When he took a look at the game film on No. 24 Texas Tech, West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen noticed something that the rest of the country is beginning to realize.
In their last five games, the Red Raiders defense has improved by creating turnovers, setting up pre-snap correctly and making sound tackles in open space.
Holgorsen admitted it’s something he knew was coming when Texas Tech hired defensive coordinator David Gibbs three years ago. It’s also something he’ll have to deal with as the Mountaineers host a key Big 12 contest at 11 a.m. Saturday at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskat Stadium.
“That’s quite evident when you turn the video on and look at it,” he said Monday during the Big 12 media teleconference. “They’re playing a lot better. Clearly, a lot better. Which is not surprising. We’ve got a lot of respect for coach (David) Gibbs and what he’s accomplished in his career. We knew it was only a matter of time before he got those guys right. …
“He’s doing a great job of creating turnovers and playing with a lot of energy. They’re lining up the right way and got a lot more depth. Clearly, they’re a lot better than they have been in the last couple of years, which is not surprising to us.”
After ranking near the bottom in most defensive categories, the Red Raiders have turned their fortunes around on the way to a 4-1 overall and 1-1 mark in Big 12 play.
Much of the improvement is due to forcing turnovers and scoring defensive touchdowns, which has turned the momentum of the game in Texas Tech’s favor. As of Monday, the Red Raiders ranked fourth in turnover margin (+9), fourth in turnovers per game (2.8) and fourth in defensive touchdowns (three).
“I wouldn’t call it a resurgence,” Kingsbury said. “We’re still early in the season, we’re still trying to figure things out. I think you can look at the turnover margin as our biggest area of improvement, thus far. That’s something we’ve struggled at since I’ve been at Texas Tech. We’ve been on the plus-side of things this year and that’s really helped swing some games, put some momentum on our side. And hopefully that continues.”
The Red Raiders will have a difficult task with the Mountaineers, who tout five special talents on the offensive side of the ball: quarterback Will Grier (1,740 yards, 16 TDs, four interceptions), running back Justin Crawford (569 yards, six touchdowns), Kennedy McKoy (217 yards, three TDs), Gary Jennings (518 yards, one TD) and David Sills (512 yards, nine TDs).
The quintet, under the direction of offensive coordinator Jake Spavital, is expected to test the Red Raiders defense this weekend.
“West Virginia is very good,” Kingsbury said. “The quarterback is a heckuva player, really throws the ball well, has great receivers that have stepped up this season. (Has) a stable of running backs he can hand the ball off to. Coach (Jake) Spavital has a great scheme. … We know we have our hands full. It’s going to be a tough one up there. And we’re going to have to play our best game.”
Special teams watch
With Keke Coutee still dealing with an injured knee, which he suffered two weeks ago against Oklahoma State, Texas Tech might be without a key component to its return game.
Coutee, a wide receiver, is also a kick returner for the Red Raiders. Cameron Batson returned one punt and four kickoffs — including a 49-yard return — for the Red Raiders against Kansas last weekend.
“Yeah, we’ll kind of cross that bridge when we get there,” Kingsbury said when asked who could come in and fill Coutee’s void, if needed. “Hopefully, Keke is back to full-go and can do some different things. But we feel like there’s a number of guys on our roster that get back there and help us in that area.”
Sticking with Barden
After missing a 44-yard field goal against Kansas over the weekend, Michael Garden still appears to hold the starting spot at kicker for the Texas Tech football team.
Kingsbury chalked it up to “one of those days” when asked if he would stick with Barden. Matthew Cluck, a freshman kicker, nailed a 26-yard field goal in the contest.
“I think he’ll be fine,” Kingsbury said of Barden. “He’s been around. He’s been a good player for us. (It’s) just one of those days. And that’s how we’re approaching it. He looked good Sunday and we’ll just keep trending in the right direction, hopefully.”
Early wake-up call
Texas Tech will take on Iowa State in its fourth early-morning contest of the season.
The Red Raiders and Cyclones are set to face off at 11 a.m. Oct. 21 at Jones AT&T Stadium. The contest is slated to be televised on FS1.
The Cyclones game, which is designated as homecoming for Texas Tech, will mark the third straight 11 a.m. start for the Red Raiders, who have played early road games against Houston, Kansas and are set to face off against West Virginia on Saturday.
Defensive lineman Houston Miller, who was not active for last weekend’s game at Kansas, provided a bit of information as to why he did not play.
In a Tweet to Houston Texans defensive lineman JJ Watt, who suffered a broken left leg in Sunday’d game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Miller disclosed his own leg injury and provided support.
“Hey brother, we in this together, I play for Texas Tech, I broke my fibula in last weeks game, stay strong, I’m praying for you!” he Tweeted on Sunday night.
He followed that up with another Tweet: “You’re my idol man, I’m fighting in recovery just like I know you do!”
The 6-foot-4, 260-pound defensive lineman redshirted as a freshman and has not logged any statistics this season.
Running back Desmond Nisby is the fourth Texas Tech player to garner a weekly Big 12 Conference award.
Nisby, who rushed for a career-high 93 yards and four touchdowns, was named the Big 12 Newcomer of the Week — marking the four straight Red Raiders to garner a weekly conference accolade.
The 6-1, 235-pound tailback leads Texas Tech with six total touchdowns.
Ja’Deion High (Special Teams Player of the Week, Sept. 18), Dakota Allen (Defensive Player of the Week, Sept. 25) and DaMarcus Fields (Newcomer of the Week, Oct. 2) are the other three Texas Tech players to garner the honor.
Powered by WPeMatico