By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
Caution! Speed trap ahead!
West Virginia has the speed and Texas Tech supplies the trap next Saturday in Lubbock, Texas.
If ever there were a game that looked like a trap, it is Texas Tech.
Consider the factors:
1. The Red Raiders have just had their unbeaten dreams broken by losing convincingly to Oklahoma, 41-20. That will make them mad.
2. They lost at home, and now get to defend the home field again with a partial crowd.
3. West Virginia comes off a hard-fought, emotionally draining road victory at Texas, 48-45.
4. The game lies between Texas and Kansas State, the Wildcats probably representing the game they have to win at home to have any chance at a national championship and Big 12 championship.
5. It is a homecoming of sorts for WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen, who was an assistant there to Mike Leach for seven years. It comes with all the media and social distractions homecomings come with for any coach.
All of this makes it a difficult preparation for the Mountaineers.
Holgorsen tries to battle this in a number of ways. To begin with, he tries to take pressure off by making football fun. While his team works hard, it works quickly and it doesn’t come with all the pressures that some other coaches put on their players.
Secondly, they prepare the same way for every game so that they cannot differentiate the pressures from one game to the next.
Third, and perhaps most important, is Holgorsen always keeps the focus directly on the task at home, be it a game or what is going on during a game. Rest assured Texas had not been discussed before Texas week and there will be no looking ahead to Kansas State allowed during this week.
You can read all this into remarks Geno Smith had following the Texas game.
“We win as a team or lose as a team. That’s the way we are. We might as well have fun,” Smith said.
Because of that, their approach within the game is the same as their approach before the game.
“It’s not about the last play. It’s about the next play,” he said.
And so, if he gets knocked around as he did at times by Texas, he shakes it off immediately.
“I’ve been in games where I was hit a lot more. I just get up and go on,” he said about that.
And so it is from contest to contest. You can’t beat Kansas State during the week you play Texas Tech, but you can lose to Texas Tech during that week if you look ahead.
Tech is not a team to look past either. It has a solid quarterback in Seth Doege, who is the third ranked QB in the Big 12 behind Smith and Nick Florence of Baylor. He averages 278.4 yards a game and has thrown 15 TDs.
Also, if anyone is capable of slowing the WVU offense in this conference, it is Texas Tech, whose image has changed under Tommy Tuberville from the wide open passing team Holgorsen once coached to a solid defensive team that leads the Big 12 in both rushing and passing defense, to say nothing of total defense.
They give up only 210 yards in a game and will be facing a team that had its running back gain 207 in his last game in Andrew Buie, and WVU is a passing team.
Certainly WVU is the better team, but do not forget this is the same school that was a 24-point favorite over Pittsburgh in 2007 and lost the game, 13-9, and its coach.
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.