MORGANTOWN — West Virginia wide receiver Sam James had a game to remember while West Virginia played a game to forget, losing to Texas Tech, 38-17, before 56,573 fans.
The loss was WVU’s fifth in succession, the first time since Dana Holgorsen’s second team in 2012 won its first five games and then lost its next five despite having Geno Smith at quarterback and Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey at wide receiver.
Ironically, that losing streak started against Texas Tech, whose offensive coordinator at the time was now WVU coach Neal Brown.
The Mountaineers were buried early and there was no one around to dig them out of the hole that came with Texas Tech quarterback Jett Duffey leading his team to a touchdown the first five times it had the ball.
“We got off to an extremely poor start defensively,” Brown said. “We settled down and did some things better but we’ve got to be ready to go defensively and we weren’t.
“We didn’t get any pressure on the quarterback all day. He stood back there,” Brown said.
After recording nine sacks last week, WVU had none this week.
“They were able to run efficiently on us. The run totals were just OK, but they were efficient,” Brown said.
They ran for only 127 yards but four of the five touchdowns on runs of 4, 2, 1 and 2 yards.
The passing touchdown, however, which really ignited Texas Tech, came when Duffey threw 81 yards to Dalton Rigdon, far beyond a Mountaineer secondary that came out in disarray early, giving Duffey 205 passing yards in the first quarter.
It was James who represented the Mountaineer offense in this one, even though he had some dismal moments, too.
James caught 14 passes, second in WVU history to the 16 caught by Kevin White on Nov. 8, 2014, against Texas. His 223 receiving yards were the most in a game since Gary Jennings gained 225 yards receiving against Oklahoma last year.
Still, when asked about the day, James labeled it “frustrating,” having had four of the Mountaineers seven dropped passes.
“I could have done better,” Jones said. “I did not take advantage of the opportunities presented to me.”
This was especially frustrating to have happen this week because Brown and the coaching staff had issued a catch 500 balls challenge for the week.
“We each had to catch 500 balls during the week before the game,” James said. “All the guys did it.”
The one who caught the most balls (533) in the challenge off the JUGGS machine was George Campbell. Campbell caught 3 passes for 95 yards with a long catch of 50 during the game.
Texas Tech built a 35-10 lead at halftime, then sat on things while WVU continued to frustrate itself with missed opportunities, leading to Brown making the decision to lift quarterback Austin Kendall for new backup Jarret Doege.
Brown’s numbers looked good with 26 of 43 passes for 355 yards, but there were no touchdowns and on a few occasions he had receivers ahead of the defenders deep but threw floaters that the receivers had to slow down for to keep them from becoming scores.
The crowd was happy to see Doege relieve Kendall — aren’t they always cheering the back up in tough times — and Doege did fine in his first appearance.
He completed 11 of 17 for 119 yards and a meaningless 9-yard touchdown pass to debuting freshman running back Tony Mathis with 5 seconds left.
It doesn’t get any easier next week when they travel to Kansas State, the team that upset Oklahoma, for 3:30 p.m. game.
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel