Heading into Saturday’s matchup with Texas Tech, West Virginia’s defense was allowing just 248 yards per game.
In the first half alone, the Red Raiders (2-3, 1-3 Big 12) were able to gain 235 yards and score 20 points. During the week, WVU football coach Neal Brown said Texas Tech’s offense would be the fastest his team would see this season. It was that pace, according to Brown, that hurt the Mountaineers (3-2, 2-2) in the first half.
“Defensively we didn’t play well early, we recovered in the second half other than that one drive,” Brown said postgame. “I thought we got tired, their tempo bothered us. That should never be the case, but it was.”
WVU’s defense had just two sacks and six tackles for loss throughout the game. They entered Saturday averaging 9.25 tackles for loss and four sacks per game.
“I thought in the beginning, including myself, we felt sluggish,” senior safety Sean Mahone said. “We weren’t moving around as fast and that tempo got to us. That’s what we practiced all week, but I think we took a little bit for granted.”
Mahone said Tech’s tempo made it difficult for WVU’s defense to get lined up properly.
“When they tempo us and we can’t get lined up, that’s just easy yards for them.”
Those easy yards continued to add up, as the Red Raiders ran for 179 yards on the day, the second-most allowed by WVU this season.
“It was going to be a tough game for us to win giving up 180 yards rushing,” Brown said.
Texas Tech made a change prior to this game, naming Utah State transfer Henry Colombi as the starting quarterback. During the week, WVU’s defensive staff talked about how Colombi’s dual-threat ability running the ball would add another layer to TTU’s offense.
Colombi completed 22-28 passes for 169 yards and a touchdown and ran for 40 yards and another score. WVU senior linebacker Tony Fields was ejected from the game in the first quarter for targeting.
“That hurt us a little bit because the thing about Tony is he’s fast,” Mahone said. “The quarterback kept scrambling and that hurt us later on.”
WVU’s defense settled in after halftime, allowing just 113 yards and seven points in the second half, but by then the damage had been done. TTU scored a defensive touchdown in the fourth quarter and won the game 34-27.
In two losses this season, WVU allowed an average of 191 yards. In three victories they allowed an average of just 54.7 yards.
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