LUBBOCK, Texas — Coming off of a close loss to Kansas, Texas Tech is looking ahead to a trip to West Virginia after resting up during an idle week. The Raiders sit at 3-5 on the season and 1-4 in Big 12 play.
Monday morning, head coach Matt Wells, cornerback Zech McPhearson and wide receiver Dalton Rigdon met with the media to discuss the bye week, the upcoming game in Morgantown and more. Here some key takeaways from the press conference.
“There’s nothing magical that you can do. I mean we put them in a ton of situational football in terms of in our walkthroughs as well as in our practices.”Matt Wells on finishing close games.
Resting up during the bye
After a hard-fought loss, Texas Tech had an extra week to rest up before its next game. That meant more time for players like Nelson Mbanasor, Evan Rambo and Desmon Smith to recover from their injuries. Matt Wells said all three are considered day-to-day and are game time decisions for Saturday.
The healthier members of the team got a chance to rest their bodies and minds with the time off.
“I think last week was good,” he said. “It was a combination of practice and rest. They came in here this morning, even last night, I think refreshed, refocused. There’s a little bit of a renewed energy, I think for this stretch run.”
Wells and his staff also got extra time to prep for the Mountaineers, who are also looking for their second Big 12 win.
After an inefficient outing against Iowa State, Jett Duffey played better against Kansas. The junior completed 67.6 percent of his passes while throwing for three touchdowns and no interceptions.
“I think Jett’s been playing really well,” Rigdon said. “I think he’s been putting us in a position to win every weekend. I think it goes back to confidence, building confidence with all the guys around.”
Wells praised Duffey’s ability to avoid turnovers but did say that he has some areas to improve on, including progressions in the passing game and managing the run game.
As far as Duffey’s in-house competition, both Alan Bowman and Maverick McIvor are getting X-rays soon and remain day-to-day.
Closing out close games
The loss at Kansas showed that a trend is beginning to emerge for the Red Raiders: an inability to finish in close games. Texas Tech has dropped tight games to Baylor and Kansas, and allowed Arizona to score 15 unanswered in the fourth quarter to pull out that game. Wells feels he has done his best to give the players practice in those situations.
“There’s nothing magical that you can do,” he said. “I mean we put them in a ton of situational football in terms of in our walkthroughs as well as in our practices, two minute, last second this, last second that, we do quite a bit.”
Texas Tech is currently a 1.5-point favorite over West Virginia, so Las Vegas expects this one to be close as well.
“Try not to think about it. I mean, if you need it, try to put some Vaseline on your arms. That’s all I can say, some latex gloves. But other than that it’s going to bite in the cold weather.”Maryland native Zach McPhearson on playing in cold weather.
Armand Shyne suffers a season-ending injury
The biggest injury news of the day was the announcement that running back Armand Shyne would miss the regular season with broken ribs. A graduate transfer from Utah, Shyne finishes the regular season with 374 yards on 65 carries and three touchdowns.
In his place, SaRodorick Thompson and Ta’Zhawn Henry will continue to get reps and junior Jax Welch will step in as the third string back. A former walk-on, Welch has just four carries in his career. But Wells loves what he brings to the table.
“He’s a stud,” Wells said of Welch. “He does everything, as a coach, that you would ask of a player. He’s a football junkie. He is a team captain, he starts on four special teams, tremendous unselfish player, great teammate, guys love him in the locker room, kind of epitomizes West Texas tough. Texas Tech Raider through and through.”
Playing in the cold
Texas Tech will be traveling north to Morgantown and temperatures are expected to be in the 30s and 40s. One person who does have experience in that weather is McPhearson, who transferred to Texas Tech from Penn State and hails from Maryland originally.
“Try not to think about it,” McPhearson said of playing in cold weather. “I mean, if you need it, try to put some Vaseline on your arms. That’s all I can say, some latex gloves. But other than that it’s going to bite in the cold weather.”
Scouting West Virginia
Just like Texas Tech, West Virginia is in its first year under a new coach and looking to climb out of the Big 12’s cellar. Offensively, the Mountaineers are last in the Big 12 at 21.6 points per game, but quarterback Austin Kendall is improving in his first year as a starter.
“He’s done a pretty good job of taking care of the football,” Wells said of Kendall. “He’s a talented kid, he can make a lot of throws, he throws it on time.”
Texas Tech is still looking for its first road win as it looks to get back in the hunt for a bowl game. Saturday poses a key opportunity for Red Raiders to notch their second conference win.