It's an across-the-board issue, and one Texas and now Texas Tech has harped upon when entering contests with West Virginia. Tech gave up an estimated 150 yards after contact in a loss to Oklahoma last week, and head coach Tommy Tubervile said he thought his units got "outquicked" at times. TT also seemed to panic when behind, and the staff is trying to adjust that hesitancy as well.
"We didn't play our best game," Tuberville said. "We didn't tackle very well at the point of attack. They tackled us at the point of attack. We didn't have any real big plays to speak of. We've got to make bigger plays in open field on both sides of the ball.
"The thing that really got us in trouble was our third down conversions in the red zone on both the offense and defense. We gave up two third downs for touchdowns, and we couldn't convert third downs in the red zone. We just weren't consistent enough to make big plays, and you've got to make big plays in games like that. They made them, and we didn't. Our guys were ready to play, it just looked like we were waiting for something to happen, but we've got to make stuff happen in games."
Tech entered the Oklahoma game ranked first in the NCAA in total defense, but was gashed for 41 points and 380 yards of total offense. The Sooners stayed balanced, getting two passing touchdowns from quarterback Landry Jones and two from Wildcat back Blake Bell, who scored on a pair of one-yard runs. Javon Harris also returned an interception 36 yards to give OU a 38-13 lead that put the game out of reach.
Tuberville believes his team must attack more thoroughly and start quickly against West Virginia. Tuberville's last Auburn team lost to WVU in Morgantown in 2008. But both Tuberville and the Mountaineers have completely changed styles, with both throwing the ball far more than they did four years ago. It's a style that has drastically contrasted with Tuberville's time in the SEC.
"People in this league are very proficient at throwing the ball," he said. "I've noticed on even third and one or two they throw the ball and have confidence in it. I remember in the SEC, you were going to have two backs, two tight ends and it was going be a war at the line of scrimmage. Here, they throw the ball, even throw screens because people are spread out."
Tuberville said West Virginia arguably passes better than any other Big 12 team, and that Geno Smith was only partially the reason why.
"They trust him with what they do," Tuberville said of Smith. "He doesn't throw interceptions. Dana (Holgorsen) knows what he wants to do and he has a system and sticks with it. They score and score quickly. That's his personality. We played them when he was at Oklahoma State. The thing a little different about Dana, he understands running the ball and taking pressure of the quarterback. They do a very good, sneaky job of running the football."
Tuberville also noted the league's across-the-board strength, and the perhaps increased depth even with the loss of four teams and the addition of just two in TCU and WVU. "I don't think there's any doubt there's more tough teams in this league than any other," Tuberville said. "We lost four good teams and gained two very good teams."