LUBBOCK, Texas — If Texas Tech thought Oklahoma was a good test for its revitalized defense, one has to wonder what the Red Raiders are thinking with No. 5 West Virginia coming to town.
Texas Tech’s defense allowed 41 points through three quarters in a home loss to the Sooners last weekend — just two points shy of what it had allowed to everyone else combined in the first four games of the season.
Now the nation’s No. 2 defense will face Mountaineers quarterback Geno Smith, its running back Andrew Buie, and two of the best receivers in the country, Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin. West Virginia is averaging 570 yards of offense a game. Oklahoma was averaging 492 before beating the Red Raiders 41-20 last Saturday.
“In this game we feel like we’ll be able to come out a lot faster in the first half so we don’t have as many mistakes and we’ll be able to perform a lot better,” senior safety D.J. Johnson said.
The Red Raiders (4-1, 1-1 Big 12) gave up more points than OU had averaged coming into the game (37 points). West Virginia (5-0, 2-0) is averaging 52 points.
Texas Tech leaped to the top of the defensive stats nationally this season after three wins against lesser opponents (Northwestern State, Texas State and New Mexico) and a victory at Iowa State. That’s a complete reversal from last season when the Red Raiders finished near the bottom in several defensive categories.
Improvement from the OU game is vital if the Red Raiders defense has a chance to slow the Mountaineers, Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville said. Against Oklahoma, the defense gave up 150 yards after contact on runs and pass completions, and allowed touchdown passes on two third-and-longs, he said.
“We’ve got to get back to making sure that we play the way we played in the first four games on defense,” Tuberville said. “It wasn’t anything other than the fact that we just got there and didn’t make plays.”
The challenge begins with Smith, the nation’s most efficient passer. Last week, the senior threw for 268 yards and four touchdowns in West Virginia’s 48-45 win at Texas. For the season, he’s thrown 24 touchdown passes and has not been intercepted in 204 pass attempts.
Buie last week was the balance to Smith’s 35 pass attempts. The sophomore got a career-high 207 rushing yards on 31 carries and added another 66 receiving yards.