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LUBBOCK (AP) – The last time West Virginia came to play at Texas Tech as a ranked team, the Mountaineers got trounced by 35 points.
On Saturday, the Red Raiders will aim for a repeat of 2012, when they toppled the fifth-ranked Mountaineers. This year West Virginia is ranked No. 20 and unbeaten.
“They’re a good team,” Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “Dana (Holgorsen) does a good job schematically week in week out to try to take advantage of what you’re doing defensively.”
Holgorsen and Kingsbury met more than 15 years ago, when the Mountaineers coach worked for former Red Raiders coach Mike Leach and Kingsbury was the team’s quarterback.
“Kliff knows what he’s doing,” Holgorsen said of the fourth-year coach. “He’s going to get those guys ready to go and we have our work cut out for us on defense.”
The Mountaineers (4-0, 0-0 Big 12) have had two weeks to prepare, having a bye week after a 17-16 home win Oct. 1 over Kansas State. The Red Raiders (3-2, 1-1) are coming off a 44-38 loss to the Wildcats last week.
At least Texas Tech doesn’t have to be concerned about kicker Josh Lambert, who in 2014 hit a career-long, 55-yard field goal as time expired in Lubbock to give West Virginia a 37-34 victory. Holgorsen announced this week — without explanation or further comment — that Lambert, who missed the first three games due to a suspension, was no longer with the team.
A few more things to look for when Texas Tech hosts West Virginia:
MAHOMES AND HIS RECEIVERS
Junior QB Patrick Mahomes, who leads the nation in passing yards per game (454.8), has plenty of receivers to pick from in the Red Raiders’ pass-heavy offense. Seven of them — Jonathan Giles leads the league and the corps in receiving yards per game (122.8) — have caught at least 11 passes for a combined 2,125 yards. Mahomes, who has passed for 20 TDs and run for seven more, has a great grasp of his offense, Mountaineers defensive coordinator Tony Gibson said. “He understands getting rid of the ball,” Gibson said. “He puts it in the right place at the right time. He lets his wideouts work for him, and when he wants to throw it over the top he can do that as well. He is so big, you have guys falling off of him, and he keeps plays alive.”
West Virginia, the Big 12’s fifth-ranked rushing offense (187.2 ypg), will face the league’s sixth-ranked rushing defense (179.4 ypg). Junior RB Justin Crawford ranks fifth in the Big 12 with 331 yards on 60 carries, averaging 82.8 ypg. This year the Mountaineers have run the ball 52 percent of the time (164 of 315 plays). Kingsbury figures the Mountaineers will run the ball often. “Last year they ran it, I think, 57 times versus us,” he said. “So I’ve known he’s been doing that the last three or four years.”
Texas Tech was flagged for five 15-yard penalties — including one that erased a TD — in its loss last week. It wasn’t unusual, though. The Red Raiders rank 121st in the nation in penalty yards per game, having committed 48 penalties in five games to average 80.2 ypg. “We’ve really been stopping ourselves with penalties, making it third and 15, third and 20, and then that’s a hard position to be in,” WR Cameron Batson said. “So we have to cut out the penalties and be more disciplined.”
RED ZONE FACEOFF
Texas Tech is nearly twice as efficient in scoring touchdowns once inside the red zone than the Mountaineers. The Red Raiders have connected for TDs 26 of the 32 times they’ve been there (81 percent), while West Virginia has found the end zone on just eight of 18 trips inside opponents’ 20-yard line (44 percent). “The guys have to score,” Holgorsen said. “We’re moving the ball. We’re averaging a lot of yards. We have to score more, period.”
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