West Virginia takes its top-ranked defense on the road to face Texas Tech

Gold and Blue Nation

West Virginia football is on the road for a Big 12 Conference clash with Texas Tech at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock on Saturday. The action kicks off at 5:30 p.m. ET and will be shown on ESPN2.

The upcoming contest will mark the tenth meeting between the Mountaineers and the Red Raiders in a series that dates back to a 7-6 victory for WVU in El Paso, Texas in 1938. The two programs didn’t meet again until West Virginia’s 2012 entrance into the Big 12, since which point the Mountaineers have held a 5-3 series advantage.

Neal Brown’s Mountaineer squad is off to a much stronger than his first year in Morgantown, currently sitting with a 3-1 record on the heels of a 38-17 victory at home over Kansas. This will be the second road game this season for WVU after their 27-13 loss at Oklahoma State in their second game of the season.

Texas Tech is led by another second-year head coach, Matt Wells, but his sophomore season in Lubbock hasn’t gotten off to quite as strong a start. After their season-opening 35-33 victory over Houston Baptist, the Red Raiders took three consecutive losses, slipping to a 1-3 record.

This will be the first game in Lubbock since the Red Raiders’ thrilling 63-56 overtime loss to Texas.

Here are some of the top storylines surrounding this week’s contest:

The Old Gold and Blue curtain

West Virginia’s defense has been a force this season. Through four games, the unit ranks number one nationally in total defense (240.2 yards allowed per game), and number two in the Big 12 in scoring defense (18.8 points allowed per game).

“We’re playing with great effort and energy and physicality on the defensive side of the ball,” said Neal Brown.

This is due to strong play coming from all three levels of their defense. The Stills brothers, Darius and Dante, who tore through Big 12 offensive lines in 2019, are back this season with their strong play, combining for 9.5 tackles for loss so far. But it has been other names, like newcomers Tony Fields and Akheem Mesidor, who have really shone through to bolster the play of the entire unit.

Mesidor, a true freshman, has especially impressed, earning the Big 12’s Newcomer of the Week award after the Kansas win as he’s racked up 4.0 sacks so far this year — just a half sack behind Iowa State’s Will McDonald, who leads the Big 12.

“There are still things he has to improve on,” said defensive line coach Jordan Lesley. “The thing that Akheem does is he understands that of all the things he doesn’t understand…how hard he plays makes up for it.”

Colombi Day in Lubbock

Matt Wells has made a change at the quarterback position, opting for junior transfer Henry Colombi over sophomore Alan Bowman, who started the Red Raiders’ first four games this season.

Colombi, who made the move to Lubbock from Utah State, has prior experience under the Wells regime, which also came from Utah State. In two years out west, Colombi appeared in 13 games as a backup and completed 53 of 69 passes for 460 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

Colombi’s introduction into the Red Raider offense has seemed to bring a spark to the team so far this season. He took over for Bowman on the final two drives of Texas Tech’s loss to Iowa State on Oct. 10, completing 10 of 12 passes for 115 yards and a touchdown.

“It’s a matter of Henry, when he’s got in, he’s played well, and he’s moved us,” Wells said. “We need to continue to stay aggressive at the quarterback position and get through our progressions.”

Where to watch

West Virginia kicks off against Texas Tech at 5:30 p.m. ET on ESPN 2. Gold and Blue Nation will have live coverage right here on our website so you don’t have to miss a moment, as well as highlights after the final whistle.

Start your gameday with a new episode of The Neal Brown Show at 9 a.m. ET on West Virginia’s Nexstar stations, featuring a close look at the connection between linebackers coach Jahmile Addae and his cousin, Alonzo, who leads the team in interceptions. Then, at 10 a.m. ET, Nick Farrell, Amanda Mazey and Anjelica Trinone will come to you live from Morgantown and Lubbock for Mountaineer GameDay.

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