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Game Preview: WVU vs. Texas Tech

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Grier has accounted for 18 total touchdowns.

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Series: WVU 4-2

Last meeting: 2016: WVU 48 Texas Tech 17

Television: 12 p.m. ESPNU, Mike Couzens (play-by-play), John Congemi (analyst)


After narrow misses in the first two attempts, West Virginia (3-2, 1-1) will have another attempt to knock off a ranked opponent when No. 24 Texas Tech (4-1, 1-1) travels to Morgantown Saturday.

The Mountaineers will be looking to rebound after its second 31-24 loss this season, this time to a top ten TCU team on the road. West Virginia rolled up over 500 yards of offense and held the Horned Frogs to a season low in rushing yards but were unable to come out with the win on the road.

This week West Virginia will return home to square off against a Texas Tech program that the Mountaineers have beaten three consecutive times after losing the first two games in the series. Head coach Dana Holgorsen has amassed a career 49-33 record in his seven seasons.

The Mountaineers will be looking to snap a nine-game losing streak to ranked opponents that dates back to the 2014 season and extends to losing 16 of the last 18 in such games.

Head coach Kliff Kingsbury is in his fifth season atop the Red Raiders football program and the one-time Texas Tech quarterback has amassed a career record of 27-27 during that span.

There are obvious connections between the two programs. West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen coached at Texas Tech from 2000-07 serving as the inside wide receivers coach before being elevated to co-offensive coordinator. The head coach also gave Kingsbury his first coaching opportunity when he moved to Houston, where the two actually were roommates at the time.

Holgorsen currently has a 3-1 record against Kingsbury during his tenure and is 3-2 against the Red Raiders overall since joining the league in 2012.

This season the Red Raiders are off to their first 4-1 start since the 2013 campaign where the program won the first seven of the year and was the last time the program was in the AP Top 25.

The Texas Tech offense is again one of the nation’s best, rolling up 549.8 yards and 46.8 points per game marks that place them seventh and second nationally. Senior quarterback Nic Shimonek, a former Iowa transfer, has performed well in his first season as the starter completing close to 72-percent of his passes while throwing for 1,811 yards and 14 touchdowns with only three interceptions.

Shimonek has a number of talented wide receivers to dispense the ball to as well with junior Keke Coutee leading the way with 39 catches for 586 yards and six touchdowns, while senior Cameron Batson (27 catches, 257 yards, a touchdown), senior Dylan Cantrell (22 catches, 322 yards and 3 touchdowns), and senior Derrick Willies (16 catches, 285 yards and 3 touchdowns) all playing major roles as well.

The Texas Tech offense is attempting to run the ball more in the past and while senior running back Justin Stockton is still used in the passing game with 17 catches for 164 yards and a score; he also leads the team on the ground as well with 385 yards and three touchdowns. Junior Desmond Nisby serves as another option in the backfield and as already scored six touchdowns as well as 196 yards.

Against Kansas a week ago, Texas Tech rushed for 313 yards, the most the program has since the 2012 season and the total was only the second time since 2000 that the program finished a game with more rushing yards than passing yards in a game.

One big difference this season is the Red Raiders have shown improvement on the defensive side under coordinator David Gibbs during his third year with the program. Through five games, Texas Tech is giving up 15.7 points less and 115 yards fewer per game than the unit did during 2016.

The Red Raiders are allowing 27.8 points and 437 yards per contest this season and have forced a total of 14 turnovers as the coaching staff pursued a number of junior college players to help the turnaround.

Led by their linebackers sophomore Jordyn Brooks and junior Dakota Allen, each of which have 39 tackles, the Texas Tech defense has already shut out opponents in six quarters after doing it only seven times throughout all of the 2016 campaign. A major difference from a season ago.

Kickoff is set for high noon and the game will be televised by ESPNU.

West Virginia Depth Chart:

OFFENSE:

QB: 7 Will Grier, (r-Jr.), 11 Chris Chugunov, (r-So.)

RB: 25 Justin Crawford, (Sr.), 4 Kennedy McKoy, (So.), 32 Martell Pettaway, (So.)

HB: 28 Elijah Wellman, (r-Sr.), 81 Trevon Wesco, (r-Jr.)

X WR: 13 David Sills, V, (Jr.), 8 Marcus Simms (So.)

Y/H WR: 12 Gary Jennings, Jr., (Jr.), 85 Ricky Rogers, (r-Jr.)

Z WR: 2 Ka'Raun White, (r-Sr.), 10 Reggie Roberson, Jr., (Fr.)

LT: 55 Yodny Cajuste, (r-Jr.), 72 Kelby Wickline, (r-So.)

LG: 62 Kyle Bosch, (r-Sr.), 56 Grant Lingafelter (r-Sr.)

C: 79 Matt Jones, (r-So.), 58 Ray Raulerson, (r-Jr.)

RG: 73 Josh Sills, (r-Fr.), 65 Isaiah Hardy (Jr.)

RT: 53 Colton McKivitz, (r-So.), 72 Kelby Wickline, (r-So.)

DEFENSE:

DE: 88 Adam Shuler, (r-So.), 92 Jon Lewis, (r-Sr.)

NT: 49 Lamonte McDougle (Fr.), 99 Xavier Pegues, (r-Sr.),

DE: 46 Reese Donahue, (So.), 93 Ezekiel Rose, (Jr.)

SAM LB: 5 Xavier Preston, (Sr.), 33 Quondarius Qualls (Jr.)

MIKE LB: 3 Al-Rasheed Benton, (r-Sr.), 45 Adam Hensley (So.)

WILL LB: 11 David Long, Jr. (r-So.), 10 Dylan Tonkery, (r-Fr.)

SPUR: 8 Kyzir White, (Sr.), 18 Marvin Gross, Jr., (r-Sr.)

BS: 16 Toyous Avery, (r-Jr.), 1 Derrek Pitts, Jr., (Fr.)

FS: 6 Dravon Askew-Henry, (r-Jr.), 9 Jovanni Stewart, (So.)

LCB: 2 Kenny Robinson, (Fr.), 19 Elijah Battle, (Sr.)

RCB: 4 Mike Daniels, Jr., (Sr.), 24 Hakeem Bailey, (r-So.)

SPECIAL TEAMS:

K: 48 Mike Molina, (r-Sr.), 30 Evan Staley (r-Fr.)

P: 15 Billy Kinney, (r-Jr.), 43 Luke Hogan, (r-Fr.)

LS: 52 Nick Meadows, (r-Sr.), 64 Rex Sunahara, (r-So.)

H: 15 Billy Kinney, (r-Jr.), 43 Luke Hogan, (r-Fr.)

KO: 30 Evan Staley, (r-Fr.), 43 Luke Hogan, (r-Fr.)

PR: 8 Marcus Simms (So.), 13 David Sills, V, (Jr.)

KOR: 8 Marcus Simms (So.) 12 Gary Jennings, Jr., (Jr.)

NOTES:

--This year marks the 126th year of West Virginia football with the Mountaineers currently sitting in 14th place all-time in wins in college football.

--WVU is 23-24 in Big 12 Conference Games, 12-11 at home. Head Coach Dana Holgorsen is 3-2 all-time against Texas Tech and 3-1 against Kingsbury. Overall, West Virginia is 171-63-4 since Milan Puskar Stadium opened for the start of the 1980 season.

--Since 2000, West Virginia is 110-14 when scoring more than 30 points and 56-4 when scoring more than 40 points in a game. West Virginia has won 14 straight games when scoring 30 points or more.

--The Mountaineers are 83-12 since 2002 when winning the turnover battle.

--West Virginia is ranked third nationally in total offense with 577.4 yards per game. The offense has had 19 scoring drives of 70 yards or more, with 18 of those resulting in touchdowns.

--In the Holgorsen era, WVU has produced 78 games with 300 or more yards, 60 games with 400 or more yards, 33 games with more than 500 yards and 17 with more than 600 yards.

--Under Holgorsen West Virginia has scored 30 or more points in 54 games, 40 or more points in 28 games, 50 or more points in 10 games and 60 or more points three times.

--The 2017 roster consists of 121 players from 20 different states.

--Coaching staff assignments: AHC/DC/LB Tony Gibson (field), OC/QB Jake Spavital (field), CB Doug Belk (press box), WR Tyron Carrier (field), S Matt Caponi (field), RB Tony Dews (field), LB/ST Mark Scott (press box), DL Bruce Tall (press box), OL Joe Wickline (field)

--There are 33 Mountaineers who have seen their first WVU action during the 2017 season: Hakeem Bailey (CB), Chase Behrndt (OL), Dante Bonamico (S), Druw Bowen (WR), Tevin Bush (RB), Mitch Chugunov (WR), Elijah Drummond (FB), Brendan Ferns (LB), Will Grier (QB), Isaiah Hardy (OL), Jalen Harvey (DL), Osman Kamara (S), Jake Long (CB), Sean Mahone (CB), Dominique Maiden (WR), Alejando Marenco III (WR), Lamonte McDougle (DL), Quondarius Qualls (LB), Xavier Pegues (DL) Derrek Pitts Jr. (S), Jeffery Pooler (DL), Ray Raulerson (OL), Reggie Roberson Jr (WR), Kenny Robinson (CB), Ezekiel Rose (DL), Josh Sills (OL), Evan Staley (K), Darius Stills (DL), Rex Sunahara (LS), Dylan Tonkery (LB), Kelby Wickline (OL), Corey Winfield (CB) and Jonn Young (P).

--West Virginia has run a total of 405 plays with 199 coming on the ground and 206 through the air. The rushing game has totaled 1,066 yards for an average of 5.4 per carry and 12 touchdowns. The passing attack has totaled 1,821 yards, 17 touchdowns and an average of 14.1 per completion.

--The Mountaineers have gained 58 first downs via the run and 72 with the pass. West Virginia has averaged 213.2 yards per game on the ground and 364.2 in the air for a total of 577.4 yards per game.

Injuries/Suspensions: Redshirt freshman linebacker Brendan Ferns will miss the remainder of the 2017 season after undergoing shoulder surgery.

Redshirts: Six true freshmen played in the season opener against Virginia Tech in Tevin Bush (RB), Lamonte McDougle (DL), Derrek Pitts Jr. (S), Reggie Roberson Jr. (WR), Kenny Robinson (CB) and Darius Stills (DL).

--A total of fourteen redshirt freshmen have seen action for the Mountaineers in 2017: Chase Behrndt (OL), Dante Bonamico (S), Druw Bowen (WR), Mitch Chugunov (WR), Elijah Drummond (HB), Brendan Ferns (LB), Osman Kamara (S), Jake Long (CB), Sean Mahone (CB), Jefferey Pooler (DL), Josh Sills (OL), Evan Staley (K), Dylan Tonkery (LB), and Jonn Young (P).

--Others that have played and will not redshirt: Junior offensive lineman Isaiah Hardy, Junior wide receiver Dominique Maiden

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West Virginia will need to continue to be balanced.

POINTS TO CLICK:

--Make the Red Raiders unbalanced. Texas Tech is attempting to run the football more this season averaging 163.2 yards per game, although 313 of that came a week ago against Kansas. West Virginia has had success against the Red Raiders high-powered offensive attack in recent years and the defense will have to stop the run in order to keep the offense from being balanced. If the Red Raiders are able to establish the run, it could make for a long day against the Mountaineers defense which has struggled at times against offenses that have been able to do both effectively.

--Do you on offense. West Virginia has the third best offense nationally and while the Red Raiders have improved on defense are still surrendering 437 yards and 27.8 points per game. The Mountaineers have been one of the most balanced offenses in the nation striking up a near even mix between run and pass plays through five games and as long as they continue to do what they’ve done best they should still continue to have success against even an improved Red Raiders unit.

--Win third down. For the second week in a row, West Virginia is going against one of the nation’s better offensive units when it comes to converting third downs into first downs. The Red Raiders are 28-63, or 44-percent, on the season and it’s been a big reason for the offenses success ranking inside the top 40 nationally. Meanwhile the Texas Tech defense is holding opponents to 29-76 or 38-percent on the season a stark improvement from a season ago. Winning third down will be a key to getting out with a win and the early downs will play a role in putting either team in position for success.

--No busts. West Virginia has had issues with busts at times this season and with an offense as explosive as Texas Tech, the Mountaineers can’t afford to allow cheap scores. A week ago, TCU managed two big plays – none of which were necessarily major busts – but still turned the game in favor of the Horned Frogs. West Virginia is going to have to play sound football on the defensive side.

--Special teams. This one really doesn’t need any further explanation. Special teams gaffes have arguably cost the Mountaineers two games this season and at worst haven’t helped things. A week after a fumbled punt, a missed field goal and yet another kickoff out of bounds – the unit is under the microscope to perform well at home against the Red Raiders. If West Virginia wants to win these top 25 matchups, they have to get better play in the third phase of the game.

--Turnovers. West Virginia is 83-12 since 2002 when winning the turnover battle which is a very telling sign. The Mountaineers will need to take care of the football if they want to win this game as the Red Raiders are among the nation’s leaders in turnover margin. Through five games, the Texas Tech defense has forced 14 total turnovers, one more than the total number from all of last season.

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