WVU football eyes 2nd Big 12 upset
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Clearly not among the Big 12 elite, West Virginia hopes to establish itself as a spoiler while building up its own bowl resume as it faces unbeaten No. 16 Texas Tech in its homecoming game at noon Saturday at Milan Puskar Stadium.
The Mountaineers already have upset then-No. 11 Oklahoma State at home and, despite being unsettled at quarterback, believe they have a chance to pull off a second upset in a season loaded with top teams. WVU has lost to Oklahoma, Maryland and Baylor.
“This is the fourth time we have played an undefeated and ranked team in the Big 12,” coach Dana Holgorsen said. “The challenge is large, but I can assure you we are up for the challenge.”
“We started talking about that back in January,” defensive coordinator Keith Patterson said. “It's the Big 12. You beat Oklahoma State, then you have an undefeated team waiting on you. It's no different now. We have another undefeated team. Texas Tech is a top-15 team in the country.”
“It's actually good,” linebacker Isaiah Bruce said. “It gives us a chance to bring them down a level. It definitely makes us step up our game — going against an undefeated team. It just makes us want to play even harder.”
The Mountaineers believe they are familiar enough with Texas Tech's offense that they have an advantage. Holgorsen worked previously with Red Raiders coach Kliff Kingsbury and roomed with him when they were on the staff at Houston.
“Offensively, it is something that we know very well,” Holgorsen said. “Obviously, I have a history with Kliff, and I know what he has done offensively and how he operates. We are both cut from the same cloth. So, we are going to know what they do offensively. Obviously, the challenge is to stop it.”
The thing that makes that difficult is the presence of tight end Jace Amaro, a 6-foot-5, 260-pound weapon who has emerged as the Red Raiders' top receiver with 47 catches after catching just 25 in seven games last year.
“He is big, fast and strong, and he blocks well and catches well,” Holgorsen said. “This year he has been hard to contain.”
WVU's linebackers and safeties will be asked to pay special attention to Amaro.
Offensively, Holgorsen has withheld naming his starting quarterback between juniors Clint Trickett and Paul Millard, just as Tech has not named a starter from Baker Mayfield and Michael Brewer.
“We have done a pretty good job, in my opinion, of getting the play started in the run game but have not done a great job at getting the play started in the pass game,” Holgorsen said. “They have to go hand-in-hand.”
Bob Hertzel is a freelance writer.