By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
Now Dana Holgorsen knows what a trap game is.
During the West Virginia University football coach’s weekly press conference on Tuesday, a question was asked of him as to whether he considered his upcoming game against Texas Tech in Lubbock a trap game, it being on the road against a team that had just lost and sitting between crucial Big 12 games against Texas and Kansas State.
“I don’t understand what a trap game means. You play the same every week. If you don’t have the ability to understand that every week is the same, you get beat. Whether it’s a trap game or ‘big’ game, it’s a game,” he said.
Well, his No. 4/5 unbeaten West Virginia Mountaineers got caught in some kind of trap on Saturday, for when the final gun mercifully went off Texas Tech had devoured WVU’s vaunted offense and embarrassed its leaky defense, 49-14, before 57,382 homecoming fans, all of whom but one streaker waited until the game’s end to rush the field.
It was a nightmarish performance by WVU, which saw its nine-game winning streak come to an end in its worst loss since losing to Miami, 45-3, in 2001 and saw Geno Smith’s rush toward the Heisman Trophy slowed, if not completely derailed. Smith, the nation’s top-ranked passer, had been completing 81.4 percent of his throws and was averaging 399.2 yards per game.
He completed 29 of 55 passes for 275 yards and was completely outplayed by Tech’s Seth Doege, who admittedly had WVU’s dismal pass defense to go against in leading Tech to its most lopsided victory ever over a team ranked in the top five.
The only real positive for Smith to take out of the game was that once again he failed to throw an interceptions and his streak now stands at 313 passes without being intercepted, moving in Russell Wilson’s collegiate record of 378.
“I didn’t play awful; I just didn’t do enough,” he said. “I didn’t get it done and put 100 percent of that blame on myself.”
He was under a lot of pressure, even though Texas Tech did not blitz a lot, and his normally pinpoint accuracy was off, sometimes by quite a bit on this windy afternoon on the Texas plains. He also, early on, passed up chances to run the ball when flushed out of the pocket to throw difficult, dangerous passes.
“We never got into a rhythm,” offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said. “When we had open people we’d miss them or someone would drop it. It wasn’t one person. It wasn’t one thing. Typically, when things like that happen it’s an accumulation of a lot of people not doing the right thing. That’s exactly what it was.”
Texas Tech was expected to be difficult. It possessed the No. 1 defense in the nation against the pass and the No. 2 total defense behind Alabama. and while it had built that against suspect competition, it obviously was not a freak statistic.
Tech kept WVU out of the end zone for 47 minutes between touchdowns.
On the other side of the ball, however, WVU’s defense that had been escaping with victories that were won in spite of it rather than because of it was completely overwhelmed.
Doege passed for six touchdowns and a career high 504 yards, completing 32 of 42 passes.
In all, Texas Tech compiled 686 total yards.
West Virginia has played 120 years of college football and had never given up 600 yards in a game. It now has done it twice in the past three games, Baylor having set the record by gaining 700 yards in the Big 12 opener while losing to WVU.
“When you don’t have a pass rush it’s a lot easier to make your reads,” said Doege, indicating WVU never really pressured him.
He was coming off a dismal game against Oklahoma where he was rushed hard and completed 22 of 36 passes for 203 yards and no touchdowns but three interceptions. That’s 301 fewer yards then he threw against WVU.
Mountaineer first-year defensive coordinator Joe DeForest, who is under growing pressure, was short in his post-game comments, and when asked about Doege, he said simply, “Yes, they had a hot quarterback” and cut short the inquisition.
Texas Tech, now 5-1 and 2-1 in the Big 12 to match WVU’s records, had no fewer than 18 plays of 15 yards or more, including a 61-yard pass to Jace Amaro and a 53-yard touchdown run by SaDale Foster.
It was obvious from the start that WVU was out of sync, perhaps partially caused by having to make its second trip into Texas in two weeks, as Doege hit a wide-open Amaro for a 39-yard TD on the first possession and Eric Ward from 19 yards out on the second to go up 14-0.
WVU got a score on pass from Smith to Stedman Bailey, who left the game later with an ankle injury. It was Bailey’s 14th touchdown of the season, a school record, and ninth in three games.
It seemed like hours later when WVU scored again, finally hitting the board on a 2-yard run by Dustin Garrison for the game’s final score, making it 49-14.
The loss takes some of the glamor off next Saturday’s home meeting with Kansas State but adds to the importance of the game, making it a must-win confrontation with the unbeaten Wildcats at Milan Puskar Stadium.
“We have to bounce back. We can’t let one game affect the rest of our season. We don’t care about the media hype. We don’t care about the critics. We don’t care about the outsiders,” Smith said. “We have to bounce back.”
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.