WVU grinds out 31-26 win over Texas Tech
West Virginia rushed for 300-yards and snapped a four-game losing streak in the process defeating Texas Tech 31-26 in front of 54,932 Saturday afternoon.
West Virginia put together an impressive performance on the ground against the Red Raiders defense including churning off the final 6:43 of the game by rushing the football and keeping the ball away from the Red Raiders offense after they cut the lead to five points.
The win moves the Mountaineers to 4-4 on the season and 1-4 in Big 12 Conference play after a month of October where they fell to four consecutive ranked teams.
The Mountaineers were led by Wendell Smallwood, who accounted for 163 rushing yards and a touchdown, as well as Rushel Shell, who eclipsed the 100-yard mark for the first time this season rushing for 111 yards and two scores. Overall, the offense accounted for 449 yards of total offense with quarterback Skyler Howard completing 12 of his 23 passes for 149 yards and two interceptions, while adding a score on the ground.
Texas Tech was led by Patrick Mahomes who tossed for 196 yards a three touchdowns, along with an interception, while rushing for 73 more yards creating havoc by extending plays. DeAndre Washington rushed for a total of 102 yards and had 64 yards receiving and a score as the Mountaineers defense held the Red Raiders to 378 total yards and forced a turnover.
West Virginia was without the services of starting left tackle Yodny Cajuste and cornerback Terrell Chestnut due to injury, while safety Jeremy Tyler did not suit up due to a death in the family. To compensate on the offensive line, the Mountaineers bumped Marquis Lucas to left tackle from his usual spot on the opposite side, while sliding Adam Pankey back inside to left guard, the familiar Tyler Orlosky started at center, with Kyle Bosch at right guard and finally Marcell Lazard at right tackle.
After winning the toss, West Virginia elected to take the football to start and would move the football into Red Raiders territory but on a 4th and 1 at the 39-yard line the Mountaineers would convert, but in a sequence that was representative of the recent struggles a penalty on the play backed the offense up and forced a punt that would pin Texas Tech at their own four-yard line.
After a three and out, West Virginia would take over at the Red Raiders 36-yard line. It would take only five plays for Rushel Shell to get into the end zone on a five-yard run to give the Mountaineers their first lead since the Maryland game at 7-0 with 9:45 left on the first quarter clock.
The Red Raiders would use a 10-play 66-yard drive to even the score up at 7-all with a touchdown pass from Mahomes to Grant on a 3rd and 9 from the ten yard line. On the play, the Mountaineers had multiple opportunities to get Mahomes on the ground but a missed sack and then Grant getting free in the back end from the coverage allowed the Red Raiders to seize back momentum.
West Virginia would proceed go three and out and a 32-yard punt set the Red Raider up at the 36-yard line with 4:04 remaining in the first quarter but the defense would hold itself giving the football back to the Mountaineers deep in their own territory.
It wouldn't matter for the West Virginia offense as the would covert three separate third down opportunities, including an impressive 30-yard catch and run by Ka'Raun White and a 14-yard pass to Jordan Thompson on 3rd and 14 from the Texas Tech 30. Smallwood would cap off the 11-play, 91-yard drive with a 16-yard touchdown run untouched down the left side to put the Mountaineers back out front 14-7 with 13:29 left in the first half.
The Red Raiders would move the football 53-yards on the next drive to the West Virginia 24-yard line as Mahomes scrambling ability would give the Mountaineers defense issues both by extending plays and cutting it up field. But on fourth and six, Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury elected to roll the dice and go for it instead of kicking a field goal and a designed screen play went off the hands of the wide receiver giving the football back to the Mountaineers offense.
West Virginia would quickly move the ball into the Texas Tech red zone on the backs of a Shell 43-yard run but the offense would stall forcing Josh Lambert to come on and attempt a 35-yard field goal attempt. However, that kick would miss and the score would remain at 14-7 with 7:37 left in the half.
The Red Raiders would continue to move the football on the West Virginia defense with a 3rd and 6 from the 18-yard line of the Mountaineers, however the defense would rise up again this time with an interception from Daryl Worley giving the football back to the offense. But that unit would be unable to generate much and a poor punt by O'Toole flipped the pressure back to the defense with the drive starting at the West Virginia 38-yard line.
This time the defense could not hold as the Red Raiders would put the ball into the end zone on third and long for the second time in the red zone tying the game up at 14-all with only 35-seconds on the clock. The Mountaineers had the Red Raiders in a third and eight situation, but were unable to prevent Mahomes from dropping a pass into Reginald Davis in the left corner of the end zone.
West Virginia would get a solid return by Jovon Durante to set them up at the 37-yard line and the offense would travel 41-yards in five plays to set up a 39-yard field goal by Lambert to give the Mountaineers a 17-14 lead entering the halftime break.
However, the opportunity was there for more as the Mountaineers were plagued by many of the same issues that had haunted them since Big 12 Conference play began with drops, over throws and untimely penalties that halted scoring opportunities.
The Red Raiders would open the second half moving the football to the West Virginia 31-yard line, but the Mountaineers would finally get to Mahomes and bring him to the turf on third down for a sack forcing a punt out of Texas Tech. That ball would pin the Mountaineers at their own one-yard line to start their first possession of the second half.
The offense would move the ball out of its own end but Howard would toss an interception on a pass that was well behind the wide receiver to give the Red Raiders the football at the West Virginia 46-yard line and they would quickly move the football and convert on a 33-yard field goal to even the game.
The Mountaineers would re-take the lead following a 10-play, 65-yard drive capped off by the second Rushel Shell touchdown of the day. On the play, Shell would eclipse the 100-yard mark for the first time in the 2015 season and give the Mountaineers a 24-17 advantage with 4:40 left in the third quarter.
After forcing a stop, West Virginia got the football back but Howard's pass was tipped into the air and fell into the arms of a Texas Tech defender to set the Red Raiders up inside the Mountaineers 20-yard line. But on third down from the five, Noble Nwachukwu was able to wrap Mahomes up and force a 27-yard field goal attempt that would cut the lead to 24-20.
But the Mountaineers continued to pound the ball on the ground running the ball seven of eight plays to cover a total of 59-yards when Howard waltzed into the end zone to give West Virginia its largest lead of the day at 31-20 with 11:28 remaining on the clock.
Texas Tech would convert two fourth downs on the next possession but put the ball into the end zone on a Mahomes pass to Washington to cut the lead to 31-26, but the West Virginia defense would hold on the two-point conversion play keeping the game at a distance for the Mountaineers.
The Mountaineers would take over with 6:47 remaining in the game and West Virginia was able to bleed the remainder of the clock to scores a 31-26 victory over the Red Raiders. On the drive, West Virginia used 16-plays to travel 63-yards and was aided by two critical penalties. The final penalty came on a third down at the one-yard line giving the Mountaineers a first down and allowing them to run out the remainder of the clock.
The Mountaineers will remain at home next weekend for a match up with Texas. The game time has yet to be determined for the Big 12 Conference battle.