MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Amid the figurative blur of West Virginia’s 73-42 loss at Baylor sprang some actual fogginess in the head of Quinton Spain, the offensive lineman seated in a lonely colossal clump on the bench, felled by his first concussion.
“I was playing through it, but then I just got dizzy and felt like I need to sit out,” he said. “They wouldn’t let me go back in.”
Head trauma being at the frontier of caution, Spain sat out the final quarter of that game, along with three subsequent bye-week practices. He wasn’t cleared to return until last Monday. Even after reviewing game film, the 6-foot-5, 335-pound junior wasn’t certain precisely when he became concussed.
“On a screen, when I tried to turn around, I hit my head,” he said. “And then on another (play) when I pulled, I went head-to-head with a guy. I don’t know the rest—I just know I got hit plenty of times.”
Such was the punch-drunk sensation of every Mountaineer after the blistering at Baylor, a game that looms as the least competitive of the Dana Holgorsen era. Some final margins may have been worse, but no loss was decided sooner.
A fortnight later comes the opportunity to face another high-riding, ranked team. Texas Tech becomes the fifth unbeaten opponent in West Virginia’s first seven games (a stat that excludes opening-day foe William & Mary). USA Today stat-cruncher Jeff Sagarin calls WVU’s schedule the 11th-toughest in the FBS so far. Conversely, Sagarin ranks Texas Tech’s strength-of-schedule at No. 94.
That lack of competition lends some context to Texas Tech’s impressive statistical avalanche: Sixth nationally in total offense (544 yards), third in passing (408 yards), 13th in scoring (41. 8 points), 11th in third-down defense (28.2 percent), 11th fewest TD passes allowed (five) and 21st in total defense (344 yards).
Another striking number: The Red Raiders rank third nationally in forced three-and-outs per game (7.33). If they force that many Saturday, Dana Holgorsen might spontaneously combust.
His patience has been tested with a sluggish offense, even though the staff sensed that chemistry and execution would suffer as new personnel was initiated. Through six games, WVU’s offense has produced only two adequate performances—wins over Georgia State and Oklahoma State—and entering Game 7 it’s time to expect more consistency.
To that end, the sideline signals have been modified (simplified?) to expedite Clint Trickett’s communication to the line. (Yes, Paul Millard remains an option at quarterback, but if he was going to start, why change up the signals at all?) The offensive line rotation has been pared down from eight guys to six (and actually it’s down to five for Saturday’s first half, as backup tackle Adam Pankey serves out a targeting ejection.) And Mario Alford has moved from slot receiver to the outside where his downfield speed can be better utilized.
On the defensive side, the return of inside linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski could provide a monumental boost to stopping Texas Tech’s run game. WVU’s cornerbacks also need to shake off their putrid performance against Baylor, whereby position coach Brian Mitchell was flabbergasted by the sudden dearth of discipline.
This week has a bounce-back feel similar to the Oklahoma State game, and we recall what kind of surprise WVU delivered in that one.
Pick: West Virginia 30-27
Ranking the weekend’s other Big 12 games: