MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Nicco Marchiol’s first career start was full of hiccups, oversights and mistakes. The West Virginia quarterback sure was happy about how it turned out.
“Ecstatic to come out victorious,” Marchiol said.
The redshirt freshman threw a touchdown pass in place of the injured Garrett Greene, CJ Donaldson added a short TD run and West Virginia held off Texas Tech 20-13 in its Big 12 opener on Saturday.
West Virginia was held under 300 total yards of offense for the second straight week. But its defense played another solid game to overcome any deficiencies on the other side of the ball.
Texas Tech backup quarterback Behren Morton came on for the injured Tyler Shough in the first quarter and put together a pair of scoring drives. But Morton, who had thrown for 325 yards and two touchdowns against the Mountaineers a year ago in Texas Tech’s 48-10 win, couldn’t bring the Red Raiders back from a 13-3 deficit this time.
Morton drove the Red Raiders from their 28 to the West Virginia 11, but he threw four straight incompletions, the last one with 11 seconds left.
On a day that saw former standout defensive end Bruce Irvin inducted into West Virginia’s Sports Hall of Fame, the Mountaineers (3-1, 1-0 Big 12) limited Texas Tech (1-3, 0-1) to 56 total yards in the first half and 321 overall in a steady drizzle from the outer bands of Tropical Storm Ophelia.
Shough, who had sat out games against West Virginia in the two previous years with injuries, took hard hits on consecutive plays late in the first quarter and was driven off the field on a cart with an injury to his lower left leg. At the time, Texas Tech coach Joey McGuire said he kissed Shough on the forehead, told Shough he loved him and asked him to “hang in there, we’ll see what it is.” He said he didn’t have an update on Shough’s injury.
“You feel for a guy that works as hard as he does,” McGuire said.
The teams traded 79-yard scoring drives early in the fourth quarter. Morton found Jerand Bradley with a 6-yard scoring pass. Marchiol answered with a 9-yard TD toss to Kole Taylor to put West Virginia ahead 20-10.
Morton then threw a 16-yard pass to Bradley on third down to set up Texas Tech at the West Virginia 16. But Morton threw three straight incompletions and the Red Raiders settled for Gino Garcia’s second field goal, a 34-yarder with 4:45 left.
Morton finished 13 of 37 for 158 yards.
Marchiol got the start a week after playing most of a 17-6 win over Pittsburgh when Greene injured an ankle early in the game.
Marchiol threw two interceptions — one that went off the hands of wide receiver Devin Carter. But Texas Tech managed only three points off those mistakes.
“Obviously not a good quarterback performance on my end,” Marchiol said. “Could have been much better.”
But Marchiol put together enough sustained drives to make a difference. Donaldson ran for 34 yards on a 75-yard drive that ended with his 2-yard run late in the first quarter. Marchiol later ran 19 yards on third down to set up one of two field goals by Michael Hayes.
Marchiol led West Virginia with 72 rushing yards. But he didn’t see several open receivers and was held to 12 of 21 passing for 78 yards.
West Virginia coach Neal Brown was more complimentary of Marchiol’s play than the player was.
“For a guy making his first start in really poor weather and wet, I thought he did a pretty good job,” Brown said. “We’ve got to be better around him.”
Brooks ran for 131 of his 149 yards in the second half for Texas Tech.
“Tajh Brooks is the best player that nobody talks about in this league,” Brown said.
Texas Tech: Time ran out on the Red Raiders, who outplayed the Mountaineers after halftime but couldn’t put together enough key plays. Texas Tech converted just 2 of 18 times on third down.
West Virginia: The Mountaineers have won three straight games for the first time under Brown, who is 25-26 in his fifth season. West Virginia also snapped a four-game losing streak to the Red Raiders.
Texas Tech hosts Houston next Saturday.
West Virginia travels to TCU next Saturday night.
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