WVU Saved by the Usual Suspects
Texas Tech started hot and showed no signs of slowing down, until Will Grier, Ka’Raun White, and David Sills V.
If you had to describe the Mountaineers performance Saturday, you could compare it to a Looney Tunes episode where Yosemite Sam is just shooting off his gun with no regard. Time after time on Saturday the Mountaineers shot themselves in the foot.
Despite the outcome and results the Mountaineers struggled at multiple facets of the game, but they always say ‘it’s about how you finish. Not how you start.’
Early on if it was not penalties, it was erred throws. If it was not erred throws and misfires, it was missed tackles. It seemed like every time the Mountaineers gave themselves a chance, they ruined it with a penalty or some form of miscommunication. For example, Senior Corner Mike Daniels Jr. made a tough play in the end zone, which would have resulted in a interception for the Mountaineers, but due to a roughing the passer penalty on Senior linebacker Xavier Preston, the play was wiped. What should have been an interception turned out to be a first down for Texas Tech.
What really did not help the Mountaineers, is that they could not stop Texas Tech on third down. The Red Raiders had a noticeable amount of third downs with at least eight yards or more to go, and Texas Tech was four of seven on third down in the first half. And when the Mountaineers felt like they caught a break on defense, Texas Tech made them pay for it. The Red Raiders were in manageable third and fourth downs multiple times. But Texas Tech did make their first fourth down interesting. After lining up to punt on Fourth and short, the Red Raiders ran a fake punt which extended their drive and resulted in seven points. Texas Tech capitalized on the mistakes of the Mountaineers.
Another thing that stood out is the number of carries Justin Crawford had going into halftime. At the end of the first quarter, the running back who has rushed for 100-yards or more in every game this season had only had nine carries as he had his share of struggles as well as the rest of the Mountaineer running backs, but everything was not bad.
While things seemed like they were getting out of hand early, WVU was able to stay in the game with a more balanced attack than the first half. Granted the play-calling was favorable to pass plays, but Offensive Coordinator Jake Spavital and Quarterback Will Grier willed themselves back into the game after Texas Tech scored the first touchdown of the second half. After that WVU’s defense stood taller, making clutch stops, and players on offense made big plays like Senior wide out Ka’Raun White’’s jaw dropping grab in the fourth quarter that made it a six point game. Junior Wide receiver followed up the touchdown with a catch on the two-point conversion to make it a three point game. Then if there was something that for sure kept the Mountaineers around. The amount of penalties the Red Raiders accumulated help keep the Mountaineers in Saturday’s game. Texas Tech had 16 penalties for 159-yards. Those ultimately hurt Texas Tech because they breathed new life into WVU, and kept their drives alive.
The will power and ability to fight was on display, and you saw it out of Grier and White who connected for the Mountaineers two touchdowns in the fourth quarter that would ultimately close the gap and give them the lead. Then there was redshirt Sophomore’s Adam Shuler II sack in the fourth quarter was on third down and resulted in a 15-yard loss, which forced Texas Tech to punt and gave the Mountaineers great field position as they looked to hold on to their lead. Once the Mountaineers defense fought to get the ball back, you saw Spavital’s mindset completely change. He went from pass, pass, pass; to handing it off more to Senior Crawford in order to hold onto the ball and keep it out of Quarterback Nik Shimonek who ripped the WVU defense apart in the first half. It was a great effort all-around to get back in the game. But without the combo of White and Sills performance, to go along with the change of playcalling in the second half, really willed the Mountaineers to victory.