Mountaineers no match for Texas Tech in 48-10 loss

West Virginia head coach Neal Brown felt Saturday’s game at Texas Tech was a chance for the Mountaineers to get some wind behind them following a hard-fought win over Baylor nine days earlier.

Instead, it was a major step back for a team that looked as though it may be on the verge of making progress.

The Mountaineers were out-gained by more than 300 yards, had all four of the game’s turnovers and trailed for all but 1:37 of a lopsided 48-10 loss to the Red Raiders at Jones AT&T Stadium.

“Not a whole lot to say. That was complete domination,” Brown said. “I’ll credit [Texas Tech] coach [Joey] McGuire, his staff and his players. That’s as well as they’ve played. Coming off a bye week, they were good and we were equally bad. Probably as disappointed as I’ve ever been as a football coach in my entire career, especially in the second half.”

West Virginia (3-4, 1-3) failed to go over the .500 mark for the first time this season and now faces an uphill battle getting back to that point.

The Red Raiders (4-3, 2-2) had one of four fourth down conversions in the first quarter on the opening series and made it pay off when Tahj Brooks rushed for a 19-yard touchdown to give Tech a 7-0 lead at the 13:23 mark of the first quarter.

After forcing a three-and-out on West Virginia’s first possession, the Red Raiders went 80 yards in 16 plays, picking up three fourth downs in the process and doubling their lead on Brooks’ 1-yard run.

“They were more physical than us and moved the pile all night,” Brown said. “They did a good job running, but we tackled high all day.”

West Virginia moved the ball well on its ensuing sequence, but a costly false start by left tackle Wyatt Milum turned third-and-2 into third-and-passing, and the Mountaineers were forced to settle for Casey Legg’s 38-yard field goal.

Trey Wolff’s 46-yard field goal in response allowed the Red Raiders to regain their 14-point lead.

After West Virginia punted again, the teams traded fourth down stops, with the Mountaineers getting theirs courtesy of an Aubrey Burks sack on Behren Morton. They were then unable to capitalize after JT Daniels’ fourth-and-10 pass fell incomplete from the Tech 29.

“We never got going on offense and that’s very disappointing,” WVU center Zach Frazier said. “We put one drive together. Other than that, we just couldn’t finish. There were little mistakes. You have to have all eleven guys on the same page and if one is off, that’s going to stop us.”

However, WVU forced Tech to punt for the first time, allowing the Mountaineers to start at their 20 with 1:32 to play in the half.

Completions of 17 yards to Kaden Prather and 11 yards to Reese Smith gave WVU hope to score, and it only increased when Sam James was ruled to have made a spectacular one-handed catch for 28 yards to the Red Raiders’ 15.

After the play was reviewed, however, it was ruled an incompletion, though WVU still gained a first down on the play as a result of a pass interference penalty.

Two plays later, on second-and-6 from the Tech 24, Daniels threw to Smith in the end zone, but Dadrion Taylor-Demerson made a leaping interception that resulted in a touchback with 7 seconds left, enabling the Red Raiders to lead 17-3 at halftime.

The Mountaineers got the ball to start the second half, but things went from bad to worse. Following a holding penalty on tight end Brian Polendey on the second play, Daniels threw to Bryce Ford-Wheaton, who had a potential reception ripped away by Malik Dunlap for an interception.

“The turnovers should not happen. Those were not forced turnovers,” Brown said. “They kicked our tail in man coverage. It is what it is.”

Morton then found Xavier White for a 55-yard touchdown pass on the Red Raiders’ second play of the second half, allowing Tech to lead 24-3 with 13:14 remaining in the third quarter.

“We knew we couldn’t call a lot because of the tempo and we had to get lined up fast,” Burks said. “With minimal play calls, it’s easier for an offense to pick where they want to go with the ball. That’s not an excuse for the back end or the whole defense. At times, we didn’t play with a lot of effort and the communication was bad.”

Morton’s 12-yard TD pass to Loic Fouonji made it 31-3 with 6:56 left in the third as the Mountaineers were uncompetitive for the second time in as many conference road games this season.

“I can’t say yay or nay until I watch it and I told them the same,” Brown said regarding his team’s effort level. “Their ass will be held accountable to it. There’s a lot of things that we can tolerate, but not playing hard is not one of them. If people weren’t playing hard, their ass won’t play next week. I can promise you that.”

WVU produced its only touchdown on the next series when Daniels threw a 28-yard pass to Ford-Wheaton that allowed the visitors to cut their deficit to 21 points.

After forcing a three-and-out, West Virginia had a chance to draw closer, but tailback CJ Donaldson lost a fumble that Tyrique Matthews recovered at midfield.

An eight play, 50-yard drive followed for Tech, which upped its lead to 38-10 on SaRodorick Thompson’s 13-yard TD run on third-and-9 two plays into the fourth quarter.

Rayshad Williams intercepted Daniels immediately after the Mountaineers got the ball back, and the Red Raiders closed the scoring with Wolff’s 26-yard field goal along with Donovan Smith’s 2-yard TD pass to Brady Boyd.

“We go into half at 17-3 and I thought we’d kind of weathered the storm with their offense,” Brown said. “I thought we’d played about as bad as we could offensively, but we showed we can actually play worse in the second half. This team has just been a roller coaster. We played really well last week against a really good football team in Baylor and won the game and we played about as bad as we can play the game of football today. It’s unbelievably frustrating to say the least.”

Garrett Greene replaced Daniels at quarterback for West Virginia’s last two series.

Milum was shaken up during the loss and left guard James Gmiter did not play in the game. Jordan White and Tomas Rimac both saw action at left guard. Brandon Yates took over for Milum after he exited the contest.

Cornerback Charles Woods returned to the lineup after suffering an ankle injury in the season opener at Pitt that required surgery. Woods, however, got “banged up again” and was unable to finish the game, according to Brown.

Donaldson was back in action after suffering a concussion three weeks ago to the day in at Texas. WVU tailback Tony Mathis did not play in the second half after suffering an injury late in the first half. Running back Justin Johnson also left the game with an injury, leaving Donaldson as the Mountaineers’ lone running back in Lubbock.

“It was zero factor in the outcome,” Brown said of losing Mathis and Johnson. “But it was affecting how we had to call it in the second half.”

Texas Tech had 103 plays for 594 yards to the Mountaineers’ 66 plays that amassed 282 yards.

Morton was 28-of-45 for 325 yards with a pair of touchdowns and benefited from a strong ground game that produced 239 yards on 54 attempts. Brooks led all ball-carriers with 107 yards on 17 rushes.

White was the game’s leading receiver with eight receptions for 139 yards.

Daniels completed 23-of-36 passes for 194 yards and matched his interception total through the first six games with three.

West Virginia rushed 26 times for 73 yards in what equaled its largest margin of defeat under Brown, tying the mark from a 52-14 loss to Oklahoma in 2019.

“Offensively, we were just bad. We didn’t play well at any position,” Brown said. “We never gave our team a chance. Four turnovers and two on balls we just had taken away from us. We didn’t protect well up front. Receivers were a non-factor in the game. Defensively, it’s tough to even evaluate them, because they had to go and play after four turnovers. The results are what they are because they had to play 34 minutes in the game and 100-something plays. Some of that was self-inflicted, but we competed at times on that side of the ball.”

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