Brown eyes first WVU Mountaineers win against Texas Tech University

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MORGANTOWN — Recent history is not on West Virginia’s side headed into this week’s clash with Texas Tech.

The two teams have met twice since Neal Brown took over as the Mountaineers’ head coach in 2019, both West Virginia losses. It’s not exactly a long-term issue, either. Brown’s predecessor Dana Holgorsen won five straight prior to his departure from the program.

There are plenty of different things to point to as to why the Mountaineer’s success against the Red Raiders has been nonexistent of late, Brown says.

“If you’re looking at two key points of why they’ve won and why we have not won, I think there’s three of them,” Brown said. “The two of them that stick out are rushing yardage and turnovers, and the third one would be in the red zone. Just looking over a two-year window.”

In 2019, a stout Red Raider defense forced four Mountaineer turnovers while the team’s offense opened the game with 21 first-quarter points enroute to a 38-17 win. West Virginia played the team closer a year later, still falling 34-27 after allowing nearly 200 rushing yards.

The need to win is just as important for Texas Tech entering this week as, last week, the Red Raiders surrendered 70 points to Texas. Further, dating back to 2018, they have won only once in their last 10 true road games.

Much of the Red Raiders’ offensive game plan centers around junior wide receiver Erik Ezunkanma, who has tallied 406 yards on 23 receptions through four games. He’s been a factor in the previous two matchups with the Mountaineers, totaling 117 receiving yards between the two games.

Standing 6-foot-3, Ezunkanma’s height has tremendously helped the Red Raiders’ offense this season. Twice he has more than 120 yards receiving in a single game this year, and he averages just over 100 per game.

“The reason that those guys are recruited in those offenses is they don’t have to necessarily be as fast as some of the smaller guys,” defensive coordinator Jordan Lesley said. “The ball can be thrown to a spot and they can win on what they are, whether it’s their strength, their length — anything but straight-up speed. You always have to know that, and you have to know where they are, where you’re at on the field, how you have to play certain areas, whether it be the balls on the hash, the balls in the middle, or the balls in the red zone, what yard line it is … all that you have to game plan for and kind of find where the pieces fit.”

Quarterback Henry Colombi, who started against the Mountaineers last season, will be under center once again this week. Opening the season as the team’s backup, he entered last week’s game following an injury to starter Tyler Shough.

Last season against the Mountaineers, Colombi went 22 of 28 passing for 169 yards in addition to rushing for 40 more.

Defensively, the team’s linebacker corps is arguably its greatest asset. Colin Schooler and Riko Jeffers are the only Red Raiders to tally 20 or more tackles so far, while Krishon Merriweather ranks second on the team with 2.5 tackles for loss.

Up front, defensive lineman Tyree Wilson has been a threat, totaling a team-high four sacks.

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