By Ryan Decker, Originally written for West Virginia Illustrated
LUBBOCK, Tx – No. 20 West Virginia (5-0) head coach Dana Holgorsen said during his mid-week press conference on Tuesday that his team, “(has) got to score more, period,” saying that the 29 points a game the Mountaineers are averaging wouldn’t be enough.
Even though most analysts and experts agreed with Holgorsen’s statement, defensive coordinator Tony Gibson and his defense took it upon themselves to give the Mountaineer offense more than enough chances to score while keeping a prolific Texas Tech (4-3) off the board.
Three different Mountaineers found their way into the end zone as West Virginia picked up a statement win on the road, 41-17 over the Red Raiders, to move to 5-0 for the first time since 2012.
West Virginia started the scoring on its second drive of the game, nearly going the entire length of the field.
WVU started the possession on its own nine-yard line, but quickly got into good field position. Skyler Howard completed a short pass to Ka’Raun White and Shelton Gibson to move WVU to the 22.
He then completed a pass to Daikiel Shorts, who broke away from his defenders and turned on the jets, running all the way down to the Texas Tech 22 yard-line.
Justin Crawford also helped move the chains.
He rushed for 12 yards after the 53-yard Shorts play, and then barreled into the end zone from 10 yards out to give West Virginia the early advantage with 9:30 to go in the opening quarter.
Shorts finished with exactly 100 yards receiving, meaning WVU has had a receiver total 100 yards in each of the five games this season.
After a missed field goal by Mike Molina that would’ve put West Virginia up by two scores, Patrick Mahomes led the Red Raiders down field with a number of long pass plays during which he extended the play with his feet.
Mahomes found Ian Sadler for 37 yards on third down, completed another pass to Sadler for what would’ve counted as a first down if not for an offensive penalty, and then connected with his favorite target, Jonathan Giles, for a 44-yard scoring play on a bomb deep downfield.
That pass tied the game 7-7.
Mahomes, who came into this game averaging 379 passing yards per game, finished with 305 passing yards after totaling just 161 yards through the air in the first half.
Texas Tech got into the red zone quickly on its next drive with the help of multiple penalties against WVU.
On third down from the WVU 13, Mahomes checked down to his running back, who juggled the ball just long enough for senior Sean Walters to rip the ball right out of his hands just before he hit the ground for the highlight-play interception.
The turnover stopped the momentum that the Red Raiders appeared to be gaining, and gave the Mountaineers all the momentum they needed. Howard and company went on a pair of scoring drives in the second quarter.
Howard connected with Gary Jennings deep over the middle of the field for a 47-yard pass play.
Three plays later on third down, Howard completed a screen pass to Crawford along the Texas Tech sideline, and with good blocking by his receivers, Crawford easily found his way into the end zone to put WVU up by two scores.
Then after forcing Tech to punt, the Mountaineers once again put points on the board. Howard threw for 27 yards and passed for 33, including an eight-yard scamper along the far sideline for the score.
That touchdown put West Virginia ahead 24-7 with 4:22 remaining in the first half.
West Virginia’s defense held Texas Tech to just 200 yards of offense in the opening half, including just 39 yards on the ground. Meanwhile, the Mountaineer offense totaled 141 yards with the run and Howard threw for 251 yards in the first two quarters of play.
The two teams traded field goals in the third quarter, as West Virginia took a 27-10 lead into the final period. However, the Mountaineers were knocking on the door as the two teams switched sides of the field.
True freshman Kennedy McKoy burst through the line on first down for 35 yards, and then a few plays later, once again got to the second level, gaining 21 yards before being tackled at the one-yard line as the third quarter expired.
Howard punched it in on the first play of the fourth, putting West Virginia ahead 34-10.
Howard ended the game with 318 passing and 83 rushing yards.
Meanwhile, the Mountaineer offense continued to put up points, as Rushel Shell got into the scoring act on a 14-yard run. That score, for all intents and purposes, put the game away, as WVU went ahead by 31 points.
Afterwards, Mahomes, who is still dealing with a lingering shoulder injury, was replaced at quarterback by Nic Shimonek.
West Virginia ended the game with 332 rushing yards, led in that statistical category by Shell, who ran for 104 yards, and McKoy who rushed for 99 on just four carries.
The 650 total yards of offense racked up by the Mountaineers is also the most in 2016.
WVU faces TCU in Morgantown next Saturday at 3:30 p.m.. That game can be seen televised on ESPN 2 and ABC.