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MORGANTOWN — This game had a musty smell to it all week.

Must-win.

Must-not-lose.

Must find a way to make the final three games of the 2019 season relevant, meaningful and a statement of what West Virginia University’s first-year head coach Neal Brown wants, hopes and plans for the future.

If that sounds like a lot, it’s because this game, this musty game, was a measuring stick of reality.

That’s the bad news.

As it turned out, this game was a not so measured dropkick of reality right in the self-respect. To put it succinctly, Texas Tech stuck it in WVU’s ’Eers.

In a game that was nowhere as near as close as the score, WVU fell hard to Texas Tech, 38-17, here Saturday before 56,573 quiet fans in Milan Puskar Stadium.

Here’s the bottom line.

The Red Raiders took the opening possession and drove 72 yards in 11 plays for a 7-0 lead that Texas Tech never came close to relinquishing.

How one-sided was it?

This singular.

Texas Tech scored on its first five possessions.

First five!

After the first touchdown, Texas Tech expanded its lead to 28-3 with 13:25 left in the first half. For all intents, the game was over right then and there.

Oh, sure, WVU finally scored a touchdown on a wide receiver pass from Isaiah Esdale to running back Kennedy McKoy to “narrow” Texas Tech’s lead to 28-10.

But not for long.

The Red Raiders roared right back with a nine-play, 73-yard drive with 8:01 remaining to set the halftime score at 35-10.

It was insurmountable.

And then some.

It didn’t matter how the halftime statistical sheet read. It didn’t matter how many yards WVU quarterback Austin Kendall had thrown for or how many passes Sam James had caught.

All that mattered was the score — 35-10.

Obviously, WVU wasn’t in the game and clearly wasn’t going to join. All it took for anyone who wasn’t convinced was a check of the scoreboard at the end of the third quarter.

Yes, another big goose egg for WVU hung up there. It was yet another empty third quarter offensively.

So much for all that progress the Mountaineers seemed to make in that hope-inspiring 17-14 loss to Baylor. After this performance, it’s back to square one.

And, yes, to Brown’s credit, he made no effort to sugarcoat the loss.

“Frustrating day all the way around,” said a tight-lipped Brown. “If you watched it, it summed it up. We got off to an awful start defensively. We have to be ready to go defensively and we weren’t.

“Give credit to Texas Tech. Matt (head coach Matt Wells) had his guys ready to go. We have to make plays when it is time to make plays. We didn’t do that today.”

Brown couldn’t be more honest or more correct.

“They tempoed us,” he continued. “I didn’t think we played with the same sense of urgency up front. They made plays. That’s the bottom line. I thought schematically they had us.

“I don’t know if there’s anything positive to take away from this.”

That is how brutally honest Brown is. And I, for one, appreciate the young coach’s willingness to be a stand-up guy.

Which leads me back to a comment Brown made earlier in the week.

“I think all teams are judged and remembered for how they finish,” he said.

It’s smelling musty in here again.

Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at clandon@herald-dispatch.com.

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