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WVU Defense Faces Another Tempo Challenge in Texas Tech



West Virginia defensive coordinator Jordan Lesley is seeing another stout Big 12 offense on Saturday, but this one is none like the Mountaineers have seen this season.

Texas Tech’s offensive scheme is based around moving quickly, with the Red Raiders rarely needing longer than 15 to 20 seconds in between plays. Substitutions aren’t quite a necessity.

The Red Raiders have ran 522 plays in six games, with their 87 per contest average ranking first in the nation.

“They’re probably the highest tempo team in the league,” Lesley said during Tuesday’s news conference. “The issues are really alignment, assignment and as the game goes on, if you’re thin somewhere, it becomes a number of snaps game more than anything. You really have to be careful with how much you try to do and when you try to do it. Alignment is the key and assignment behind that.”

The Mountaineers will be taking notes from their matchup with Kansas, where the defense had constant trouble getting into formation and allowed 55 points, their highest total since Week 7 of 2019 against Oklahoma.

“It’s always a challenge,” Lesley said. “There’s a reason people do it. It’s tough, especially if they’re moving the ball from hash to hash and if they can get it back to the middle, it can give you some issues. You have to practice it, work it, be aware of it and know that it’s coming.”

In their last game on Oct. 8, the Red Raiders ran 104 plays that gained 527 total yards in a 41-31 loss to Oklahoma State. Texas Tech aims to reach the triple-digit mark on a consistent basis by being effective through the air.

Saturday will mark the fourth Big 12 contest for both teams, but West Virginia has struggled defensively in the first three with giving up yardage, particularly with the pass.

The Red Raiders go into this week ranked second in the FBS with 365 pass yards per game.

“Preparing for tempo is the hardest piece,” Mountaineers head coach Neal Brown said. “With how fast they’re playing, we have to try to get guys into position for the run and pass game. We have to keep them in front and then get them down if they catch it.”

The Red Raiders will possibly have three options at quarterback available this week. Tyler Shough was the starter in the season opener, but sustained an injury and hasn’t played since.

Back-ups Donovan Smith and Behren Morton have both been used regularly in the offense, with Morton, who was the third-string quarterback to start the year, recording 62 pass attempts against Oklahoma State.

Texas Tech first-year head coach Joey McGuire said all three could play, while adding Smith and Morton will both see game action.

“The thing is how you practice and we’re going to do some things differently, because we’ve had some issues with tempo in the past,” Brown said. “It’s been something that’s affected us. You can’t continue to do the same things and expect different results, so we’re going to definitely do some things different [Tuesday] and [Wednesday] in how we practice and prepare our guys.

“We’re going to do some things within the game plan and structure of our defense where there’s not as much movement from side to side.”

With Texas Tech’s offensive strategy, there will be little, if any, time for substitution in the West Virginia defense, mainly unless the Red Raiders do it themselves.

The Mountaineers, while understanding assignments on the field, will have to also be aware of the multiple options the Red Raiders boast at wide receiver, with six different players currently tallying more than 200 yards each.

Texas Tech has posted 34.3 points and 484 yards per contest even while consistently switching quarterbacks.

“As far as getting themselves lined up and communicating the call, there’s not a lot of time to do that,” Lesley said. “Our linebackers and safeties, whether we’re going off of a hand signal or maybe we called four plays in the huddle like an offensive script, they’ll communicate that way. Every person has to know what’s going on, be aware of the tempo and get lined up.”

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