MORGANTOWN — West Virginia and Texas Tech, a pair of victory-starved teams, get together for brunch and crunch at Noon today at Mountaineer Field.
The football game televised by ESPN2 may lack championship implications but the game may ignite the winner on the path to a winning season and bowl bid.
“We’re really excited to get back home,” said Mountaineers coach Neal Brown, fully aware WVU’s last adventure on the home turf was an Oct. 19 loss to Iowa State.
“It’s a game between two teams who are really hungry for a win.”
Both teams are caught in losing streaks. The Mountaineers have lost their last four as they could not find an October upset, their record fell to 3-5, 1-4 in the Big 12. Texas Tech has dropped three in a row after pulling off an upset of Oklahoma State to open the month of October.
But now, the season begins anew for both teams, each piloted by a first-year coach trying to earn his spurs in the Big 12 after success at a lower level. WVU’s Brown built Troy in Alabama into a giant killer and bowl team that had three consecutive winning seasons while the Red Raiders’ Matt Wells didn’t have quite as gaudy a record at Utah State but did go 11-2 with a victory over North Texas in the New Mexico Bowl last year.
Brown is asking his team to turn over a new leaf this week.
“This is the first game in November,” he said. “I think all teams are kind of judged and remembered by how they finish.”
And WVU has a chance to have a strong finish as they close with Texas Tech, at Kansas State, Oklahoma State on Senior Day and at TCU.
Those four teams are just 19-14 this season, a step down from playing Texas, Iowa State, Oklahoma and Baylor — combined record 25-7 — in October.
There is a good deal of cross pollination between these two schools, beginning with Brown himself who got his first taste of being at the top level as offensive coordinator in Lubbock.
“I enjoyed our time in Lubbock,” Brown said.
“We had some good friends, maybe the best I’ve made in all the moves I’ve made. That was my first Power 5 coordinator opportunity. It was a unique time in that program’s history because of the way [head coach Mike] Leach left. I was fortunate enough to coach some really good offensive players.”
One of those players was quarterback Seth Doege, who ranks third in Texas Tech career history for passing yards (8,636), passing touchdowns (69), passing attempts (1187), and passing completions (819).
This is intriguing for it’s expected that Brown will try to get his quarterback brother, Jarret Doege, a transfer from Bowling Green, some playing time as the back up to Austin Kendall.
Kendall has had his struggles, not all of them his own doing, but with four games left in the regular season in which Doege could play without burning his redshirt year, Brown will want to see just how the two compare with an eye toward next year.
Brown also expects to take a look at freshman running back Tony Mathis, to see what he can add to an impotent running attack averaging just 78.9 yards per game while giving extended playing time to former Florida State receiver George Campbell, who has shown he knows how to get into the end zone with four touchdowns out of six receptions including an 83 yard score at Baylor.
Texas Tech will try to continue WVU’s offensive woes — they have scored only 14 points in each of the last three games — with a defense designed by Keith Patterson, who was co-defensive coordinator with Tony Gibson at WVU in 2012 and 2013.
Patterson is in his first year at Texas Tech and has them with their lowest scoring average against since 2009, although to be fair that doesn’t take much.
The Red Raiders do have a defensive star in linebacker Jordyn Brooks, who has 87 tackles including 15.5 for a loss.
“He’s as good as anybody in our league at that position,” Brown said.
WVU comes in off a spectacular defensive performance against Baylor, recording eight sacks, three of them by nose guard Darius Stills and two by his brother, Dante.
That will be tough to duplicate as Tech, which will probably have Jett Duffey, a 70% passer while filling in for the injured Alan Bowman, at quarterback. The Red Raiders are a team that likes to deliver the ball quickly on timing.
They have allowed only 11 sacks all season.
WVU will honor the nation’s military and those from West Virginia who have served with special game helmets that feature the American flag imposed upon the outline of the state.
— Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel