The bye week for the Mountaineers last weekend provided a banged up roster with a chance to get healthy.
Redshirt sophomore linebacker Nick Kwiatkowski returns this weekend after nursing a hamstring injury suffered four weeks ago against Maryland. He remembers the moment, and said he knew instantly something was wrong.
"It was on a punt," said Kwiatkowski. "I felt something pop, and it tightened up once they helped me off the field. I knew it wasn't good."
The sophomore linebacker led the team with 29 tackles, 18 unassisted, before being sidelined. Kwiatkowski says he is happy to be back, and excited for this weekend.
"It feels good," said Kwiatkowski. "I'm ready to get back out there Saturday."
A big reason for the early season success of the Mountaineer defense was having Kwiatkowski in the game. In the first four games, the defense gave up just 1,294 yards and 77 points. In the two games without Kwiatkowski against Oklahoma State and Baylor, the defense allowed 1,297 yards and 94 points.
Kwiatkowski hopes he and his teammates can turn in another solid performance this weekend when he returns to game action. First, he must make it through the week of practice. Kwiatkowski says he feels good, and hasn't experienced any problems so far.
"I feel pretty good," said Kwiatkowski. "No problems with the hamstring."
After missing time with the injury, it is easy for a player to be a little rusty. Kwiatkowski says he was a little at first, but feels confident he'll be back in game condition by Saturday.
"I was a little sluggish at first," said Kwiatkowski. "It takes a couple of practices to get back in the flow of things."
The defense will not have an easy task on Saturday afternoon when the Mountaineers play host to Texas Tech. Going into last season, West Virginia went into Lubbock at 5-0 before being blown out by the 4-1 Red Raiders. The loss ultimately sent the Mountaineers on a five game losing streak and ending their national championship aspirations. The Mountaineers ended up playing in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, losing to Syracuse on a cold winter afternoon, 38-14. It was a disappointing end to such a promising season.
Fast forward to this season, and Texas Tech is once again off to a good start, this time 6-0 under first year head coach Kliff Kingsbury. The Red Raider offense has four receivers with over 25 catches. Leading the Tech receivers is tight end Jace Amaro. Amaro has 47 receptions for 606 yards in six games. Mountaineer linebacker Nick Kwiatkowski says that he is a great player, and hard to defend.
"He's a great player," said Kwiatkowski. "Amaro is going to be a challenge to defend."
The Texas Tech offense also utilizes two quarterbacks. Baker Mayfield started the season before giving way to Davis Webb. The two have combined for 17 touchdowns and 2,453 yards of total offense. The Red Raiders also have two dynamic running backs that make life on a defense difficult. DeAndre Washington and Kenny Williams have combined for eight touchdowns of their own.
The Red Raiders will make their first trip to Morgantown this weekend; first ever trip to West Virginia. Texas Tech is the fourth team out of seven opponents this season that comes in undefeated and nationally ranked. For Kwiatkowski, a win on Saturday would be a great start to the second half.
"We're excited to play them on Saturday, especially after what happened last season," said Kwiatkowski. "A win this weekend would be a great way to get us started on our goal of having a better second half of the season."
The Mountaineers and Red Raiders will meet up Saturday at noon inside Milan Puskar Stadium.