MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Perhaps it's poetic justice that it was Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro who not only drew first blood but also landed the final dagger against West Virginia Saturday, his touchdown catches bookmarking the Red Raiders' 37-27, come-from-behind victory at Milan Puskar Stadium.
It was the Mountaineers, after all, who knocked Amaro out of action for two months last fall with internal bleeding from a spleen injury. Saturday was his redemption and a déjà vu problem for West Virginia (3-4, 1-3 Big 12).
Amaro somehow managed to top his five-catch, 156-yard game last October with a near-repeat performance Saturday in his first trip to Morgantown, catching nine passes from freshman quarterback Davis Webb for 136 yards and two touchdowns.
"You can't cover him," West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. "Even when you cover him, he makes plays."
Amaro, a 6-foot-5, 260-pound "matchup nightmare," as defensive coordinator Keith Patterson put it, quite literally carried the load for No. 16 Texas Tech (7-0, 4-0 Big 12) through its fourth-quarter comeback.
West Virginia held an 11-point lead late in the third quarter and led, 27-23, with 10 minutes remaining in the game before Webb, making his second career start, engineered a seven-play, 84-yard drive to take the lead on a touchdown dive by running back Kenny Williams.
The drive was sparked when Amaro took a dump pass from Webb, shrugged off a would-be tackler and rumbled downfield, dragging another defender 10 yards before being wrestled down after a 37-yard gain.
"He's like an offensive lineman playing as a receiver," redshirt senior safety Darwin Cook said. "You really can't just hit him, you've got to wrap him up."
Amaro sealed the game with a minute left by pulling in his second 10-yard touchdown pass from Webb, who finished with 462 passing yards and completed 36 of his 50 attempts.
West Virginia knew the challenge at hand.
When asked Tuesday to size up Amaro, Holgorsen replied, "What year is he? Hopefully, he's gone next year." Amaro is a junior. "Oh, yeah, he should come out [and enter the NFL draft]," Holgorsen said, with a chuckle. "Clearly, he should come out after his junior year."
"He's going to be an all-pro," Patterson said after the game, listing every bracketing and coverage technique the Mountaineers unsuccessfully employed to contain Amaro. "He's a handful."
But, as much as the Amaro-led Red Raiders owned the fourth quarter, the Mountaineers gave it away. They kept an unbeaten, ranked opponent at bay for three quarters only to crumble in the final straightaway.
An offense buoyed by the two-headed running attack of redshirt senior Charles Sims and redshirt junior Dreamius Smith, who combined for 166 rushing yards and three touchdowns, ground to a halt in the fourth quarter.
Redshirt junior quarterback Clint Trickett, the starter despite a nagging shoulder injury, was 27 of 43 passing for 254 yards and a touchdown, but his offense gained just 29 yards in the fourth quarter and limped to the finish line with three consecutive three-and-out drives.
The end result was the Mountaineers taking their first home loss this season and Texas Tech maintaining its unblemished record while spoiling homecoming in Morgantown. Red Raiders coach Kliff Kingsbury, Holgorsen's protégé at the University of Houston, is the first coach in Big 12 history to start his debut season 7-0.
It was a game that, much like West Virginia's season, was punctuated by wild momentum swings.
After their off week, the Mountaineers looked rusty out of the gate and fell behind, 13-0, before roaring back to deadlock the score by halftime with two field goals sandwiched around a 38-yard Smith touchdown run.
All told, once Trickett found Sims at the far-side pylon to cap the first drive of the second half, West Virginia scored 20 unanswered points before the Red Raiders finally registered a field goal midway through the third quarter.
But Texas Tech issued the final, decisive response with three consecutive touchdowns in the last 18 minutes.
"When you have somebody down, you've got to smell it, like sharks in the tank, and go out and take it," Patterson said.
Holgorsen didn't question his team's effort, but admitted "the will to win was not there."
"You could see it on the sidelines," Holgorsen said. "In the fourth quarter, we didn't have the will to knock them out, and that's disappointing."
He shook his head.
"It's a game we should have won."breaking - wvusports
Stephen J. Nesbitt: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-290-2183 and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt. First Published October 19, 2013 11:53 AM