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Can the Mountaineers Break the Streak? Week 5 vs. Texas Tech

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The Texas Tech portion of WVU head coach Neal Brown’s conference schedule has never been an easy stretch; Brown’s two seasons in Morgantown have produced an 0-2 record against the Red Raiders, but it’s not particularly cause for concern for Mountaineer fans approaching Week 5.

Texas Tech head coach Matt Wells and Brown both began their careers in the 2019 season, and the two have run their respective programs to moderate success since.

Brown’s two seasons have produced shoot-outs against the Red Raiders, 38-17 in 2019 and an even closer 34-27 last season. Although Wells’ Red Raiders have bested WVU the last two meetings, those games have both been outliers for the 4-8 (2019) and 4-6 (2020) team; prior to 2019, the Mountaineers had won the last five straight competitions. Now, in Wells’ third season, Texas Tech’s 3-1 record has nearly reached the win quota four weeks in, and the team is hoping for a third-straight victory against WVU.

A wrench was thrown in the Red Raiders’ playbook at the end of last week, though, when starting junior quarterback Tyler Slough left the loss in Austin, Tx with a broken collarbone. Theoretically, sending a back-up quarterback into Morgantown should bolster excitement for the Mountaineer secondary, which ranks No. 4 in the nation in red zone defense, No. 23 in rushing defense, No. 25 in scoring defense, and No. 36 in total defense.

Unfortunately, Slough left the reins of this Texas Tech beast in the hands of QB2 Henry Colombi. Ordinarily, this switch at the beginning of the game week should give WVU ample time to prepare for a new quarterback, but Colombi’s name is well-known among WVU Football staff.

Last season, when then-Texas Tech QB1 Alan Bowman was injured, Colombi once more stepped into the pocket to take over. His first win? In Lubbock against this Mountaineer staff in 2020. He concluded his junior campaign with 109-166 passing for 1,065 yards and eight touchdowns through the season’s remaining six games.

Colombi is a versatile quarterback, and Mountaineer fans should be worried about his high-tempo advancement style. He notched 22-28 for 169 passing yards and one touchdown in the air, along with a net gain of 44 yards and one touchdown rushing during 2020’s win over WVU.

This year, Brown predicts that he’ll put up similar numbers, but Colombi will be joined by team-leading juniors running back SaRodorick Thompson and wide receiver Erik Ezukanma. The wide out currently leads the Big 12 Conference in receiving yards (406 and one touchdown). Last season’s WVU-TTU game produced a 68 rushing yard-game with one touchdown, while Ezukanma posted four receptions for 47 yards.

“[Texas Tech’s] running backs have done a nice job…” Brown said. “I think the Thompson kid is really good. He’s hurt us two years in a row. Their offensive line, I think, is underrated. They were underrated last year. If you go back and look at those statistics that they’ve had, they’ve done a good job. [Ezukanma] is a big-time player. He’s a great player.”

Through four games, Texas Tech has only outscored opponents by five points, and the spread on this game is a full touchdown in favor of the Mountaineers.

WVU fans are in for a close game. The Mountaineers lead this series 6-4, including 2-2 at Milan Puskar Stadium. Omitting the series’ initial game in 1938, which the Mountaineers won in El Paso, Tx 7-6, the two teams have only battled within the confines of conference play, kicking off the yearly occurrence in 2012. Along with Oct. 2’s Stripe the Stadium event, the home field advantage should be in full force. It’s Homecoming Weekend, and the Mountaineers are looking to perpetuate a seven-game home win stretch, active since the beginning of 2020.

The game will kick-off at 3:35 p.m. on ESPN2.

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