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First Half Scoring Deficit Proves Difference Maker for WVU in 23-20 Loss to Texas Tech

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The WVU offense had its worst first half showing of the season thus far, as the 3-1 Texas Tech Red Raiders held offensive coordinator Gerad Parker’s advancement to just 21 yards in the first quarter and 109 yards in the first half, but West Virginia traded success in the first half for domination in the second.

The Texas Tech offense, lead by senior Henry Colombi, redshirt freshman Donovan Smith, and senior Kaylon Gieger, ran circles around the WVU defense in the first half. Neither side of the WVU ball seemed particularly successful, as WVU defensive coordinator Jordan Lesley’s defense fell prey to the Colombi-lead offense.

The WVU faithful, here for Homecoming, were excited when Sean Mahone nabbed a ball from Gieger for the game’s first turnover. It didn’t take long for the WVU staff to worry though, as Texas Tech held the Mountaineers to just one set of downs before forcing redshirt senior Tyler Sumpter to punt, his first of the night, for 45 yards.

In the next ten plays, Texas Tech drove 58 yards and into the West Virginia end zone for the game’s first score. Smith, the Red Raiders’ rushing quarterback, showed his skills, adding an 11-yard rush to flip the field position. Seven plays later, Tech’s SaRodorick Thompson found the end zone on a one-yard rush. The Red Raiders were up 7-0 with 4:51 remaining in the first quarter.

When the Mountaineer offense took the field, it only took seven plays for Doege’s time in the pocket to be scrutinized and taken advantage of, as TTU’s Myles Price stripped the ball, a fumble recovered by Tech to put the Red Raiders at the WVU 34-yard line. It proved to be a crucial error, as five plays later, Texas Tech’s Thompson reconstructed his first scoring drive for yet another one-yard rushing touchdown. With only eight seconds left in the first quarter, the Red Raiders lead the Mountaineers 14-0.

The West Virginia second quarter belonged to Garrett Greene, as the redshirt freshman snuck the ball for some heads-up football, accounting for five rushes for 34 yards. One of those QB keeps was a 16-yard run right up the middle of the field, as the Tech defense fell for a Leddie Brown hand-off on the opposite sideline. It was followed by another Greene rush, this time for a nine-yard gain. His error came on a 4th and 2, when he elected to try a ball to redshirt junior tight end Mike O’Laughlin, which fell incomplete. It became the first WVU turnover of the night, and a costly one at that; Texas Tech came out cruising down the field on the back of a Colombi to sophomore wide receiver Trey Cleveland pass for a 17-yard gain. WVU’s defense reared its head at that drive, though, as senior defensive tackle Dante Stills registered his first sack of the night. A loss of six yards forced Texas Tech to punt.

WVU got the ball back at its 15-yard line, and O’Laughlin became a force, adding a seven-yard gain to start the drive. Despite three Brown rushes for a combined 11 yards and a pass caught for 12 yards from Doege, the Mountaineer offense still couldn’t get it done. A pancake sack from Tech’s junior nose tackle Jaylon Hutchings sent Doege flying backward, an eight-yard loss on 2nd and 9. It elicited gasps from the 54,090 Mountaineer and Red Raider fans in attendance, and set the WVU offense up to opt instead for a 29-yard Sumpter punt.

When Texas Tech regained possession, Stills added his second sack of the game on Tech’s second down, pushing Colombi back an additional three yards. It didn’t make much of a difference though, as Colombi found junior running back Xavier White for a 13-yard connection to locate the Red Raiders in field goal range. Senior kicker Jonathan Garibay’s 33-yard kick went through the uprights to put the Red Raiders up 17-0 and lead into halftime.

When the Mountaineers emerged from the locker room for the second half, the offense seemed like a different team. Doege fired off a 40-yard pass to redshirt junior wide receiver Sam James, advancing the ball rapidly down the field and inside the Texas Tech red zone.

He followed it on 3rd and 5 with a five-yard connection to redshirt senior wide receiver Isaiah Esdale. Greene came in on 1st and Goal at the four, handing the ball off to Brown, who rushed the remaining yardage into the end zone to put the first West Virginia points on the board. With 11:59 to play in the third quarter, WVU began to steadily close its deficit 17-7. This score is the first touchdown the Mountaineer offense has charted in the second half all season.

Each of the teams’ nose tackles registered a sack, as Akheem Mesidor, the last Mountaineer player to ever wear No. 90, sacked Colombi on third down for a loss of eight yards. The Red Raiders followed it up with a punt, and the Mountaineers were back in possession of the ball, one which the team capitalized on.

Redshirt junior kicker Casey Legg, who up to this game had scored all of WVU’s second half points, added three more with a 36-yard field goal with 5:47 left in the game. His score closed the gap 17-10, just the momentum shift that the Mountaineer offense needed. On its next drive, lead fully by Doege, a six-play drive concluded with Esdale falling forward into the end zone holding a 14-yard pass. With the score tied at 17, the Mountaineer rush was finally back, heading into the final quarter. The Mountaineer defense also held firm, allowing zero Texas Tech points on the board in the third quarter.

Texas Tech regained the ball on its own 33-yard line to begin the fourth quarter, and the team drove down all the way to the West Virginia 11 over the span of six plays. The Red Raiders sent Garibay out again to kick a 29-yard field goal, which fell through the uprights to secure Texas Tech’s second lead of the game.

The WVU offense battled 64 yards back down the field, courtesy of a Doege to Wright Jr. 14-yard pass that placed the Mountaineers at the Texas Tech 12 with a full set of downs. On 3rd and 4 at the Texas Tech six-yard line, Doege tried a pass to Brown in the end zone, but it rolled off his fingers. Legg was sent back out to secure the second tie of the game, which he did successfully from 28 yards out. With four and a half minutes to play in the contest, the score was tied at 20.

It wasn’t for long though, as Texas Tech’s offense moved the ball down the field inside the WVU red zone. It was 4th and 14 for the Red Raiders when they sent Garibay back in to try his third field goal of the night. When his kick went through the uprights with 18 seconds left in the game, he and the Texas Tech Red Raiders dealt Neal Brown’s Mountaineer program its third season loss.

WVU now moves to 2-3, while the Red Raiders advance to 4-1. West Virginia will be back in action next week, when the team travels to Waco, Texas to take on the undefeated Baylor Bears.

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