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October 16, 2013

Ask the Expert: West Virginia

To get the inside scoop on West Virginia, we went to an expert on Mountaineer football -- Keenan Cummings with WVUSports.com -- with questions about ISU and Saturday's game in Lubbock.

West Virginia was hoping for a better start to the season, but the Mountaineers are 3-0 at home, including a win over Oklahoma State. Do you feel like the players are confident heading into this game, knowing the amount of success they've had in their home stadium up to this point?
KC: "I do think that the players are confident. Talking to them yesterday, they have the same kind of resolve they had, because earlier in the year, they quite frankly got embarrassed in Maryland. They were beat 37 - nothing, and came back the next week home and upset Oklahoma State. Obviously every game is different, but I think the players put what happened at Baylor behind them, and they're looking forward to this game.

"Obviously these two teams are very familiar with each other, as you know very well, a lot of similarities on offense, on defense, so I think the players are excited and looking forward to this game."

What do you think was the main focus of this bye week in preparation for Texas Tech?
KC: "The main focus of the bye week was to get West Virginia healthy. They've been through six games, and it's been rough, a lot of injuries. Two of the quarterbacks were hurt. Clint Trickett had a sprained AC joint and he should be good to go now. One of the best defenders, Nick Kwiatkoski, was out with a hamstring. They had a bunch of other guys with bumps and bruises, so they got healthy over the bye week.

"There's only about two or three players that should miss the game. Clint will play, a couple of other guys will play that have been missing, but other than that, outside of the general getting healthy, it was kind of getting focused on what they need to do.

"I was talking with Coach yesterday, and some things they discussed was tackling, and that had been a strong point through the first three games. The last three games were very spotty, had a lot of missed tackles. Basically a lot of that stuff, a lot of fundamental stuff, basically that kind of thing, and then this week, prep for Texas Tech really starting to begin."

Which quarterback do you feel gives West Virginia the best chance to win on Saturday?
KC: "I think given the offensive line, they've had some issues up front, I think you have to go with Clint Trickett, especially if he's healthy. Just because he's a guy that can extend plays. He's not ever going to be confused with Michael Vick, you know, he's not going to get out there and run around for 100 yards a game, but he's a guy that can extend a play, make something happen with his feet, and find his receivers down the field.

Paul Millard is another guy that's kind of a safe option. You kind of know what you're going to get with Paul, he's never going necessarily 'wow' you, but he doesn't make a lot of mistakes. Either of those guys, you worry a little bit more with Ford just because he's a younger guy, doesn't really have the experience, and he's dealing with a pectoral injury that happened in the Maryland game.

"I think you got to go this week either with Clint or Paul. Dana hasn't necessarily announced his decision yet, but I'm fully expecting it to be Clint."

Who would you say is the X-factor for this game?
KC: "That's a good question, I think not necessarily a player, but a unit. I think West Virginia's offensive line needs to play very well, they've struggled at times, they've really struggled run blocking, pass blocking they've been alright. They haven't necessarily given up a lot of sacks, but run blocking, they haven't been able to create creases for the running backs. If they can strive for some balance a little bit, be able to run the football, I think West Virginia is going to be able to have a good game offensively.

"Overall, I think it's going to be how West Virginia contains Jace Amaro."

Best-case scenario?
KC: "First of all, they get out, they put some points up on the board early. That's something that West Virginia struggled with a little bit, getting on the board. Even one touchdown to start the game gives this offense some confidence. They walked away feeling pretty good about what they were able to do in the second half against Baylor, but granted the score, what was going on, it's hard to really take that and move forward positively.

"I think if West Virginia can up early, get the fans in the game, it's homecoming, a lot of fans are going to be there, they're going to be excited, especially after what happened last year down there in Lubbock. So if West Virginia can get on the board early, be able to contain this Tech offense, possibly rattle one of the young freshman quarterbacks, the guy that ends up starting, force him into some mistakes because this is their first real road test, I guess you could say. But then you can kind of build some momentum and win the game there."

KC: "I think it's exactly the opposite. Tech comes out, they score, get up on West Virginia early, force West Virginia to try to be one-dimensional, once that happens I think things will kind of tumble downhill. West Virginia has been night and day defensively the first five games compared to last season, and in the Baylor game, some of that stuff popped up again that you saw last season. Guys running free down the middle of the field, that kind of stuff can happen. I think West Virginia is going to have to control the run game for Texas Tech. I think if Texas Tech is balanced, it's going to be along day for West Virginia."

Final prediction?
KC: "I think this is an interesting game. I think both of these teams know each other very well, I think one of the X-factors I talked about early is going to be Texas Tech, I want to see how their quarterbacks respond on the road. I know they've played very well this season but I'd like to see how they handle that environment. Coming into this game, I think it's really hard, I think you can go either way with this one.

"I think West Virginia is going to bounce back and play better, but Texas Tech has played really good football this season, and until I see how they're going to defend them once the game begins, I'm going to have to go probably Texas Tech 35, West Virginia 28."

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