West Virginia senior safety Karl Joseph is out for the season with a knee injury. Senior cornerback Terrell Chestnut is still battling an injured shoulder that had him in and out of the lineup in a 40-10 loss at TCU last Thursday. The other starting corner, Daryl Worley, and safety K.J. Dillon both suffered bumps and bruises against the Horned Frogs that caused them to miss some time.
No big deal, right? All the WVU defense has to do on Saturday is find a way to slow down the nation’s No. 2 passing offense.
Even with the healthy secondary that many predicted to be among the Big 12’s best in the preseason, defending Texas Tech sophomore quarterback Patrick Mahomes would be a challenge for WVU. Mahomes leads the nation with 3,336 passing yards in nine games. Getting the job done with a bruised and battered secondary, which gave up big chunks of yardage in losses to Oklahoma, Baylor and TCU, could be like trying to plug a leaking boat with a plastic fishing worm.
But WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen isn’t looking for excuses.
“I’m not playing out there,” he said. “They are not going to suit me up to go out there an play. We have to get those guys ready to go. When these backups have an opportunity to go out there and play, nobody cares if they are young and inexperienced. They have to get out there and play.”
Holgorsen knows those backups — guys like Jeremy Tyler, Nana Kyeremeh, Shane Commodore and Rick Rumph — will have to play, but he’s also hopeful his starters will see significant action.
“I know Chestnut and Dillon will give us everything they have,” he said. “If they go down, or if they are not at 100 percent, then that is not going to prevent them from practicing and going out there to play. It’s the same thing with Daryl Worley. I expect all those guys to be out there playing.”
“You have to want to go out there and play,” agreed Dillon, who has 32 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, five breakups and an interception this season. “Everybody is banged up. It’s a little over halfway through the season. You have to go to treatment every week and get ready to play.”
Whoever is on the field is going to be challenged.
Mahomes has completed nearly 65 percent of his throws and is averaging 370.7 yards per game through the air, ranking ahead of even TCU’s Trevone Boykin, who torched the Mountaineer defense last week. Like Boykin, Mahomes is also a threat with his legs, having run for 327 yards in nine starts.
“I don’t think he’s as fast as (Boykin), but he is fast and can beat you with his feet,” said WVU defensive coordinator Tony Gibson. “He’s very athletic and extends plays. It’s the same stuff we’ve been facing.”
The key, said Dillon, is to avoid making the same mistakes.
“Obviously we had a lot of issues filling Karl’s position, because he was such a big part of what we do,” said Dillon. “Then there are technique flaws, man coverage issues and tackling. That’s why we practice, though, to get better.
“I’m just trying to get in guys’ ears to get jacked up, play the next game and win.”
WVU (3-4, 0-4 Big 12) and Texas Tech (5-4, 2-4 Big 12) have both been struggling — the Mountaineers losing four straight and the Red Raiders two in a row — and Saturday’s game, scheduled for a noon kickoff in Morgantown, could be crucial to the bowl hopes of both teams.
After back-to-back road trips to Texas to face Baylor and TCU, though, Holgorsen’s happy to be back at Mountaineer Field.
“It should be fun being back home,” he said. “I know our guys are excited about it.
“You have to prepare for the next game and go out there with your best effort. That’s what we’re doing, so you won’t hear us talk about October anymore.”
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