The Texas Tech football team recorded its first win on the road this season and under head coach Matt Wells after defeating the West Virginia Mountaineers 38-17 in Morgantown, West Virginia on Saturday.
“They practiced really hard. I think they gave us a chance before we even got on the plane for victory. Really proud of that,” Wells said. “These guys just continue to fight, and I respect that locker room. They fight, they’re a bunch of fighters. Their backs have been against the wall and they responded.”
For the first time this season, the Red Raiders recorded a touchdown on their first five drives of the game. With the absence of senior running back Armand Shyne due to broken ribs, redshirt freshman SaRodorick Thompson and sophomore Ta’Zhawn Henry led the run game with two touchdowns each. Although Thompson helped lead the run game, Henry took over towards the end of the game after an apparent injury at the end of the second half.
“They tried to bring (Thompson) back after halftime, and he just couldn’t go. He sure tried,” Wells said. “He’s a tough kid, so I know that he’s hurting.”
Along with Shyne missing the game due to an injury, Tech’s leading receiver junior T. J. Vasher also missed the game against the Mountaineers due to a violation of team rules. With Vasher out, redshirt freshman Erik Ezukanma and sophomore Dalton Rigdon stepped up to lead Tech’s passing game. Ezukanma recorded 70 receiving yards on five catches while Rigdon led the team with 106 yards on three catches. Rigdon was the only receiver to record a touchdown after he outran West Virginia’s defense for a 81-yard touchdown in the first quarter.
With nine players recording a reception and eight of them recording double-digit receiving yards, junior quarterback Jett Duffey orchestrated the offense without throwing an interception. Duffey threw for 354 yards, completing 24 of his 34 passes while recording 205 passing yards in the first quarter of the game.
“Again, there’s another good game by Jett Duffey,” Wells said. “I’m really proud of Jett. He just continues to keep us in the game and put the balls in catchable spots. We had a couple of drops, but we really made some competitive catches.”
Wells also credited the coaching staff and offensive linemen when speaking about Duffey’s performance to help the Red Raiders pick up their first road win of the season.
“Our o-line did a great job of IDing their backers because they moved their backers around quite a bit, and our guys did a nice job,” Wells said. “I think the credit also goes to coach (David) Yost and coach (Steve) Farmer and the game plan this week.”
On the opposite side of the ball, Tech’s defense shut West Virginia’s offense down. The team recorded four takeaways with two forced fumbles by junior linebacker Riko Jeffers, an interception by senior defensive back Douglas Coleman III and an interception by junior defensive back DaMarcus Fields. Coleman’s interception marked his eighth of the season, leading the FBS in the category. With eight picked off passes, Coleman is tied for second in Tech’s record book for single-season interceptions.
Senior linebacker Jordyn Brooks also led Tech’s defense with 11 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and recovered a fumble for 20 yards. Jeffers also helped lead the Red Raiders’ defense with two tackles for loss, a sack and a pass break up, aside from his two forced fumbles.
As a team, the Red Raiders’ defense stopped West Virginia’s run game, recording nine tackles for loss as a team. With the help from the tackles for lost yardage, the Red Raiders held the Mountaineers to 51 rushing yards. After the game, Wells said he wants to put an emphasis on both running the ball and stopping the run in the month of November as the Red Raiders fight for bowl eligibility.
“Our backs are against the wall,” Wells said. “We know exactly where we’re at, and we’re fighting to become bowl eligible and that’s the goal. Now because of the circumstances in October, that’s now the goal. It’ll be backs against the wall for the rest of the way.”
With Tech’s first win on the road, the Red Raiders are now 4-5 this season, two wins away from being eligible for a bowl game. The Red Raiders will continue its season at 11 a.m. on Saturday against Texas Christian. With the home game approaching, Tech has posted a 3-1 record at Jones AT&T Stadium.
“I’m learning more about (the team) every week. I respect them. Their backs have been against the wall,” Wells said. “A lot of people are counting us out, a little underdog mentality right now and I think they feel like they’re earning it during the week, and we’re going to continue to push that in them. I like this group, they’re led by some good seniors.”