October 19, 2021

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Red Raiders head to Morgantown focused on winning the run game

Texas Tech vs. West Virginia

When: 2:30 p.m. on Saturday at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown, W. Va.

Records: Texas Tech (3-1, 0-1), West Virginia (2-2, 0-1)

Last Meeting: Texas Tech defeated West Virginia 34-27 in Lubbock on Oct. 24, 2020

TV: ESPN2

What’s at stake?

Texas Tech needs to level the roller coaster. Optimism shot through the roof after three straight wins to open the season. All the joy that surrounded the start was burned to the ground in a 70-35 pummeling by Texas last week. This week, Texas Tech can show that they have the grit to be a competitive team or that their 3-0 start was merely inflated with two wins over inferior opponents.

West Virginia needs to show that their nail-biter against Oklahoma last week wasn’t a fluke. The Sooners have looked less than inspiring to start the 2021 season, but playing a 16-13 game in Norman says a lot about the Mountaineers. Their defense is experienced and talented. Their run game is experienced, too. Their receiving corps is deep. On paper, it looks like the Mountaineers should win this game. They need to show that they can finish the job.

When Texas Tech has the football

The Red Raiders started the year with a new and impressive backfield. Tyler Shough was the quarterback who was going to lead the program’s offense back to its glory days. Tahj Brooks was the overachieving running back who played a starter role seamlessly. Now, with both out due to injury, Texas Tech brings back the same backfield that helped lead them to a 4-6 record last year.

Henry Colombi started four games last year for the Red Raiders and will get the nod again in this game. Colombi came into the Texas game when Shough went down and threw a very impressive game. He connected on 17-of-23 passes, totaling 324 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception. As difficult as it is to gauge anything from a game where the Red Raiders were trailing so much, Colombi’s arm looked much improved on deep passes.

SaRodorick Thompson is accustomed to handling a bulk of the carries for this offense, but he’s slowly been easing himself back this year after shoulder surgery this offseason. He’s taken 20 rushing attempts for just 65 yards in 2021. Now, he’ll have to find his rhythm against a West Virginia defense that has allowed only a single rushing touchdown this season. The Mountaineers’ defensive line is quick and disruptive, and a Texas Tech offensive line that has struggled most of this season will have to eliminate that pressure.

When West Virginia has the football

The quarterback situation is obviously the most notable question facing this West Virginia offense. Jarret Doege appears to have secured the starting job but hasn’t produced the results to have much security. Doege has thrown six touchdowns to four interceptions early into this season. Meanwhile, the Mountaineers have seemed to find success with the speedy Garrett Greene. The freshman only has 76 passing yards to his name this season but has rushed for 141 yards and three touchdowns already. Texas Tech needs a game plan for both quarterbacks, as they will certainly see each of them.

West Virginia has once again turned to Leddie Brown for success in the run game. Brown has picked up 321 yards and five touchdowns on the ground this season. But outside of Brown, West Virginia has yet to find their rhythm in the run game. The Mountaineers are averaging just 121.8 rushing yards per game and place dead last in the Big 12 in total rushing yards. Perhaps the Texas Tech offense can create separation if their defense forces the Mountaineers to establish the run game.

Prediction

I think Texas Tech is the better team in this game. The quarterback situation in Morgantown is a mess and I don’t trust the Mountaineers to find success in the air. But with that said, I’m still picking West Virginia to win this one. There were enormous gaps in the Texas Tech defense last week, as is usually the case when your opponent scores 70 points. Colombi is going to need some time to adjust to Sonny Cumbie’s offense, and I still don’t know if Thompson is back to himself. I think Texas Tech can find success with the new changes, but it’ll be difficult to do so in the first week and on the road. Mountaineers in a close one.

Score: West Virginia 34, Texas Tech 27

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Find more Texas Tech coverage from The Dallas Morning News here.

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