MORGANTOWN — Throwing the football and Texas Tech go together like meatballs and spaghetti.
They didn’t invent the forward pass, but they have made the most use of it over the years and this year is no exception, as evidenced the last time the Red Raiders took the field and lost to No. 7 Oklahoma State, throwing the ball no fewer than 62 times.
One might say this is not exactly what the doctor has ordered for the West Virginia secondary when they travel to Lubbock this week to start the second half of the Big 12 season.
See, WVU has had all kinds of trouble this season trying to keep its players on the field. Injuries come by the dozens, complicated by a few ejections for targeting. For example, this week when WVU takes the field it will be without Andrew Wilson-Lamp, who ejected last week, for the first half.
“We appealed it but we were denied,” coach Neal Brown.
So, there’s another patch on that worn out tire he’s been driving in the secondary all season. There’s a blowout here, patch it up. A week later, same thing. A week later, same thing.
The result is that it’s still a work in progress, even after a huge victory over Baylor, a victory in which it gave up 40 points with most of the trouble coming through the air.
“Defensively, we have to cover better,” Brown admitted. “We gave up a bunch of yards passing.”
Even good news carries an asterisk.
Charles Woods, an all-Big 12 Preseason first team selection, played 12 plays before he suffered a leg injury. Their best defender was out.
On Tuesday, Brown announced that he would be back for the Texas Tech game.
“Woods will practice some today, hopefully,” Brown. “I wouldn’t say more than that. If he plays it will be in a reduced role.”
Any living, breathing body helps.
It isn’t always a talent problem when secondary players go down. The four or five secondary players work as a unit, signaling, timing, working with each other and that can get crazy when there’s a different guy playing alongside you every week, often every half.
They are hoping that now they can start seeing a bright side of that.
“Early in the year it was to the point of catastrophic,” defensive coordinator Jordan Leslie admitted. “When you get into that situation and are forced to adjust to things that are really hard and then lose pieces, you aren’t ready for that.”
It’s part of the new game of football. With the transfer portal beckoning players who aren’t starting, it’s normally the second team guy who transfers.
“To what they think is greener pastures,” Brown said.
But that means the next spring you are often breaking in a backup who is starting over, either a freshman or a transfer, or you are trying to replace a starter. It hit WVU coming into this season badly and it did the year before too.
But now they believe they have some guys with experience … finally.
“Now, in the same situation, when you continue to adjust you can do it. Early in the year, there was no continuity. Now, you have guys who have played. The more you play, the easier the game,” Lesley went on. “You know, the more guys down, then you have to bring the next guy up and so now they have experience.
“It’s totally different four games later. The only way to get better is the experience. The bright thing for the future is you are going to have a bunch of guys with game experience.:
The result is that you are who you are and the game is what it is.
“We are not going to out and pitch a shutout,” Brown said. “You are going to give up passing yards. We just have to do a better job of holding them down and in the pursuit angles we take.”