Saturday in Lubbock, the Texas Tech football team played its most complete game of the season in a 48-10 destruction of West Virginia. Moving to 4-3 on the season, the Red Raiders evened their Big 12 record at 2-2 ahead of next week’s home tilt with Baylor.
It marked the fourth year in a row that Tech has secured a win over the Mountaineers. Now, the all-time series between the two programs is equal at six wins each. However, as Big 12 rivals, Tech holds a 6-5 edge.
Here are some quick thoughts on what we saw at Jones Stadium.
Finally, the Red Raider defense reached its weekly goal of three takeaways. In fact, defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter’s side of the ball bettered their goal by one as Tech picked off WVU’s J.T. Daniels three times and recovered one fumble.
That truly was the difference in the game. The three second-half turnovers came inside west Virginia territory and each of those led directly to Red Raider points.
However, it was the first takeaway of the day that truly had the greatest impact on the game. Late in the second period, Tech was leading 17-3 but West Virginia was driving to potentially narrow the gap to one score. Fortunately, safety Dadrion Taylor-Demerson would make a brilliant play to intercept Daniels in the endzone to preserve Tech’s 14-point lead.
This takeaway barrage comes in the same week that head coach Joey McGuire spoke openly to the media about his frustration with his defense’s lack of turnovers this season. Apparently, the message was received as Tech had its biggest day of the year in that critical aspect of the game.
Morton stands out again
All indications are that QB Tyler Shough will be cleared to play next week against Baylor. That means that Tech will have a really good backup behind Behren Morton who stood out once again on Saturday.
Making his second career start (his second start in a row), the redshirt freshman was 28-45 passing for 325 yards and two TDs with no picks. He did all of that despite playing through a high ankle sprain sustained two weeks ago against Oklahoma State.
With Morton getting the ball out of his hands decisively and on time, the Tech offensive line was protected as West Virginia would manage only one sack (at least that I can remember).
Defensive lineman Dante Stills, WVU’s only standout defender, was never a factor in this game. He did get a few early QB pressures but for the most part, his name was hardly mentioned and that came despite Tech having to start Matt Keeler at right tackle for the injured Monroe Mills.
It all tracks back to Morton, who plays with the poise of an upperclassman and who is able to coax more out of this offense than any QB we’ve seen this year. Sure, Morton will face tougher defenses than the one he saw on Saturday but regardless, there seems to be no way it would make sense to take the keys to this offense away from him after his second-straight 300-yard effort.
Stuck in neutral
Prior to this game, we discussed how the Mountaineer offense was predicated on running the ball and that in all three of their wins this year, WVU had surpassed 200 yards on the ground. Well, they didn’t come close to even sniffing that number in this game.
Tech held Neal Brown’s team to just 73 yards on 26 carries. That’s a lowly 2.8-yard per-carry average.
Spending most of the day with a two-score lead, Tech put WVU in a place that it didn’t want to be; having to rely on Daniels to bring them back through the air. That was critically important as the Mountaineer QB wilted under that pressure throwing three picks.
It is time to go ahead and admit that Tech has a very good run defense. The Kansas State game, in which Tech gave up over 300 yards on the ground was simply an aberration and a case of the defense just having an awful day.
Against West Virginia, the Red Raiders dominated the line of scrimmage all day and gave the Mountaineers nowhere to run. That was a massive reason why this game got out of hand in the second half.
On the other hand, Tech’s ground game was as dominant as we’ve seen all year. Rushing for 239 yards, Tech averaged 4.4 yards per carry and found the endzone on the ground three times.
Tahj Brooks broke the 100-yard mark with 107 yards and two first-half scoring runs. Meanwhile, SaRodorick Thompson managed to gain 59 yards and a TD as Tech owned the ground game taking quite a bit of pressure off of Morton.
There was a time not so long ago when this offensive line struggled to open holes in the rushing game. However, that part of the offense appears to be rounding into form. Against OK State, Tech ran for 148 yards which was a step up from the paltry 114 the team put up the week prior against Kansas State. Now, Tech’s ground attack has taken another impressive step forward.
There’s no question that WVU’s defense is awful but still, look for this area to continue to improve as Tech faces some truly poor rushing defenses in the upcoming weeks. Teams like Baylor, Kansas, and Oklahoma have all struggled mightily at times against the run this year and after what we saw from the Red Raider offense on Saturday, maybe that’s an area of the game that could be a strength moving forward.