The West Virginia Mountaineers are back in Morgantown for their first Big 12 clash at Milan Puskar Stadium as they welcome the Texas Tech Red Raiders in conference action on Saturday. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2.
WVU has generally been the victor when these two programs have met, but the needle has shifted in favor of Texas Tech since they each added their current head coaches to the helm in 2019. Neal Brown, who ironically coached at Texas Tech when Seth Doege was calling the signals, has taken two straight losses to his former team, while two of Matt Wells’s five total Big 12 wins in Lubbock have come against the Mountaineers.
In another fit of irony, Jarret Doege — the younger brother of Seth — has played for WVU in both matchups, so he will be on the hunt for his first win against the team he supported as a kid.
The all-time series between the two teams stands at 6-4 in WVU’s favor since 1938, with the bulk of those meetings occurring since WVU’s addition to the Big 12 in 2012. This year, they are once again the favorite to take a win, by as much as a touchdowns, according to some accounts.
Both teams are on the prowl for a bounce-back win after a tough week three. West Virginia nearly earned its first win over No. 4 Oklahoma in Norman since 1982 on Saturday, but costly mistakes killed the team and allowed the Sooners to drive down for a game-winning field goal as time came to a close. The Red Raiders faced the other half of the Red River Rivalry in Texas, taking a 70-35 thumping to the Longhorns.
Here are some of the biggest storylines heading into this weekend’s matchup:
Keeping Mountaineer morale high
If it weren’t for a couple of mistakes in Norman, it is likely that West Virginia would be 3-1 right now — but those mishaps, however glaring they may have been, were not indicative of the team’s overall quality and performance on Saturday.
Center Zach Frazier unassumingly took the spotlight in the fourth quarter when he committed a pair of miscues on the snap in a potentially game-winning drive. Instead of zeroing in on those mistakes, Brown lifted his center up — noting that those were likely the only two bad plays in an otherwise “pretty good” game for the talented sophomore.
“Zach Frazier, over the course of the next three-and-a-half years, I’ll take him every single time in that situation, in that kind of moment,” Brown said. “He’ll learn from it, and he’ll move on.”
On the other side of the ball, the Mountaineers continued another strong season on defense, holding the Sooners to just 16 points — including just one touchdown. WVU was so stout, in fact, that the Sooner faithful was chanting in favor of the team’s backup quarterback over Heisman hopeful Spencer Rattler.
The Mountaineer defense has another test in the Red Raiders, who score 38.8 points per game — tied for the third-best in the Big 12.
Red Raiders call on Colombi
Starting quarterback Tyler Shough went down in the second quarter with a broken collarbone as he dove into the end zone against Texas for a touchdown. He is likely to be out until November, so Wells is once again tapping Henry Colombi to play quarterback against West Virginia — something he’s done once and done well.
Colombi was put in this position in 2020 after an injury to Alan Bowman put the Red Raider starter on the sideline. The offense didn’t miss a step with Colombi in the lead, as he led Texas Tech to a 34-27 victory over West Virginia in Lubbock.
Colombi’s first real action of this season came as Texas Tech trailed by two touchdowns to the Longhorns, and while the Red Raiders didn’t finish on top, he didn’t seem fazed, tossing for 324 yards and three touchdowns.
“People can say it was already kind of out of control at that point, but you’ve still gotta play well,” said KLBK’s Eric Kelly, who covers the team as part of Red Raider Nation.
The Utah State transfer has the luxury of the same skill weapons around him. The Red Raiders return the same running back room of SaRodorick Thompson, Xavier White and Tahj Brooks in the backfield, while also returning the same receiver corps, with the addition of Troy transfer Kaylon Geiger Sr.
Kickoff between the Mountaineers and Red Raiders is set for 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2. Be sure to start your gameday with a brand new episode of The Neal Brown Show, which airs on West Virginia Nexstar stations at 9 a.m. ET, followed by a live hour of Mountaineer GameDay at 10 a.m. ET. Mountaineer GameDay then continues on AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh at 11 a.m. ET.