MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — West Virginia kicks off the second half of the 2022 campaign with a road trip as the Mountaineers (3-3, 1-2 Big 12) square off against Texas Tech (3-3, 1-2). Kickoff is set for 3 p.m. ET and it will be shown on FOX Sports 1.
Neal Brown searches for his first win over his former squad since heading the Mountaineers in 2019. Brown ran the Red Raider offense from 2010-2012.
The most prominent homecoming for the Mountaineers is that of offensive coordinator Graham Harrell, a Lubbock legend who helped the Red Raiders play some of their best football in history. The record-breaking quarterback ran onto the field at Jones AT&T Stadium 24 times in his career, but on Saturday, he will explore an unfamiliar wing of the venue.
“I don’t even know if I’ve been in the coach’s box, though, it’s not like that’s familiar ground or something,” Harrell said. “So…I’ll know where I am, but that’s about the only difference in that one and the other ones until I get in the box, I guess.”
Over a decade has passed since Harrell suited up for Texas Tech, and the program is now on its seventh head coach since he graduated. Joey McGuire is in his first full season leading the Red Raiders and his twist on the game has made his team one of the most unique squads in the country.
West Virginia and Texas Tech each hold identical records both in the conference and overall, but the Mountaineers look to do something no team has done yet this season: knock the Red Raiders off at home.
Here are the biggest storylines leading up to kickoff in Lubbock:
Can WVU keep up with the rapid Red Raider offense?
Despite McGuire’s defensive background, Texas Tech is turning heads on the other side of the ball. The Red Raider offense is the fastest in the country, running 95.8 plays per game — 11 snaps clear of Indiana in the second spot.
This strategy pays off as the Red Raiders put up the second-most total yards in the Big 12. That hasn’t quite turned into points, though, as they average 34.3 points per game, the seventh-best mark in the league.
“With them, it’s really just getting down and lined up because they’re very high-tempo,” said WVU defensive lineman Dante Stills. “I was watching…the Oklahoma State game on TV and I saw that it was like 20 seconds from the snap of the ball to the next play. So it’s really just get the call, get lined up and play fast.”
Alignments and assignments have been two areas for improvement for West Virginia this season, especially in its week two loss to Kansas.
“Alignment is the key, and then assignment behind that,” said WVU defensive coordinator Jordan Lesley. “It’s always a challenge, there’s a reason people do it. It’s tough, especially if they’re moving the ball from hash to hash, and then if they can get it back to the middle, it can give you some issues.”
Daniels and the offense remain confident
The impact of JT Daniels on the WVU offense was clear almost immediately this season.
Daniels hasn’t been the most prolific or efficient passer in the country across this campaign, but he has left a positive effect on a squad that has had a roller-coaster ride. His level head has helped the team navigate some adversity, including some of his own.
“I’ve thrown some game-winners and I’ve thrown some game-losers….I don’t really think twice of it anymore like I’ve talked about it before, I treat every time I get on the field as its own individual scenario,” Daniels said.
WVU’s offense has shown the ability to improve from week to week, especially in critical situations. WVU went 7-of-13 on third down against Baylor, a slight bump from its loss against Texas, as its wide receivers made some clutch plays to alleviate the woes of dropped passes from the previous week.
Kaden Prather has gradually emerged as a favorite target for Daniels. The sophomore receiver is catching up to Bryce Ford-Wheaton in the team’s receiving stats sheet after leading WVU with 109 yards and a touchdown on eight catches.
“Several of those [were] contested catches,” Brown said. “I thought he’s really played well since game one.”
The Mountaineers will get a boost in the ground game on Saturday as CJ Donaldson returns to the lineup after working through concussion protocol. He is one of several Mountaineers set to return to the field on Saturday.
Texas Tech and West Virginia kick off at 3 p.m. ET at Jones AT&T Stadium, and the game will be shown on Fox Sports 1. Don’t miss an all-new episode of The Neal Brown Show which airs on affiliated Nexstar stations at 9 a.m. ET. That is followed at 10 a.m. ET by a live hour of Mountaineer GameDay, the most fun pregame show in West Virginia, on affiliated Nexstar stations. Another live hour of Mountaineer GameDay kicks off at 11 a.m. ET on AT&T SportsNet.