Thu Oct 11 02:40pm EDT
To get the scoop on West Virginia, we went to an expert on the Mountaineers -- Keenan Cummings of WVSports.com -- with five questions about the team and Saturday's game.
How much has the phrase 'trap game' been thrown around Morgantown this week?
KC: "More than you can count.
"It's something that's been mentioned by the media, but head coach Dana Holgorsen isn't having any of it. He basically brushed the notion aside in his Tuesday press conference saying that every game is equally important. Still, with the game sandwiched between an emotional road game at Texas and a potential top five matchup next week against Kansas State there's some room for concern. So far this team hasn't flinched in pressure situations but West Virginia is expecting this to be a hostile environment they enter Saturday."
WVU's defense ranks at or near the bottom of the Big 12 in most defensive categories except for sacks and tackles for loss. What has been the biggest factor in the team's defensive struggles this season?
KC: "A lot of it can be attributed to youth. West Virginia lost a number of playmakers off their defense a year ago and at times the youth has been evident with busts in coverage. Up front the front seven has done a good job stopping the run, but has struggled in the back end. The group hasn't generated a ton of pressure with their front, and the cornerbacks have struggled in coverage especially on third downs. But they did come up with some crucial stops against Texas after struggling mightily against Baylor. But I think the group is showing signs of improvement."
Andrew Buie almost had as many rushing yards against Texas as he had in the four previous games combined. Is that something that he is realistically capable of doing week in and week out or was that more of an anomaly?
KC: "Obviously Saturday was a career day for the sophomore running back, but he's taken some major steps forward this season after struggling with consistency and injuries during his freshman year. Buie is part of a three-headed attack at running back along with senior Shawne Alston and sophomore Dustin Garrison, but Garrison is returning from off-season surgery and Alston has missed the past couple games with a lingering thigh bruise. Buie definitely has the ability to prevent West Virginia from becoming one dimensional, but as for weekly 200-yard games that might be a difficult task. One area that Buie has really developed into a productive option is in the passing game and West Virginia does a good job getting him the ball in open space."
Obviously, no team expects to have a letdown-type game at any point in the season. Why should folks expect one out of WVU on Saturday? Why shouldn't they expect one?
KC: "As we mentioned above, this is a classic trap game. The Mountaineers will be on the road against a talented opponent that they aren't familiar with. It's hard to say what can happen in those type of games, especially if West Virginia does come out flat and unprepared for what Texas Tech is going to throw at them. It is paramount that the Mountaineers don't get caught looking ahead or behind and focus on the task at hand or they will be coming home with a loss.
"On the flip side, this is a very experienced group with seniors in key positions including quarterback with Geno Smith. This group has been there and done that in terms of facing tough atmospheres and this weekend should be no different. Since the Orange Bowl this team has been very focused on what they need to accomplish in terms of a conference championship and that continues this weekend in Lubbock."
How do you expect Saturday to play out?
KC: "I'm never one to provide predictions but this is an interesting game due to some of the factors I've discussed above, along with the return of Dana Holgorsen to a place he was an assistant coach for a number of years. I will be important for the Mountaineers to start fast as they did against Texas to take the crowd out of the game early and continue the momentum offensively against a tough Red Raiders defense by taking what the defense gives them. West Virginia has been very good with not turning the ball over this season and that also will be a key. Finally, on the defensive side of the ball West Virginia has to continue to show improvement and force the Red Raiders out of their comfort zone. If they bring pressure they need to hit home with it and get off the field on third down to get the ball back to the offense. This is a game that West Virginia should win, but I expect it to be close for a while."