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October 14, 2013

WVU trip presents challenges

It's finally Texas Tech's turn to visit Morgantown, W.Va., after two years of anticipation.

It's a sightseeing opportunity for Red Raider fans going the 1,500 road miles to West Virginia -- a place very few Texans imagined life would take them just three years ago.

However, the game is being marketed as a non-stop business trip to the No. 16 team in the country.

"To us, it's a road game," head coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "We'll have to leave a little bit earlier for the longer flight, but we'll keep our routine the exact same. We'll go to the hotel, wake up early and go play the game. I think our kids will be more excited than anything. Most of them probably have never been to West Virginia in their lives, and they say the stadium and the fans are unbelievable."

To give you a perception of the two state schools' geographical gap, the largest in the Big 12 Conference, Tech's equipment truck will depart campus Tuesday morning.

West Virginia sometimes contends with Tech, TCU, Baylor and the Oklahoma schools for Texas recruits, but there's not a great deal of athletic exchange between the Lone Star State and the Mid-Atlantic.

Tech turned some heads when it plucked Branden Jackson and Delvon Simmons from McKeesport, Penn., an area West Virginia and Penn State have successfully recruited in the past five years.

With Simmons gone, the team will look solely to Jackson if they want to learn about the environment they're entering.

"I've been to Morgantown many times," Jackson said. "It's about 30, maybe 40 minutes away. It's nothing but a hop, skip and a drive down the road."

Jackson added Saturday will be the first time his friends and family will get to see him play a college game live.

"I told them they're going to smell beer from the time we get off the plane to the time we hit the stadium," Jackson said. "The fans are going to be loud. They're going to be rude. They're going to be crazy. But it's going to make for a great atmosphere. I think they've got one of the best stadiums to playing on the road. It's going to be a testament to our team. It's really going to test us."

Tech is favored to win the game. In a best-case scenario, it's a nice tune up game to take on Oklahoma and then Texas in true road environments.

West Virginia, like all Big 12 teams, will provide the Red Raiders with on-field challenges as well.

For starters, Mountaineer head coach Dana Holgorsen has known the majority of Tech's coaches since they were teenagers.

"He coached inside receivers when I was playing quarterback here," Kingsbury said. "When I got out of playing, he's the one who got me a job at the University of Houston. I actually lived with him when I worked there, so very close."

Tech's head coach said the two don't communicate very much during the season.

Holgorsen said he cheers for Tech 11 to 12 games a season. The feeling is mutual.

"Dana coached me, coached Coach Eric Morris, was on staff working with Coach Kingsbury," outside receivers coach and co-offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie said. "I'm happy that Lyle (Leong is there as a graduate assistant) and doing well for his career. It's kind of neat to sit back and think about it, but on Saturdays both sides are going to be trying to win the game as best they can."

Webb wins Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week

Davis Webb became Tech's second true freshman quarterback to pick up Big 12 honors in his first ever start this season after throwing for three touchdowns, a conference best 415 yards and one interception.

The Red Raider coaching staff thinks the team is in very good position to keep on keeping on at quarterback even in the absence of Baker Mayfield.

"Now there are two of them that have done that," Kingsbury said. "It's fun to see. (Webb) was disappointed earlier in the year, obviously, at not being named the starter, but never blinked an eye. Kept working and kept getting better, and he's progressed and progressed and progressed. He's really played well and made some big time throws. I'm excited to see him have that success, and I'm sure he's going to keep getting better."

Kingsbury said Webb and Michael Brewer are available against West Virginia. The staff will check in on Mayfield's recovery from a knee injury during Monday's practice.

"It's hard to have a competition in Week 7 which make it's tough because you don't have enough reps," Kingsbury said. "You're trying to get one guy ready for the game. They've been very supportive of each other. We'll get as many reps to each guy as we can and play the one that we feel gives us the best chance to win a game every week."


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