When No. 16 Texas Tech (6-0, 3-0) travels to Morgantown, W.Va. for its game this weekend, it will be like a trip home for redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Branden Jackson.
Jackson’s hometown, McKeesport, Pa., is just a 30-40 minute drive from where the Mountaineers play, he said, and the team recruited him coming out of high school.
“It’s nothing but a hop, skip and a drive down the road,” Jackson said. “I just heard you guys say that it’s Homecoming. That’s pretty cool because that’s my homecoming. First time I get to play in front of my family, so I’m excited.”
Jackson said he informed his teammates what the atmosphere would be like when they arrived in Morgantown.
“I told them they’re going to smell beer from the time we get off the plane to the time we hit the stadium,” he said. “The fans are going to be loud; they’re going to be rude; they’re going to be crazy. But it’s going to make for a great atmosphere. It’s really going to test us.”
The Mountaineers’ last game was one they probably would like to forget, losing 73-42 to Baylor two weeks ago.
West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said his staff used the bye week to evaluate what the team has done well and where it needs to improve and they also gave the players some time off to rest.
“We looked at it very closely, and we have identified as coaches what we do well and what we do not do well,” Holgorsen said. “We are not shifting guys around as we have. We do understand what our personality is offensively, and now we just have to get good at it and gain some confidence.”
The quarterbacks for West Virginia were some of the players needing the recovery time. The Mountaineers have used three different quarterbacks throughout the season, and two of them currently are dealing with some form of injury.
Holgorsen said the bye week was good for his injured quarterbacks, and the goal is to get where the playbook doesn’t have to change when signal callers do.
“There are certain things that each guy does well, and that’s going to come up,” he said. “We have to get to a point where it does not matter who the guy is, we have to be able to execute. We have three quarterbacks that we put out there and play. Regardless of which one we do it with, we have to be able to execute plays based on what is called.”
On the defensive side of the ball, Holgorsen said the players responded well after giving up 872 total yards to Baylor last week.
Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said besides the game against Baylor, he is impressed by the way West Virginia’s defense has played.
“They’re playing with a lot of confidence,” he said. “I know they had a rough night in Waco, but aside from that, they’ve played really good defense. They’ve turned people over, lots of negative plays wreaking havoc. You never know where they’re going to line up. Week in and week out they look like a completely different team as far as games go.”
The game between the Red Raiders and the Mountaineers kicks off at 11 a.m. Saturday at Milan Puskar Stadium.
“We didn’t play very well in the last Big 12 game that we played,” Holgorsen said. “Good news is we get a chance to redeem ourselves against another top 20 opponent that is undefeated. The challenge is large, but I can assure you we are up for the challenge and will put our best foot forward, not only in preparation but also on game day on Saturday.”