For the second week in a row West Virginia put forth a terrific effort on the defensive side of the football, holding Texas Tech's prolific offense to 17 points and 379 yards, which is a stark contrast to the 55 points and 650 yards per game that the Red Raiders were averaging entering today's contest. The 17 points scored was the lowest offensive point total that Texas Tech has had since a 34-13 loss to Texas Nov. 1, 2014. It's no secret that Tech's offense is powered by Patrick Mahomes, but today the junior quarterback struggled to get anything going against a Mountaineer defense that was always one step ahead.
Mahomes, who is still recovering from a sprained AC joint, was never able to get comfortable as the Mountaineers routinely beat the Red Raiders' offensive line and applied pressure to the banged up QB, picking up a season high four sacks on the day. It seemed as if West Virginia's pass rush was nonexistent through the first three games of the year, but in its last two games West Virginia has picked up a combined seven sacks, a big reason why the unit has been able to suffocate its previous two opponents.
The Mountaineers' coverage did experience a few mishaps early, most notably when Jeremy Tyler misplayed a ball in the end zone, allowing the Red Raiders to score their first touchdown of the day on a third-and-29 play, but overall the unit bounced back and turned in a very solid performance, preventing the big plays through the air that Tech has become accustomed to under head coach Kliff Kingsbury. The game's turning point occurred in the second quarter when Texas Tech was driving the ball down the field, looking to either tie or take the lead on the Mountaineers. On a passing play Mahomes dropped back, threw a relatively safe pass and found a teammate running a drag across the middle when senior linebacker Sean Walters ripped the ball out of the receivers hands and came up with a highlight reel worthy interception. The pick gave the Mountaineers the ball back on their own 11 yard line and they would rip off an 89 yard touchdown drive and extend their lead to 10. After that play the Mountaineers held the momentum for the rest of the day, outscoring Tech 38-10.
While Walters made what could be the biggest play of the game, he certainly wasn't the only linebacker who played a key role in today's defensive performance. David Long, who Tony Gibson raved about after the Kansas State game, delivered several big hits and generated pressure on Mahomes throughout the day, picking up five tackles. Sam linebacker Justin Arndt also had a nice day, picking up five stops and making some nice plays in space against a very talented group of Texas Tech skill position players. One doesn't need to look any further than the stat book to see how well West Virginia's backers played today as the Mountaineers only allowed Texas Tech to rush for 34 yards, its lowest output of the season.
Entering the season it appeared that this West Virginia team would have to win games simply by outscoring its opponents, but after the past two weeks it's becoming clear that the West Virginia defense has completely rebuilt and reloaded after losing a plethora of NFL talent from a year ago. Tony Gibson, who should be regarded as the Big 12's best defensive coordinator, has his unit clicking on all cylinders, and if the Mountaineers' defense can continue to improve on a week-to-week basis, a Big 12 championship will be a very real possibility.