The West Virginia University football team has three games remaining this regular season. And with the Mountaineers limping through a five-game losing streak, the coaches are keeping a keen eye on who is earning the right to receive playing time, and also who is not.
First-year head coach Neal Brown said as much Monday during his time on the weekly Big 12 coaches teleconference.
A week ago, Brown was singing the praises of a defense which had just put on its best performance of the season in a narrow loss at unbeaten Baylor. Fast-forward to Monday and he had nearly the complete opposite sentiment for how WVU’s defense performed in the first half in a 38-17 home loss to Texas Tech.
In the first two quarters Saturday, the Red Raiders rolled through the Mountaineer defense for five touchdowns on their first five possessions and established a lead WVU’s offense, with its inability to consistently put points on the board, could not overcome.
“When you play as poorly as we did defensively, you have to look at all things,” Brown said. “We played as bad of a first half as you can play. We gave up touchdowns the first five drives of the game — I don’t know that I’ve ever been a part of a game that’s like that.”
Texas Tech’s red-zone defense was among the worst in the country prior to Saturday’s game in Morgantown, but leaped up the national rankings as the Mountaineers came away with zero points on four trips inside the TTU 20-yard line, and had another drive stall with no points at the Red Raiders’ 22.
Bowling Green transfer quarterback Jarret Doege, who was elevated to WVU’s backup role last week following the announcement that redshirt junior Jack Allison plans to transfer, took over for starter Austin Kendall late in the third quarter and played all of the fourth quarter. He threw the first touchdown pass of his West Virginia career to fellow debutant Tony Mathis, a true freshman running back. All indications point to Doege continuing to get playing time, but just how much is still to be determined. Brown said everyone, which includes quarterback, is being evaluated.
“We’re evaluating on offense, and we’ll continue to evaluate,” Brown said. “I thought we did some positive things offensively, but we didn’t finish very well. So that has got to be a point of emphasis as we go through the week. I would say everybody and everyone is under evaluation.”
LOOKING AHEAD AT K-STATE
The Mountaineers next chance to end the current losing streak comes Saturday when WVU visits Kansas State (3:30 p.m. ESPN).
The Wildcats (6-3, 3-3 Big 12) were picked to finish ninth out of 10 teams in the Big 12 preseason media poll and find themselves in the middle of the pack after a wild October that saw first-year coach Chris Kleiman’s team bookend the month with losses to Baylor and Texas, but getting an emphatic win against league powerhouse Oklahoma and another against rival Kansas in between.
Brown said he doesn’t pay attention to the preseason polls, and what he has seen out of K-State is a team with experience that has put something together in Kleiman’s first year on the sideline in Manhattan.
“If you look at it, they’re a veteran team,” Brown said.” [On offense] they’ve got six seniors and three juniors, so they’ve got nine starters in their upper class. They’ve played a lot of football. They took some lumps last year, but those guys played a lot of football.”
WAIT AND SEE FOR OKIE STATE
Usually the kickoff time and television plans for the following week are announced by the Big 12 on Monday mornings, but in the case of next week’s game between Oklahoma State and WVU in Morgantown every is going to have to wait.
The league put the Cowboys and Mountaineers into the “six-day window” — which means it is waiting to see this week’s results before deciding when and where on the dial to put Oklahoma State and West Virginia’s meeting. An announcement with that information is expected to come this weekend after all Big 12 games are completed.