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3 Keys to Victory: Smart Play Should Allow WVU Football to Snap Losing Streak to Texas Tech



WVU Football lOL Ja'Quay Hubbard with flag

Neal Brown and his WVU football team are coming off arguably the program’s biggest win in years. Beating Pitt in the Backyard Brawl offered fans a sense of jubilation they haven’t experienced in a long time.

But it’s now time for the Mountaineers to turn the page and move on to the next challenge. That challenge is Texas Tech and an opponent Brown has never been able to beat since arriving in Morgantown. The 2023 Mountaineers have been better than the 2023 Red Raiders to this point, but what’s happened in out of conference play won’t matter if WVU starts out behind in the Big 12.

What does West Virginia need to do to claim its first win over Texas Tech since 2018 and continue proving critics wrong?

Get to the Quarterback

The WVU defense played with their hair on fire and made Pitt quarterback Phil Jurkovec’s life miserable last Saturday night. The plan to get to the quarterback resulted in three interceptions and a big win aided by the defense creating turnovers.

Some could argue Jurkovec showed he is simply too prone to mistakes to be a high level quarterback, but the defense stills deserves credit for dong exactly what needed to be done. That same strategy is the winning recipe against Texas Tech.

WVU DB Beanie Bishop Blasts Pitt QB Phil Jurkovec, Calls Him Bad at His Job

Despite a 1-2 record, Texas Tech quarterback Tyler Shough has actually played relatively well, but he has shown a propensity to throwing picks too. As is often the case, the Red Raiders struggles can be directly connected to their quarterback not taking care of the football.

In fact, Texas Tech’s season would look completely different if their 38-30 loss to number 13 Oregon was was flipped the other way. Instead, Shough canceled out his three touchdown passes with three costly picks and the Ducks managed to avoid the upset.

After struggling in WVU’s first two games, the West Virginia secondary stepped up and showed it can take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves. Even more importantly, the defensive line made things easier on the secondary by winning the battle of the trenches and making the quarterback sweat all night. If WVU’s defense can do that to Shough, they will have plenty of chances to wreck another game.

WVU Must Play Smart Football

Even in the win over Pitt, there were some errors in judgment that just can’t happen again. Nicco Marchiol admitted to being responsible for a miscommunication that caused a fumble at a critical point in the game. Fortunately for Marchiol, he was let off the hook by Jurkovec, who threw another interception a couple plays later, and Pitt was unable to grab any momentum from the initial turnover.

If it’s Marchiol under center again for West Virginia, he can’t let something like that occur on Saturday, or really at all moving forward. An error like that could swing a game and snatch a win away from the Mountaineers. As stated above, Texas Tech may very well make mistakes of their own. Matching their mistakes with one of your own only cancels out benefiting from what they are doing wong.

Smart football isn’t just referring to the quarterback. For all of his heroics, CJ Donaldson was guilty of a dumb penalty that could cost the team in future games. Donaldson ripped his helmet off to celebrate a touchdown, resulting in a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct call. WVU coaches made it clear they talked to Donaldson and made sure he’s aware that’s unacceptable. Emotions can get to anyone, but losing a game because of something like that would be a tough pill to swallow.

History may lean on the side of the Red Raiders, and oddsmakers are using that trend to favor Texas Tech, but this is a game WVU should win based on how these two teams are playing this season. The rosters are different from the past four years and West Virginia needs to win to show the Backyard Brawl wasn’t an aberration.

Line Keeps Leaning on History, Favoring Texas Tech Over WVU Football

Run, Run and Run Some More

It’s no secret that the West Virginia offense is at its best when it’s running the ball to success. But that will be even more true this week with either a banged up Garrett Greene or an inexperienced Nicco Marchiol under center.

And while it’s usually not too difficult for WVU to get the ground game going, Texas Tech has actually not allowed a 100-yard rusher. Teams have been able to run, but it’s had to come from a collective effort without any big performances. It’s also worth noting the Red Raiders haven’t faced anyone like Donaldson yet either.

Most believe Marchiol will be the starter, and that further emphasizes the need to run. Marchiol, who can scramble some himself, will mean losing the full dual-threat ability of Greene. Marchiol being out there will also mean a reduced playbook, especially in the passing game.

The Mountaineers can’t rely on winning games when their quarterback only throws for 60 yards. So while he will have to pass more effectively against Texas Tech, West Virginia absolutely must get production on the ground or the offense may not be able to provide enough, regardless how well the defense plays.

WVU Football will open up conference play when West Virginia hosts Texas Tech at 3:30 pm ET from Milan Puskar Stadium. The day will be about both the past and present, as former Mountaineers will be inducted into the WVU Sports Hall of Fame that afternoon and then honored during the game.

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