LUBBOCK, Texas — Josh Lambert streaked behind his team’s bench, giving Texas Tech fans some of what they’d been giving him before his game-winning kick. Up in the West Virginia coaching booth, Shannon Dawson hugged his fellow assistants so hard he left Brian Mitchell with a cut on his face.
The aftermath of a 37-34 walkoff win sent the Mountaineers into temporary euphoria, which means it’s up to the Monday Morning Stock Report to rationalize what went down at The House of the Flying Tortillas:
Despite steering the offense to 27 second-half points and capping a wild comeback, Clint Trickett didn’t call this his most satisfying win at West Virginia.
“Nah, no way,” he said. “Was it one of the more exciting ones? Absolutely. Was it one you could build off of? Absolutely. But we should’ve played better, especially in the first half.”
Trickett tossed two touchdowns and extended his string of 300-yard games to seven by throwing for 301 on 28-of-44 passing. He snapped a streak of three straight games with an interception, though Tech safety Keenon Ward dropped a first-half pick.
Wendell Smallwood gashed Texas Tech in the second half for 83 yards on only eight carries to finish with a career-high 123 yards on 15 attempts. That complemented Rushell Shell, who played the workhorse with two touchdowns and 110 yards on 24 carries.
Those big outputs were a necessity against a Red Raiders run defense that ranked 121st nationally.
“We thought we could have a big run game on them,” said Shell, whose sixth touchdown of the season was a fourth-and-inches surge that tied the game at 34-all with 2:02 left. “We just told ourselves you’ve got to play smash-mouth football and bring it to them.”
How about some love for the fullbacks? Eli Wellman and Cody Clay’s lead blocks sprang Shell’s 12-yard TD, and the junior Clay officially launched his Heisman campaign with a 4-yard run on his first career carry.
Bracketed by two defenders, Kevin White was frustrated and said he “had kind of a quiet day.” Texas Tech’s secondary probably used a different description for his 13-catch, 123-yard effort, which included a 26-yard score in the fourth quarter. White also drew another pass-interference flag.
The truly quiet day belonged to Mario Alford, though his second and final catch was a 21-yarder that started WVU’s game-tying drive in the final 4 minutes.
Tech’s deep safeties afforded room for Jordan Thompson to work the middle of the field, and the junior caught six passes for 106 yards. His 56-yard second-half touchdown was a spark that, according to White, “reboosted us when everyone was down.”
Offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said Thompson and Daikiel Shorts (32 yards on two catches with one third-down drop) must capitalize when defenses commit to taking away WVU’s outside receivers.
“Kevin’s not going to have 200 yards every game. People are going to take him away,” he said. “That’s when our inside receivers are capable. They’re one-on-one with a linebacker and they need to make a play.”
At 5 yards per carry, the Mountaineers’ line had a serviceable day—though they were facing perhaps the softest defensive front in the conference. Coaches weren’t thrilled with the first-half run-game production, nor the complete lack of poise displayed by senior Quinton Spain, who was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after he walked away from the WVU huddle to bark at the Tech sideline.
Spain headed to the sideline for two plays and appeared to wave off an angry running backs coach JaJuan Seider before offensive line assistant Ron Crook stopped the meltdown.
“He lost his temper, because somebody said something to him,” Crook said. “Any game you’re in, people are going to say stuff to try to make you lose your cool. He lost it for a minute, we got it back, then he went right back in and played his butt off the rest of the game.”
Even Trickett got involved with getting Spain refocused:
“I said you can’t do that—you’re a pro player. And he said, ‘You’re right.’ But it’s tough, because they run their months a little bit, and when you’re 340 you’re not used to backing down.”
Trickett was pressured a few times—usually by defensive end Andre Ross slipping past right tackle Marquis Lucas—and lost the ball on a second-half blind-side blitz by Pete Robertson. That was one of only two negative-yardage plays among West Virginia’s 50 rushing attempts.
With defensive end Dontrill Hyman (knee) injured and nose guard Christian Brown absent for an unspecified reason, the Mountaineers were desperate enough to scrap the planned redshirt of sophomore Darrien Howard.
Despite extended action for Shaq Riddick and Brandon Golson at the ends, the unit didn’t generate much early pressure on Davis Webb. “He had hours of time to throw in the first half,” Holgorsen said. Riddick did make a fourth-quarter sack on Webb, though statisticians incorrectly credited Shaq Petteway.
For a change, Texas Tech really exploited openings on the ground—leading to DeAndre Washington’s 132-yard career afternoon. The 217 rushing yards were the second-most for the Raiders in a Big 12 game since 2004.
West Virginia is allowing 4.8 yards per carry, behind everyone except Iowa State and Texas Tech (both 4.9) in the league.
This group shoulders a lot of responsibility for Texas Tech’s huge rushing effort, though it should be noted the Mountaineers used eight defensive backs on the third-and-10 run that Justin Stockton popped for a 69-yarder.
Davis Webb enjoyed a 348-yard, three-touchdown passing day, though his productivity dipped after WVU began gambling on blitzes throughout the second half.
“That quarterback was executing at a high level there for a while,” said defensive coordinator Tony Gibson. “We finally said to hell with it and started coming after him.”
Among Nick Kwiatkoski’s 11 tackles were two big-time plays. He made a fourth-and-1 stop on Washington early in the second half, and later tracked fullback Rodney Hall for no gain on what looked to be a well designed third-and-goal backside screen.
The open-field tackling was hideous on Texas Tech’s first score—a 34-yard jet sweep by Devin Lauderdale—as Terrell Chestnut, Dravon Henry and the newly reinstated Daryl Worley whiffed.
Safety Karl Joseph made seven solo tackles but endured a difficult day. After missing badly on Jakeem Grant’s 43-yard catch-and-run, Joseph blew an assignment that led to Lauderdale’s 76-yard touchdown catch behind Worley. (“We had a safety who was supposed to be over (Worley), but he got lost,” Gibson said. “He had his eyes in the wrong place.”)
With Tech driving in the final 2 minutes, Joseph also misjudged a wobbly pass that Grant caught flat-backed on the turf for 17 yards.
K.J. Dillon made an interception but had a difficult time tracking pint-sized speedster Grant. (“They have a really good player running across the middle who’s faster than everybody on the field,” Gibson said.)
Though Texas Tech hurt itself with several drops, WVU’s defensive backs performed well enough in man coverage to make Kliff Kingsbury doubt his offense’s ability to convert late in the game. “You should invite that type of coverage, but they came down the let couple drives, got in our face and we didn’t have an answer,” he said.
Josh Lambert’s 55-yard field goal at the horn was the sophomore’s third walkoff kick in his last 10 games—and the second in his home state of Texas. Without such a weapon, West Virginia might be 2-4 this season with a drastically different outlook. Lambert made 3-of-4 on Saturday, connecting from 42 and 38 yards with a misfire from 47.
Worley replaced Thompson at punt returner and fumbled twice on one 3-yard runback.
Ending a three-game stretch of ignominy, WVU’s coverage units did not allow a return score.
After twice pinning Texas Tech deep, Nick ‘OToole has dropped 11 punts inside the 20 with zero touchbacks.
West Virginia barely survived a team that has now lost eight consecutive Big 12 games, and any number of circumstances could have altered the outcome and the tone of the season. Yet, Holgorsen stayed patient with his play-calling in the second half and stayed poised in his demeanor—befitting a coach who trusts his offense to recover from a deficit.
Gibson’s defense limited Texas Tech to 6-of-18 on third downs, made two red-zone stands in the second half and brought pressure on Tech’s final drive instead of playing it safe with zone drops. He’s still flummoxed, however, by the mental busts that give way to big gainers.
“Our guys, they stray off a little bit and I think they revert back to what it used to be like,” he said.
Mountaineers fans recall all too well what it was like the past two years, and with Baylor coming to town, Gibson doesn’t want to repeat history.