West Virginia University’s Football Team was smacked back to Earth last Saturday in the windy west Texas town of Lubbock. The final score was 49-14 and the potent WVU offense could score just one touchdown while the game was still undecided. The Red Raiders quickly went out in front of WVU 14-0, but the Mountaineers responded quickly to make it 14-7 with 4:21 left in the first quarter and the fans in gold and blue figured the team was about to get on track.
Didn’t happen. Texas Tech scored the next 35 points to lead 49-7 before West Virginia added a touchdown late in the fourth period. The loss, specifically the magnitude of the loss, has left Mountaineer nation collectively shaking their heads, wondering what the heck happened. After all, the Mountaineers had just gone to Austin and beat the Longhorns, they were ranked in the top five, so a win in Lubbock seemed reasonable, not a lock at all, but attainable. Certainly, no one expected a 35-point blowout loss.
Almost everyone, national media included, had been looking at WVU to see how they did in Austin last week. That was the game that would provide the answer to the question, is West Virginia for real? We now know the Texas game did not provide that answer at all. Oklahoma was pummeling the Longhorns 63-21 in the game preceding WVU-Texas Tech on ABC and that served notice that a close win over Texas the week before was not the quality win everyone thought it was.
West Virginia’s 70-63 win over Baylor also took a step back in significance last Saturday as the Bears, who torched WVU’s defense for nine touchdowns, could score just three in a 49-21 loss to TCU. Granted, using comparative scores to draw any solid conclusions is not recommended, but it is hard to ignore just the same.
Looking ahead, Oklahoma went to Lubbock last week and beat Tech 41-20. WVU’s opponent this week, Kansas State, went to Norman on September 22 and beat the Sooners 24-19. If comparative scoring is a useful tool, the indicators aren’t good for the rest of the WVU season, based on those two examples. Extrapolate the Big 12 results so far this season and it is easy to see a scenario where the Mountaineers could be fortunate to win just two more games. At least that is what the doom and gloomers are saying.
Perhaps a better way to look at it is that WVU still has the home field against K State, TCU and Oklahoma and the ability to get right back in the Big 12 title hunt and a BCS bowl with wins over those strong teams. That result will require a win over the KSU Wildcats this Saturday night in Morgantown on Fox TV.
Much of the blame for Saturday’s debacle has been heaped upon the defense and, at first glance, that is easy to understand. Opposing receivers are finding wide-open seams in the Mountaineer secondary at will, making every quarterback we face look great. The worst part is that it is the same areas game after game that are being exploited. It’s maddening as a fan to watch opponents that wide open. This new defensive staff has to come up with a way to get defenders into those seams.
That said, the offense really laid an egg last Saturday. Geno Smith was off (29-55, 295 yards) in windy conditions. He missed some throws and his normally sure handed receivers had some drops. Make no mistake though, Texas Tech had as much to do with those numbers as the elements, because the WVU receivers were often very well covered. Meanwhile, the defense actually did make some stops giving the offense several opportunities that were squandered.
Suffice it to say if any other team can do that to the WVU offense, the result will be a loss. Kansas State is a defensive minded team that WVU will need to have its weapons ready for.