West Virginia rides defense to victory over Texas Tech

Texas Tech and West Virginia wound up in a battle of backup quarterbacks on Saturday, and the Mountaineers produced just enough of an edge to prevail 20-13 in a Big 12 Conference opener for both teams at Morgantown, W.Va.

The Mountaineers survived a final Red Raiders drive that came up empty when backup quarterback Behren Morton’s final three passes into the end zone were incomplete, the last with just 19 seconds to go.

West Virginia backup quarterback Nicco Marchiol connected with Kole Taylor on a 9-yard touchdown pass with 7:33 left in the game to put the hosts up 20-10. That score answered the Red Raiders’ only touchdown of the day.

Marchiol, starting in place of Garrett Greene (ankle), wasn’t spectacular most of the game. However, on the decisive drive, he was on target on all three of his passes for 32 yards and also ran for 17 yards to move West Virginia (3-1, 1-0 Big 12) into Texas Tech territory.

The Red Raiders (1-3, 0-1) answered with a field-goal drive to close the gap to 20-13 with 4:45 to go in the game. That was the second straight scoring march engineered by Morton, who took over in the second quarter after starter Tyler Shough suffered an apparent ankle injury late in the first quarter. Shough was taken off the field on a cart with an air cast on his left leg.

Texas Tech couldn’t complete the comeback despite driving from its 28-yard-line to the West Virginia 11 with two fourth-down conversions.

Before that fateful finish, the Red Raiders drew within 13-10 with their best drive of the game, a 79-yard march that bracketed the end of the third quarter and start of the fourth.

Tahj Brooks, who rushed for 149 yards, broke loose for a 27-yard gain to get Texas Tech inside the 20-yard-line for the first time all day, and Morton tossed a 50-50 pass to the end zone that Jerand Bradley hauled in for a 6-yard score.

Texas Tech was abysmal on offense in the first half with only 56 total yards on 23 plays. The Red Raiders failed to gain a first down on six of seven possessions prior to the break, the only exception being a short field-goal drive after Malik Dunlap intercepted Marchiol.

West Virginia was methodical when it had the ball, and that helped create a 13-3 halftime advantage. The Mountaineers bounced back from the early turnover with a 13-play, 75-yard touchdown drive featuring 12 running plays. CJ Donaldson Jr. carried seven times on the march, including a 2-yard burst into the end zone to put West Virginia in front 7-3.

Mountaineers kicker Michael Hayes helped extend the lead with second-quarter field goals of 28 and 46 yards, the latter right before halftime.

–Field Level Media