- Associated Press - Thursday, October 9, 2014

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) - West Virginia enters a difficult stretch with three of its next five games on the road, and it starts against a slumping Texas Tech team that the Mountaineers have yet to figure out.

Coach Dana Holgorsen will rely on his experience as a longtime Texas Tech assistant to get the Mountaineers (3-2, 1-1 Big 12) ready for the Red Raiders (2-3, 0-2) on Saturday.

“I’m looking forward to the challenge,” Holgorsen said. “We’re expecting a rowdy environment. Obviously, I’ve been there a bunch and know what to expect. It’s going to be loud. It’s going to be full. There will be a bunch of people there with a bunch of energy and we need to go in there and we need to handle it.”

Over the next month West Virginia also will play at No. 16 Oklahoma State and Texas, sandwiched around home tests against No. 5 Baylor and No. 9 TCU.

It could help determine whether the Mountaineers surpass their 2013 win total or are headed for their first back-to-back losing seasons since 1978-79.

A similar stretch on the road derailed West Virginia’s debut season in the Big 12 in 2012. West Virginia was 5-0 and ranked No. 5 when it got blown out 49-14 at Texas Tech. That loss started a five-game losing streak that also included a blowout loss at Oklahoma State.

A swirling wind and Texas Tech’s defense derailed Geno Smith’s Heisman hopes, and now it’s up to West Virginia’s Clint Trickett to try to figure out how to get a Big 12 win on the road.

Trickett is aware that wind gusts could be a factor in Lubbock.

“There are so many variables that go into it that, you just have to go out there and play,” he said. “You can’t really think about it.”

The same goes for how poorly the Mountaineers played against Texas Tech two years ago.

“It’s a new year, and it’s a new opportunity for us to go down there and get a win against them,” safety Karl Joseph said. “That is all we are focused on.”

That focus will include sophomore quarterback Davis Webb, who threw for 462 yards last year as Texas Tech overcame a 21-point deficit to beat West Virginia 37-27 in Morgantown.

But Webb has thrown 10 interceptions in five games this season, including four in a loss last week to No. 17 Kansas State.

West Virginia has tinkered with its 3-3-5 defense this season and has shown improvement but has only three interceptions this season and has yet to recover an opponents’ fumble.

The Mountaineers allowed 176 yards and forced Kansas to punt 14 times last week. West Virginia went with a sleeker defensive front that included starting 244-pound Shaquille Riddick and 228-pound linebacker Brandon Golson at defensive ends and 205-pound Edward Muldrow at linebacker. Both Riddick and Muldrow got their first starts.

The changes were meant to shore up a pass rush that has produced just seven sacks this season and in the coming weeks will face the pass-savvy spread offenses of Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Baylor and TCU. Texas Tech has allowed just four sacks all season.

“They are going to spread you out four or five wide and throw it all over the place,” said West Virginia defensive coordinator Tony Gibson. “We have to make sure that our guys are in the right spots. Webb gets rid of the ball quickly.”

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