via the run. Either way, the up man was dropped by Marvin Gross and West Virginia took over at the 32-yard line ready to ice it.
  • It did, using just three plays to score, this time off Shell's 14-yard rush for a 41-10 lead that started a mass exodus in Lubbock. It was, for all intents, the most impressive Big 12 road win for Dana Holgorsen and West Virginia, and one which should set the undefeated Mountaineers (5-0, 2-0 Big 12) up well inside the Top 20, if not the Top 15.

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