TUESDAY MORNING QUARTERBACK: Texas Tech loss hard to swallow
Some losses are harder to take than others. But for Mountaineer fans this one was about as tough as it gets.
One team had to travel 1466 miles. They were without their starting quarterback, leading rusher, best receiver, and three starters int the secondary. They had just been shredded for 70 points the previous week. The other had just played the #4 team to a standstill, and were in front of their homecoming crowd of 50,000. Obviously the intangibles favored the home team, right?
Wrong. It was Texas Tech which came out with energy and focus, while West Virginia was listless and lethargic. The result was an embarrassing first half performance and a 17-0 deficit.
After two high intensity games guarding against a letdown had to be front and center in the week’s focus leading up to Saturday’s game. Each individual player is responsible for his own preparation, but there also needs to be team leadership and direction from the coaching staff, Apparently none of that came together.
To their credit the Mountaineers fought back and tied the game at 17 late in the third quarter. With Texas Tech on its heels West Virginia fans were feeling a comeback victory. But the final quarter has not been the Mountaineers’ finest hour this season. In four competitive games WVU has failed to score a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Zero.
Quarterback Jaret Doege had a good second half leading the comeback, but on third down inside the 10 yard line with four minutes remaining and a chance to take the lead with a touchdown he missed a wide open Leddie Brown in the end zone. For the second straight week at the goal line Doege has failed to convert a play that winning teams need to make. Combine that problem with an inability to run the ball effectively and we end up with a team which struggles to score more than 20 points, a level of production that doesn’t win many college football games.
The West Virginia defense is exceptional preventing touchdowns when the opponent enters the red zone, as evidenced by the goal line stand which saved the win over Virginia Tech. But for two straight weeks in a tie game WVU allowed an opponent beginning a possession inside its own 20 to drive the length of the field to kick a winning field goal in the waning seconds.
The Mountaineers could have had well over a minute of playing time even after giving up the lead in order to try and mount a final drive but didn’t because two timeouts were wasted in the second half. The lack of timeouts allowed the Red Raiders to milk the clock to just 18 seconds before kicking the winning field goal. Head Coach Neal Brown said in his postgame comments that the second timeout was called because we didn’t have the proper personnel grouping on the field, and that we could blame him for that. Fair enough. We will do that.
West Virginia is not a bad football team, but it is one that is finding ways to lose. This does not bode well looking at the schedule that lies ahead, and it will be a major challenge to prevent the season from unraveling.
THIS SATURDAY: The Mountaineers travel to Baylor for a noon start time. The Bears also struggled offensively in a 24-14 loss at Oklahoma State, but are 4-1 overall including a home win over Iowa State. These two teams have played several competitive battles and we should expect another. But does the pattern continue? BAYLOR 20 WEST VIRGINIA 17