Redskins

No. 5 West Virginia to test Texas Tech's defense

No. 5 West Virginia to test Texas Tech's defense

LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) Dana Holgorsen won't be nostalgic Saturday when he brings his No. 5 Mountaineers to Texas Tech, where he and Mike Leach drove opponents batty with their dizzying pass-heavy offense.

``All those feelings and emotions have gone away a long time ago,'' the Mountaineers second-year coach said of his eight years in Lubbock. ``I'm not going to think twice about it.''

Holgorsen's thoughts will be on how to keep his Mountaineers unbeaten as they try to stay in the hunt for the Big 12 title in their first year in the conference. Much of that will depend on the performance of quarterback Geno Smith, who comes into the game with 24 touchdowns, 1,996 yards and no interceptions. He's completed 81 percent of his 204 pass attempts this season.

West Virginia (5-0, 2-0 Big 12) got out of Austin last week with a 48-45 victory over Texas, with Smith throwing for 268 yards and four touchdowns. The Red Raiders (4-1, 1-1) are hoping to rebound after falling 41-20 to Oklahoma in a game that saw quarterback Seth Doege throw three interceptions.

Smith and one of his favorite receivers, Tavon Austin, make West Virginia's offense look a little like backyard football, said D.J. Johnson, a safety on Texas Tech's top-ranked pass defense.

``They really understand each other as far as receiver-quarterback,'' the senior said. ``So what we're really going to have to do is make them eliminate his key receivers and make him take more time to really figure out what he's going to have to do. So take away those first reads, those initial reads, and give our D-line and linebackers time to get there and make plays.''

Smith holds the Red Raiders' defense in high regard and knows the crowd will be as boisterous or more than last weekend's in Austin.

``They really make things complex with the way they react to the ball,'' the 6-foot-3 senior said of Texas Tech's defense. ``They do a great job of reading the quarterback's eyes and reacting to the ball.''

Red Raiders defenders can't focus solely on Smith. Mountaineers running back Andrew Buie gained 207 yards on 31 carries and added 66 passing yards against Texas.

Holgorsen said Buie is handling his duties well.

``The concern is the wear and tear,'' Holgorsen said. ``He carried it 31 times, and he got hit 31 times. He blocks, which is hard, and he runs routes, which is taxing. The wear and tear is something to be concerned with, which is why we need to get Dustin (Garrison) healthy and Shawne (Alston) healthy.

Alston injured his right thigh earlier this season and Garrison has eight carries for 42 yards this year after having knee surgery during the offseason.

Red Raiders coach Tommy Tuberville knows the defense will have its hands full with Buie.

``They've got a very good running back that is kind of a dual-threat that you don't normally see on a team that has that much speed at wide receiver,'' he said. ``They're hitting on all cylinders.''

Texas Tech's offense hasn't clicked the past two weeks like it had against lesser opponents earlier this season. Accuracy was lacking from Doege, who didn't throw a TD pass against Oklahoma and has five interceptions the past two weeks. That's half the number he had all last season.

Doege is the first to say he's got to step it up Saturday to keep pace with the Mountaineers, who are averaging 52 points a game.

``We need to be a threat every single time we step out on to the field, regardless of the score, regardless the time of the game,'' he said. ``It's not realistic that you're going to score every time you have it, but that's the mindset we have.''

Holgorsen said he's trying to downplay Smith's interception streak.

``We talk about completions and putting the ball where you need to put the ball,'' Holgorsen said. "When the ball is in the air, it's up to the receiver to attack it and makes sure it is ours.''

Tuberville, who earlier this year said West Virginia would be the front-runner to win the Big 12, wants his team on Saturday to return to the attitude it had at the beginning of the season.

``We've got to have fun,'' he said. ``Because once you start losing the fun attitude, it gets a lot more difficult.''

Quick Links

Here's a small example of Dwayne Haskins' leadership, as told by Matthew Berry

Here's a small example of Dwayne Haskins' leadership, as told by Matthew Berry

ESPN Fantasy Football expert Matthew Berry was at the NFLPA Rookie Premiere last weekend in Los Angeles, where he got the chance to interview the three Redskins rookies in attendance: Dwayne Haskins, Terry McLaurin, and Bryce Love. 

Berry, who was a guest of JP Finlay's on the Redskins Talk podcast on Thursday, has been a fan of the Burgundy and Gold since he was a kid, so he was eager to talk to three of the team's newest players and learn more about them.

It was during those interviews where Berry got a quick glimpse of a side of Haskins that now has Berry really excited.

"I thought what was really cool was... When I was interviewing McLaurin, Dwayne Haskins came in and interrupted the interview to give him some crap," he told Finlay. "It was really a wonderful moment to see. Obviously, they know each other very well from Ohio State, but just the fact that they felt comfortable enough and he wanted to come over and mess with him a little bit and have some fun, I was impressed with that."

Once Haskins left, Berry explained how he asked McLaurin about the interaction. Redskins fans will like McLaurin's answer.

"That's Dwayne, Dwayne is being a leader," McLaurin said, per Berry. 

Haskins did something similar to Love during Love's interview as well. Berry even caught up with Colts receiver Parris Campbell, who also played with the QB at Ohio State, to inquire about the 15th overall pick. 

"I asked him, 'Listen, I'm a diehard Redskins fan, what am I getting?'" Berry said. "He couldn't have been more effusive. 'You're not only getting a guy who puts the ball where you want it, but you're getting a leader. You're getting a guy who makes sure everyone in the huddle is included.'"

You can be skeptical of how much these little moments mean, and that's fair. Ultimately, how quickly Haskins picks up Jay Gruden's playbook and how accurate his arm turns out to be will factor more into his success in the NFL than being able to joke around a bit with some of his guys.

But you can also hope that these little moments are hints of a bigger personality and approach, a look into an athlete who can get a football team to buy into him. That's the side Berry is on.

"I thought that was really cool, and just showed somebody who's very comfortable in the leadership position and who's trying to be inclusive of everyone," he said. "It's early in the process, but I have yet to hear somebody on or off the record say something bad about Dwayne Haskins."

MORE REDSKINS NEWS

Quick Links

WNBA Finals loss only more fuel for Elena Delle Donne, Mystics heading into 2019 season

elena-delle-donne-shoulder-grab-mystics-usat.jpg
USA TODAY Sports Images

WNBA Finals loss only more fuel for Elena Delle Donne, Mystics heading into 2019 season

For Elena Delle Donne and the Mystics, last season's heartbreak in the WNBA Finals is only fuel for another potential postseason run in 2019. 

"That's something I don't think I'll ever let go," Washington's star forward told Chris Miller on the latest episode of the Wizards Talk podcast. "It's always tough when you get to that Finals and you can't finish it off. But I think it's something that can fuel you. You don't want to let it just bring you down and depress you and make it so you can't get over that hump."

"If you use it as fuel and motivation, it can help you get better. I think that's what we're all gonna do."

The Mystics reached their first WNBA Finals in franchise history in 2018 but ultimately lost to the Seattle Storm. Delle Donne, recently named in WNBA.com's GM survey as the favorite to win league MVP, is back for her third season in Washington and headlines a strong team that has the talent to compete for the title again.

Her status for Saturday's season opener against the Connecticut Sun is up in the air due to a left knee injury, but Delle Donne believes the Mystics will have another great season given the continuity on the roster from last season and the return of All-Star forward Emma Meesseman. 

"We feel great. We've got our core back," said Delle Donne. "And to be able to add a superstar like Emma to that roster is pretty scary. Especially with her style of play and the way that our team started playing last season, where it was such positionless basketball. Spreading the floor, just spreading it, making it easy for one another to attack, get some threes. She's just gonna add so much to that."

NBC Sports Washington will be broadcasting 10 Mystics home games during the 2019 WNBA season. For the full regular season schedule, click here.

MORE MYSTICS NEWS: