MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — When you get run out of your home stadium, changes are to be expected. So after Saturday’s 38-17 loss to Texas Tech, West Virginia’s starters are on notice before this week’s game at Kansas State.
“I would say everybody and everyone is under evaluation,” West Virginia coach Neal Brown said on Monday’s Big 12 coaches teleconference.
That evaluation starts on defense.
“When you play as poorly as we did defensively, we have to look at all things,” Brown said. “We played as bad of a first half as you can play. Giving up five touchdowns on the first five drives, I don’t know if I’ve ever been part of a game like that.”
Some of those changes may have already been afoot during the game. Senior safety Josh Norwood, toasted on Jett Duffey’s 81-yard touchdown pass to Dalton Rigdon, played only 33 snaps in the game. Freshman Kerry Martin Jr. played 70 snaps and Noah Guzman came off the bench to play 40 snaps.
Senior corner Hakeem Bailey’s starting role figures to be far from guaranteed after a foolish personal foul on which he suplexed a Texas Tech receiver to the ground on a play where he had already stopped forward progress. Freshman Nicktroy Fortune played 35 snaps off the bench.
Brown did not provide any specifics in discussing the offensive depth chart.
“On offense we’ll continue to evaluate,” Brown said. “That will continue to be a point of emphasis.”
Brown said the Mountaineers will continue gradually working freshman running back Tony Mathis into the game plan, but noted there was good reason he waited until the game was out of reach in the fourth quarter to give Mathis his first playing time.
“He was really nervous,” Brown said. “I like his running style. But he was definitely nervous and he lost his feet there a couple times. But we’ll continue to work him in the game plan.”
The inability to run was central to West Virginia’s struggle in the red zone against the Red Raiders. The Mountaineers only managed 3 points on their first five trips inside the 25-yard line until a late Mathis receiving touchdown from Jarret Doege.
“If you struggle to run in the red zone, it’s really tough. You run out of real estate,” Brown said. “You have to be efficient running down there. We had negative runs in the red zone, which puts you behind the chains.
“I like our pass plays. We didn’t execute them as well as we would like. I have to get some clarification on what’s legal hand-checking and what’s not. We have to do a better job getting our hands off at receiver and tight end.”
Six-day window exercised
A game time has not yet been announced for West Virginia’s home finale against Oklahoma State on Nov. 23. Television networks have elected to exercise their six-day scheduling window for that week’s games, meaning times will not be announced until late Saturday night or early Sunday morning.