Red Raiders' offense must have a big day against West Virginia

There’s no question that through six games of the 2022 season, the Texas Tech football team is still trying to find its identity on offense. Fortunately, this weekend’s opponent, West Virginia, might provide an opportunity for the Red Raiders to get right on that side of the ball.

It is no wonder Tech has struggled to move the ball and put up points at times this year.  Having to rely on three different starting quarterbacks is no recipe for success, nor is having what is arguably the worst offensive line in the Big 12. Additionally, the Texas Tech receivers have yet to prove capable of being consistent threats in the passing game.

That all adds up to Tech having just the 7th-ranked scoring offense in the conference.  That’s not what was expected this season with Zach Kittley calling plays on the South Plains.

Fortunately, the back half of the schedule gives Tech several opportunities to face poor defenses.  In fact, the Red Raiders still get to face four of the bottom five teams in the conference in regards to total defense.

That group includes this weekend’s opponent, West Virginia.  There was once a time when the Mountaineer defense was to be feared when Dana Holgorsen was head coach and Tony Gibson was running the program’s defense. But that duo is now gone and with them has gone the Mountaineers’ aura of being able to bully teams with their physicality on defense.

Instead, head coach Neal Brown (an offensive-minded head coach) has seen his program field what is one of the worst defenses in the nation this year.

To begin with, four of the Mountaineers’ six opponents thus far have surpassed the 30-point mark.  In fact, the only two teams that haven’t reached that plateau are FCS opponent Townsend and a Virginia Tech team that has yet to score 30 points in a game this year and which has been held under 20 points on four occasions.

In the Big 12 standings, WVU ranks dead last in points allowed by giving up 31.3 per game.  That’s good for just No. 104 in the nation.

Interestingly, it has been the explosive plays that have hurt the Mountaineers.  Giving up 33 plays of 20 or more yards this year, WVU sits at just 88th nationally in that statistic.  What’s more, they are coming off of a game against Baylor that saw them give up a whopping 18 plays of 15 yards or more – and remember that Baylor played the second half of that game with their backup QB running the offense.

However, Baylor wasn’t the first team to exploit the Mountaineer defense this year.  In the season opener, a Pittsburgh team that has averaged a meager237.5 yards through the air this season was able to top the 300-yard mark against WVU.

A week later, Kansas ran for 200 yards on their way to 419 total yards in a 55-42 OT win in Morgantown.  That day, the Jayhawks were 11-15 on 3rd down, which is an area where WVU is struggling.  Eighth in the Big 12 and 95th nationally, the Mountaineers are allowing teams to convert on 42.3% of their 3rd-down opportunities.

It was again an opponent’s aerial assault that doomed WVU when the Mountaineers traveled to Austin.  Facing Texas’ backup QB Hudson Card, the Mountaineers gave up 336 yards and four scores through the air.

Then last week, Baylor threw for 421 yards as part of a whopping 590-yard outburst.  And seeing that the Mountaineers are struggling against the pass is something that should be welcome news to Texas Tech football fans.

Thus far, Tech is the most prolific passing team in the Big 12 despite having to take a ride on the starting QB carousel.  Averaging 365 yards through the air, Tech is the only Big 12 team passing for more than 300 yards per game.

Therefore, the Mountaineer defense might be rather vulnerable this weekend.  That’s especially the case because West Virginia has intercepted only two passes all year and interceptions have been one of the main ways that teams have stopped the Red Raider passing attack.

Thus, it might not matter which QB Tech rolls with this week.  While most suspect that the redshirt freshman, Behren Morton, will get the nod, any of the three starting candidates (Morton, Tyler Shough, or Donovan Smith) is likely capable of lighting up this Mountaineer pass defense.  And perhaps a matchup against such a porus defense is what the Red Raiders need in order to get their offense into high gear in time to make a run in the second half of the season.

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