For the third time in four conference games, the West Virginia Mountaineers will play against a quarterback making his first career college start.
In their first Big 12 games this season, the Mountaineers (3-1, 2-1 Big 12) faced Oklahoma State true freshman Shane Illingworth, starting in place of an injured Spencer Sanders. Just last week it was Kansas sophomore Miles Kendrick, who was the third Jayhawks quarterback to start a game this season. This week it is Texas Tech’s Henry Colombi, who will start in place of Alan Bowman, the Red Raiders’ usual starter.
“We have just played good or okay at quarterback,” Texas Tech head coach Matt Wells said Monday. “I thought the change to Henry maybe gives us the opportunity right now to play better on offense. It’s not Alan’s fault, he’s not the one to blame.”
Colombi, a transfer from Utah State, has played in each of the Red Raiders’ last two games this season. He came in for an injured Bowman early in a game against Kansas State on Oct. 3 and completed 30-42 passes for 244 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
He also entered TTU’s most recent game against Iowa State in the fourth quarter after Bowman had been pulled. The Red Raiders were trailing 31-7 at the time and Colombi completed 10-12 passes for 115 yards and one touchdown.
Wells said Colombi will have to focus on his consistency as he becomes the new starter.
“The key, now that he’s become the starter, for Henry is consistency,” Well said. “The ability to make an in-game adjustment, take what coach [David] Yost is coaching him on the headset in between series and move it to the next series and continue to play at a high level. I think that’s the key to any quarterback, but certainly for a guy in his first start.”
Colombi, a redshirt-junior, played in 13 games during his three seasons at Utah State but never started. He completed 53-69 passes for 460 yards with two touchdowns and an interception while with the Aggies.
He said that starting a game is different than coming in later because he will be able to get a better feel for the game early on.
“At the end of the day, football is football, but when you coming into a later situation you don’t really have a feel for the game yet,” Colombi said. “It’s different when you’re out there, you pick up on tendencies and stuff like that.”
West Virginia head coach Neal Brown said WVU’s staff has gone back to Colombi’s film at Utah State, trying to get the full picture on him.
“One of our GA’s went back during the bye week and pulled all that, so we’ve seen that,” Brown said. “I think he’s more than capable, they obviously like him…If you look at it, really their scoring drives over the last two games have been led by him.”
The Mountaineers have fared well in their other games against first-time starters this season. Despite losing to Oklahoma State, WVU held Illingworth to 15-21 passing for 139 yards and an interception. Last week the team limited Kendrick to 14-23 passing for 95 yards, one touchdown and two picks in the win.
WVU co-defensive coordinator Jahmile Addae said it’s the defense’s job to make playing quarterback tough for their opponent.
“It’s a tough position to play, whether you’re a freshman or you’re a senior,” Addae said. “There’s some serious teaching and some serious bumps and bruises you have to take along the way in order to become really elite there. We like to hope that we can add to that for this kid and make some things difficult for him.”
West Virginia and Texas Tech will kick off at 5:30 p.m. EST on Saturday from Lubbock, Texas. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2.