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Texas Tech Week Four: Stop Mountaineer Rushing Game

It’s “prove it” time for Joey McGuire and his Red Raider team. This was a team that made it abundantly clear it had heard all the preseason expectations and was willing to step up to the challenge. Well after getting upset by Wyoming in week one and blowing a two-score lead in the fourth quarter against Oregon, the start hasn’t been what Texas Tech had imagined. However, the big goal of competing for a conference championship is still very much in play with the start of Big 12 play this week. They are taking on a team that it has had some recent success against. But a Texas Tech week four victory over the Mountaineers is going to require the defense to limit the West Virginia rushing attack.

Texas Tech Week Four: Stop Mountaineer Rushing Game

No More QB1 Debate (For Now)

Plenty of the fan base, and some of the media, have been calling for quarterback Tyler Shough to be benched for Behren Morton. Morton did come in shortly at the start of the second half, which raised the question if Shough had indeed been benched after a very mediocre performance against an FCS opponent. However, in his post-game press conference after the win over Tarleton State, McGuire made it very clear that Morton came into the game just how they had planned during the week of practice. He also made it clear who the starting quarterback is moving forward. “[Shough] will be starting against West Virginia. That’s not an issue or a question. You can ask me about it again. I’m going to say the same thing. I just want everybody to know that.”

McGuire has never wavered in his confidence in Shough, and it appears Shough has the QB1 position locked down. The Achilles heel of Shough’s game is turnovers. He has proven he can make plays with both his arms and legs. But his seemingly uncanny ability to turn the ball over at very critical junctures during games has to be resolved. He can continue to play well 97% of the time. But averaging two to three turnovers every game will negate all the other positive plays he is making. The defense has been playing better, but asking them to bail out the offense that frequently is not a recipe for success.

Contain Potent West Virginia Rushing Game

Through three games, West Virginia has made it clear that the offense goes as the running game goes. They are anchored by one of the top Big 12 offensive linemen Zach Frazier. West Virginia boasts the 29th-best rushing attack in the country averaging 200.3 yards a game. They are averaging 4.29 yards per carry. This isn’t indicative of a super-explosive rushing attack (which puts them in the 50’s nationally). But there are only 10 teams in the country who have attempted more rushing attempts this season. It’s very clear West Virginia offensive coordinator Chad Scott is committed to this ground game.

Currently, Texas Tech rankings 83rd nationally yielding an average of 143 yards per game. They also rank 72nd in allowing 3.86 yards per carry. The Red Raiders’ schedule has absolutely contributed to the numbers being below average. They have faced two teams who enjoy running the football and are particularly good at it. However, it doesn’t tell the story of growth by Tim DeRuyter’s unit. They have been performing better in a few areas. In terms of points allowed, rushing yards allowed, and passing yards allowed, all of those compare better than to this time last season. They have two disruptive defensive tackles, Tony Bradford Jr. and Jaylon Hutchings, who can free up the linebackers to defend the run. Having the front four keep the offensive linemen off the linebackers will be a key off-ball thing to watch in this Texas Tech week four battle with West Virginia.

Texas Tech Week Four Prediction

The Red Raiders have beaten West Virginia in four consecutive seasons. Not to mention, West Virginia head coach Neal Brown has yet to win three consecutive games since arriving in Morgantown. But that doesn’t mean this will be some cakewalk for Texas Tech. The Mountaineers are a hungry team playing with some momentum (and with the home crowd as additional support). The defense will be able to limit the rushing game. Shough will make the two to three plays that prove to be the difference in this Texas Tech week four showdown with West Virginia. Expect this one to be close from start to finish with the Red Raiders starting 1-0 in conference play.

Texas Tech 31 West Virginia 24

Photo Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports


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