Texas Tech Football: Defining Moment Number Three of the 2014 Season


Davis Webb’s 2nd quarter interception against West Virginia.

Texas Tech entered its game against West Virginia on a three-game conference losing streak and almost everyone knew that Tech would have to beat a tough Mountaineers team to have a realistic shot at gaining bowl eligibility. Dana Holgorsen’s team had gained national respect in losing two close games to Florida State and Oklahoma early in the season. After a disappointing 2013 season, quarterback Clint Trickett and wide receiver Kevin White (a sure-fire top NFL draft pick) led a potent offense into Jones Stadium.

However, Tech jumped out of the gates quickly against the favored visitors and held a 21 – 10 lead late in the first half. With the defense having to focus on Tech running back DeAndre Washington, who was gashing the front seven, Davis Webb took advantage of tight man-to-man coverage for two long touchdown passes to Devin Lauderdale.

The Mountaineers were reeling and memories of their last trip to Lubbock, a 49-14 thrashing of the #4 Mountaineers by an unranked Texas Tech team, had to be in the forefront of many minds on the WVU sideline.

With 1:16 to go in the half, Tech faced a 2nd and two at the WVU 39. Kingsbury went with a three-receiver formation to Webb’s right, which included Jakeem Grant in the slot. Tech loves to get Grant isolated on a safety or better yet, a linebacker and trips formations are often how they accomplish that. Earlier in the half, this exact formation resulted in Tech’s third touchdown. In the video below, notice that Grant is in the middle of a trips formation to the right. His speed is no match for the safety who is in man-to-man coverage, and Webb finds Grant for an easy touchdown.

Kingsbury went to the same formation again on Tech’s final drive of the half and again Grant was wide open, this time covered by a linebacker who looked like he had no idea what to do so he just spun in a circle. It was as if the linebacker was looking for a ghost, and Grant found himself running free across the middle for an easy score.

However — and stop me if you have heard this one before — Webb never looked at Grant, nor any receiver other than Wide receiver D.J. Polite-Bray, who was bracketed by a corner with safety help deep over the top. Webb stared at Polite-Bray like a forlorn freshman stares at the head cheerleader as she sashays down the hall. It was as if Webb didn’t even consider the fact that there were other receivers on the field, let alone your top receiver running as free as a tumbleweed skipping down a FM road east of Idalou.

Why Webb didn’t go back to Grant on the same play that scored a touchdown earlier in the game is perplexing. Webb threw the ball up for Polite-Bray who didn’t make a play on the ball because he tripped over the fifteen-yard line, perhaps there was a wrinkle in the turf, and flailed to the ground like a newborn giraffe while the WVU safety made the easiest interception of his life.

In the clip below, watch Webb stare down Polite-Bray bringing the safety right to where the ball was thrown. Then, on the replay, watch how Grant blows by the linebacker and ren free across the middle of the field.

Though Tech still took a 21-10 lead into halftime, another Davis Webb late first half interception had killed Tech’s momentum and just like the end of the first half against Arkansas, a huge opportunity was missed.

How this changed Tech’s season


Until this play, Tech had played its most complete half of the season. Webb had been sharp and more importantly, Mike Smith’s defense, which had been embarrassed two weeks in a row, was playing with passion, intensity, and focus. Despite the 11 am kickoff and the chilly temperatures, the Jones Stadium faithful had fully invested emotionally in the game and they were causing problems for Trickett and his offense.

Tech had West Virginia in a position where one more touchdown would have broken the Mountaineers’ will and reinforced in their minds that Lubbock is a new level of Dante’s Inferno into which they must travel every other year. If Webb had thrown to Grant for the easy score, Tech’s lead would have been 18 points and West Virginia might have folded. The mentality of a team down three scores is vastly more bleak than a team that can say to itself, “if we get one stop and one score we are right back in it.”

Up to this point in the game, Tech didn’t have any trouble moving the ball, and big plays were killing West Virginia. One last dagger before half would have sent WVU to the locker room dejected and paranoid because Tech was set to receive the second half kick-off. But, West Virginia was gifted a glimmer of hope and the interception was just enough to buoy the Mountaineer spirits as they regrouped at the half. In the second half, West Virginia played harder and looked like the team that stood toe-to-toe with Florida St. and Oklahoma until deep into the 4th quarter of each game.

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But what is even more important is what the interception did to the Tech psyche. Once again, the team had played as well as could be asked and a Davis Webb interception popped the Tech balloon. I am not trying to pile on Webb but no one can deny the fact that his interceptions were often the catastrophic moment the team (and the fan base) seemed to be waiting for each week. Once the catastrophic moment happened in each game, Tech’s young roster folded. The sidelines went dead and the players started to give in to the “here we go again” mentality that has plagued this team for years.

Young teams are fickle. Whereas a veteran team that has been through the ups and downs of Big XII play is able to rely upon past successes and lessons learned in order to rebound from adversity, teams as young as Tech can easily have their spirit broken.

Oct 11, 2014; Lubbock, TX, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders running back Justin Stockton (8) scores on a 69 yard run against the West Virginia Mountaineers in the fourth quarter at Jones AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The interception was the first pebble in what would be a landslide of momentum that included timely stops from the Mountaineer defense, huge plays from Trickett to White, and a heart-breaking 54-yard field goal into the wind that would ultimately doom the Red Raiders.

Tech blew a game they had to have and should have won. By the time my 7-hour drive home ended, I knew that Tech’s season was a lost cause. That which I look forward to for nine months was ruined only half-way through the season.

At 0-3 in the conference, Tech would now have to take care of business against Kansas and on the road at Iowa State, plus beat two of the four major powers in the conference, OU, UT (ok not a major power last year but the Red Raiders can’t seem to beat even the worst UT teams, I’m not sure Tech could even beat a UT intramural football team at this time in our program’s history), TCU, and Baylor just to obtain a .500 record.

Tech had an opportunity to snap West Virginia’s neck and Webb’s inexplicable interception not only gave the Mountaineers a reprieve, it ensured that the bells Red Raider fans heard after the game as we trudged across campus mumbling profanities to ourselves with our heads dropped in disbelief were not the Victory bells but rather they were funeral bells.

Up Next: Moment 4, Pat Mahomes concussion and fumble against Texas.