With Texas Tech headed to Morgantown on Saturday, the comparisons were flying Monday like the ball usually does with these teams.
Whereas WVU was No. 20 and Tech unranked when they met last season, it’s the Red Raiders that are No. 24 and the Mountaineers unranked this season.
While Texas Tech pummeled Kansas this past Saturday 65-19 in Lawrence, West Virginia won the week prior at the same site 56-34.
While KU’s Khalil Herbert had 291 rushing yards against WVU, he had but 65 against Tech. Yet in total defense the teams are joined at the hip. Tech is No. 104 nationally, while WVU is No. 105.
Oh, and in both teams’ forte, passing offense? Tech is No. 4 nationally, averaging 386.6 yards a game, while WVU is No. 6 at 364.2 yards. Both quarterbacks are in the top six nationally, with Tech’s Nic Shimonek at No. 3 (362.2) and West Virginia’s Will Grier at No. 6 (348).
Yet a little history was being talked about Monday as well.
See, of late anyway, West Virginia has had Tech’s number.
Last year in Lubbock, Texas, the Mountaineers scorched the Red Raiders by 48-17. Skyler Howard had 318 passing yards on 21 of 31 passing and 89 rushing yards. Rushel Shell had 104 ground yards. Kennedy McKoy added 99.
It was a WVU party. A Texas hoedown for the Mountaineers. And remember, Tech had the services of Patrick Mahomes, the No. 10 overall NFL draft pick, scooped up by the Kansas City Chiefs. He had 305 passing yards, but no help. The Red Raiders had 34 rushing yards on 27 carries. Da’Leon Ward led the team with 27 yards. Yes, 27.
“I can’t give you that information,” said WVU’s Dana Holgorsen on Monday. “If I do it would make it more challenging to do the same stuff, but I give [Mountaineer defensive coordinator] Tony Gibson a lot of credit. [Tech coach] Kliff [Kingsbury] is at good as there is in college football at moving the ball and scoring points.
“We’ve had good defensive players that have been able to make plays the last couple of years. Hopefully we can do the same this Saturday. It’s going to be every bit as challenging.”
Probably moreso. Against Kansas, the Red Raiders rushed for 313 yards with Justin Stockton accounting for 161 of that and Desmond Nisby punching in four scores. It was the most rushing yards for the team since 2012 when it had 325 against New Mexico.
“They’re concentrating on it more,” Holgorsen said. “Their [rushing] numbers are up. Their runs per game are up. Their yards per rush are way up. It looks like something they’re focusing on. It’s concerning because they do such a good job throwing the ball and then, you add that, it’s more challenging.”
But back to WVU’s run. The Mountaineers ended a four-game losing streak in 2015 by beating Tech in Morgantown 31-26. Wendell Smallwood had 163 yards in that game.
The Red Raiders, in fact, haven’t won in the series (led 4-2 by WVU) since the Mountaineers’ 4-8 season of 2013.
Kingsbury was asked about it on Monday’s Big 12 teleconference call. Has it been West Virginia’s schemes? Has it been the quality of their players?
“It’s a combination of both,” Kingsbury said. “They’ve had a good run of some really talented players that are now at the next level. Coach Gibson does a great job of scheming people up and keeping you on your heels by mixing up coverages.”
West Virginia is now No. 68 nationally in pass efficiency defense, although No. 109 against the run, allowing an average of 214.8.
Remember, however, last season Texas Tech had but 34 total rushing yards against WVU.
Perhaps that’s why Kingsbury was asked if the Mountaineers will be a litmus test for his team’s rushing prowess.
“We’ve played some pretty decent teams,” he replied. “Oklahoma State, Houston, Arizona State are some quality teams. But this is a team we’ve struggled with, no doubt. They’ve gotten after us the last couple of years and we need to play better.
“That’s what it comes down to. Otherwise we’ll go over there and get embarrassed. We’ve been working on it and hopefully we can be more competitive this season.”
The game will begin at noon Saturday and be shown on ESPNU.