By Cam Huffman
West Virginia football coach Dana Holgorsen thought he had at least one problem solved.
After putting the statistically worst defense in school history on the field in 2012 — a big reason why the Mountaineers didn’t live up to lofty preseason expectations — that unit was much better under new defensive coordinator Keith Patterson through the first five games of 2013. It was creating turnovers, limiting points and playing with energy that carried over into the Mountaineer fans.
In an unusually rapid turn of events, the defense was receiving the praise from fans and analysts, while the offense was the source of most of the complaints.
That’s until WVU made the trip to Waco, Texas, on Oct. 5. On a windy Saturday night in the Lone Star State, the Mountaineers gave up 73 points and 872 yards against the country’s most prolific offense.
Suddenly, the questions returned. Was WVU really better, or was it just a result of a weak schedule during the early part of the season?
Texas Tech’s first-year head coach Kliff Kingsbury said Monday he believes the former is true. His No. 16 Red Raiders (6-0, 3-0 Big 12) will visit Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown Saturday at noon to take on the Mountaineers (3-3, 1-2 Big 12) in a game that will air live on Fox Sports 1. He’s expecting to face a big test from the WVU defense.
“The biggest deal is how multiple they are,” said Kingsbury, who has yet to lose a game as the second-youngest head coach in all of college football. “They’re playing with a lot of confidence. 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. That’s obviously a challenge for a young quarterback.”
The Red Raiders feature a pair of freshmen as their two top quarterbacks. Baker Mayfield, a walk-on, earned the starting job, but he missed last week’s game with a knee injury. Davis Webb stepped in to take his place, and he threw for 415 yards and three touchdowns in a win over Iowa State.
Either, or both, could see the field on Saturday, but Holgorsen expects whoever is taking the snaps will see a different WVU defense than the one he watched on the Baylor film.
“They overcame that,” said Holgorsen during his Tuesday meeting with the media. “Kids are resilient. It was a poor performance defensively, but it was a poor performance offensively. It was a little bit of a buzz saw, and Baylor played extremely well.
“We can’t dwell on it forever. We had to put that one to rest and get back out there and keep working. We expect to have a lot better performance on Saturday.”
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It won’t create quite the buzz that occurred when ESPN’s College Game Day came to town in 2011, but the WVU campus will be featured Saturday when the FOX College Saturday Tour makes a stop in Morgantown.
The traveling pregame show will set up at the WVU Coliseum Saturday morning prior to WVU’s game with Texas Tech. It will kick off at 8 a.m. outside the blue gate and will include interactive activities for fans. Live segments will be filmed at 10:30 a.m, as part of the Fox College Saturday pregame show on Fox Sports 1.
The event is free to fans and open to the public. There will be a skills challenge, a virtual gaming center and a fan lounge with a 16-foot-by-10-foot wide screen television.
Parking at the WVU Coliseum is free, and there will be a shuttle service to Milan Puskar Stadium for $4 roundtrip.
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WVU fans now have a new option for listening to the play-by-play of every football game.
IMG College, the multimedia rights partner of WVU, and AudioNow announced Tuesday a partnership to provide fans an opportunity to listen to games over the phone.
Beginning Saturday, and for the rest of the season, WVU fans can dial 712-432-6998 and listen to live broadcasts on the Mountaineer Sports Network from IMG. It will begin with pregame programming at 8:30 a.m.
Fans watching at home can also use the AudioMatch feature to synchronize the radio broadcast with the television broadcast. WVU joins the University of Florida and the University of Nebraska as the only schools offering this listen-by-phone technology.
There is no extra charge to use the service. It is equivalent to making a standard mobile call.
— E-mail: chuffman
@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.