WVU football: Texas Tech won’t take many risks on defense
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- When Dana Holgorsen left Texas Tech five years ago, he left behind the enduring reputation of an offense that remains in familiar form today.
The Red Raiders run a version of the Air Raid offense that Holgorsen has taught in his two seasons as the West Virginia coach and one meets the other Saturday afternoon at Jones AT&T Stadium.
Yet it's the Texas Tech defense that's most like No. 5 WVU's offense.
The Mountaineers (5-0, 2-0 Big 12) have the nation's most prolific quarterback and are No. 2 in passing offense and No. 3 in total offense.
The Red Raiders (4-1, 1-1) enter the 3:30 p.m. game (WCHS telecast) ranked No. 1 against the pass and No. 2 overall.
Texas Tech doesn't do a whole lot on defense and plays a pretty basic style, but is pretty good at the few things it likes to do.
The Mountaineers don't have a playbook on offense and run but a handful of plays during a game, but do those things quite well.
"The fact they've gotten so good at what they know and what they do is what makes it so hard," West Virginia University quarterback Geno Smith said. "They may still come out and do something unexpected and throw us off a little bit, but those guys do a real good job just playing their scheme."
Texas Tech had one of the nation's worst defenses last year and finished between Nos. 113-120 in total, scoring, rushing and pass efficiency defense.
Texas Tech Coach Tommy Tuberville hired Art Kaufman from North Carolina as the defensive coordinator in the offseason, the fourth in as many years for the Red Raiders.
They've kept things fairly simple to succeed.
"What you see is what you get from them," wide receiver Stedman Bailey said. "They really don't do anything you don't see coming."
More often than not, the defense lets the cornerbacks play man-to-man coverage and asks everyone else not rushing the quarterback to play a zone - including the safeties that are usually deep to prevent big plays.
The defenders don't fake blitzes or disguise coverages or move around before the snap to bother the offensive line or confuse the quarterback. The Red Raiders instead line up and try to get the better of the person across from them by simply doing the assignment they've done so many times before.
"It doesn't look overly complicated and it's pretty simple what they do, but a lot of times when you face a defense that doesn't do a lot, they end up being really good at what they do," offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said.
Texas Tech doesn't pressure the passer much and WVU said the Red Raiders have only blitzed about eight percent of the time this season.
They have only five quarterback hurries and nine sacks - three in the season-opener against Football Championship Subdivision program Northwestern State, two against a New Mexico team that has only passed 71 times this season and runs the ball 80 percent of the time and four against an Iowa State team that promptly changed quarterbacks after the game.
There were no sacks in last week's loss to Oklahoma, when Landry Jones had time to pass for 259 yards and two touchdowns on 40 attempts.
Maryland, Baylor and Texas have blitzed WVU the past few games and had good and bad experiences. They combined to sack Smith seven times and Texas forced and recovered two fumbles, but each was exploited a few times in bad matchups that went for big gains.
Texas Tech won't take those risks.
"Blitzing means taking chances and pressuring means taking chances," Holgorsen said. "By blitzing, you're taking people out of position to help prevent the score if you put the ball in play. By not doing that, they're covering more ground. They have more people in coverage and if you happen to complete the ball, they have more people going to it. They're in position to make plays.
"We'll probably have a little longer to throw the ball - not that they don't do a good job with the pass rush rushing four people. They do. At times they do it with three. Every defense poses challenges and every defense we scheme to attack and put people in position to be successful."
The advantage would seem to be with WVU, given the prowess so far against defenses that blitz and disguise and change and generally complicate things more than Texas Tech.
The Mountaineers figure to have fewer things to study and prepare for from film and can have a more focused and effective game plan. Smith would have fewer options from the defense to consider when he studies the other side of the ball before the snap, which would see him making more accurate decisions when he checks out of one play and into another.
Those assumptions would be misguided. Even though the Red Raiders do what they line up to do and rarely spring surprises or bring blitzes, their restraints can actually limit the other team's offense.
"You sit there and watch film on Texas Tech and tell yourself, 'OK, this is what they hang their hat on and they do it every game,' and then you try to develop a game plan against that defense," Dawson said. "You think you should know exactly where they're going to line up every play. The problem with that is when we game plan against a team like Texas or even Maryland when you don't know what they're going to do, you have some flexibility in your game plan for what they're going to do.
"When you game plan for somebody and you feel like you know exactly what they're going to do and where they're going to like up, there's not a lot of flexibility because you've only come up with a plan for what they do. If they go out and don't do it, then you've got to come up with some adjustments and have some things available to attack them."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at email@example.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.