Sep 23, 2023; Morgantown, West Virginia, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders head coach Joey McGuire talks with West Virginia Mountaineers head coach Neal Brown before the game at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports
The Texas Tech football team had opportunities to pull out an ugly win Saturday at West Virginia but in the end, the Red Raiders made too many mistakes to overcome. Let’s take a look at five hidden moments when the Red Raiders either slipped up or couldn’t make timely plays to come out on top in Morgantown.
A critical penalty against Texas Tech turns into a 4-point play
About the only complaint one can have with the Texas Tech defense in this game was the number of penalties the Red Raiders committed that kept WVU drives alive. Four times the Mountaineers were gifted first downs after it appeared Tech had come up with a stop and that was one of the stories of the game.
The first time this bit Tech in the backside was with three minutes left in the first quarter and Tech ahead 3-0. On 3rd-and-9 at the Tech 16, the Red Raiders forced WVU QB Nicco Marchiol to check the ball down for just a three-yard gain to assumedly force the Mountaineers to settle for three points.
However, on the other side of the field, Red Raider linebacker Jesiah Pierre committed a stupid holding penalty that gave the home team new life. On the play, Pierre was covering a slot receiver who simply ran a go route down the hash.
But instead of trying to turn and run with the receiver, Pierre bodied him up some ten yards down the field causing the receiver to go to the ground and drawing a holding call. It appears that the wet conditions of the field might have helped the receiver lose his footing which, in turn, helped sell the call. Had the receiver stayed upright, Pierre might have gotten away with his crime.
Regardless, this was just awful technique by one of Tech’s best defenders. While pass coverage is not Pierre’s specialty, he should be experienced enough to know that the likelihood of getting beat from the 16 is slim given that the field shrinks in the red zone.
Also, there was safety help in the area meaning Pierre could have just released his man and let the safety pick him up. Instead, Pierre mugged the receiver and drew a flag to set up the Mountaineers with a 1st-and-goal at the 8. Three plays later, Neal Brown’s offense would find the endzone for the first time in the game and Tech would never lead again.
At that point, the Red Raiders were set up to seize control by getting a stop and then following that up with another score to take the lead. WVU had punted on its first three drives of the second half managing only one first down in the process.
Thus, things were looking up for the Red Raiders after a long day of fighting against the tide. However, Tech’s momentum was quickly killed thanks to a penalty on a player who is one of the leaders of the roster.
With WVU starting the drive at its own 21, Tech finally generated some pressure in the pocket and flushed Mountaineer QB Nicco Marchiol out. However, the Red Raider who disrupted the play, Tony Bradford Jr., reached out and grabbed Marchiol by the facemask as the QB scrambled.
The ensuing penalty would take the ball all the way to the WVU 36 and set in motion what would be the game-winning TD drive. Had Bradford been able to complete this sack, WVU would have faced a 2nd-and-long deep in its own territory and the Red Raider defense likely would have been able to get the ball back to the offense with an opportunity to take the lead.
Instead, eight plays later, the home team would find the endzone. Also, keep in mind that WVU would manage to run a critical 4:16 off the clock on the drive as well.
On the day, Tech was penalized nine times for 96 yards while West Virginia was flagged only three times for 20 yards. Always remember that the officiating tends to be uneven in Morgantown for some reason, regardless of the sport and this game was a prime example of that phenomenon.
There were other penalties in this game that might have been even more impactful, including a pass interference on C.J. Baskerville in the endzone later on a third-down play to keep the Mountaineers in business. However, the personal foul on Bradford seemed to give a struggling WVU offense the jolt it needed to get its only points of the second half.
In fact, for the entire half, the Mountaineers wouldn’t even pick up a first down without the help of a Red Raider penalty. However, two Tech penalties on WVU’s only second-half scoring drive would spell doom for Tech, and Bradford’s mistake would be a big moment in helping West Virginia get out of neutral just long enough to put the game out of reach.