TCU's struggling D tries to correct course vs. West Virginia
By SCHUYLER DIXON
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) TCU's often-stingy defense is in an unfamiliar place among the triple-digit crowd in the NCAA rankings, with two losses when scoring in the 30s after years of coach Gary Patterson preaching the Horned Frogs only needed one more point than the other team.
West Virginia visits Saturday night, bringing the Big 12's worst rushing offense but a solid passing attack to face a TCU unit with a history of getting to the quarterback, but just eight sacks in six games this year.
"What I told them last week, I'm going to start calling this defense; we've got to blitz; that's what makes us," Patterson said. "We can't just do what I call `beer can' defense where you just stand there and the offense can do whatever they want to do because you're not giving them any other looks and you're just playing base."
The sacks total for TCU (3-3, 1-2 Big 12) is tied for 115th nationally, even lower than the scoring defense (105th, allowing 32 points per game) and total defense (111th at 445.2 yards per game). Patterson's defenses have ranked No. 1 nationally five times in the past 20 years.
TCU's lone conference win was 52-31 over Texas Tech two weeks ago. The Horned Frogs lost by the same score last week at No. 3 Oklahoma, with the Sooners surpassing 50 points for the third time in the past six meetings with the Horned Frogs.
"They're trying to take me out of the ballgame," Patterson said. "At the end of the day people get to where they know me enough. People know by watching enough that I'll get us in the right defense. What they're trying to do, they're trying to take us out of that."
The Mountaineers (2-4, 0-3) are playing a second consecutive game in Texas with an open week in between. Two weeks after a 45-20 loss to Baylor, West Virginia is trying to avoid matching its worst start in Big 12 play since joining the league in 2012.
"We were mentally exhausted and physically beat up coming off that subpar performance versus Baylor," coach Neal Brown said. "I think they're refreshed mentally, which is as important as anything."
TCU's Max Duggan had career highs with 336 yards passing and four touchdowns against the Sooners while playing through a foot injury. The junior is leading a unit that ranks third in the offensive-minded Big 12 at 460 yards per game and fourth in scoring (37.2 points).
"He's our heartbeat for sure," right tackle Andrew Coker said. "You see some guys out there who are battling through injuries and being sore and stuff like that, but that guy is playing on a broken foot. A guy like that is a guy you want to play for."
DOEGE AND COMPANY
West Virginia quarterback Jarret Doege sat most of the fourth quarter with the game out of reach against the Bears, giving redshirt freshman Garrett Greene extensive action. Still, Greene has appeared in five of the six games.
Doege is averaging a Big 12-best 241 yards passing per game, but the Mountaineers are last in the Big 12 and 114th in the country at just 111 yards rushing per game. Leddie Brown, who ran for 156 yards against TCU last year, has just 422 yards through six games.
"I can't let no defense or other schemes affect what I do," said Brown, who had 1,010 yards last season. "Because as long as I'm doing what I'm supposed to do, it's going to keep us on the right track."
HERE COME THE BACKS
West Virginia has yet to see the top running backs in the Big 12. That changes this week against Zach Evans, who is fourth in the league at 117 yards per game. His current run of four consecutive 100-yard games is the first for TCU since 2002. And the Mountaineers aren't forgetting about Kendre Miller, who leads the Frogs with six touchdowns. Three came against Texas Tech, the shortest from 33 yards.
Barring injury, the top three backs in the Big 12 are coming over the next four games for West Virginia in Breece Hall of Iowa State (second, 124.7 yards per game), Oklahoma State's Jaylen Warren (third, 117.5) and Bijan Robinson of Texas (first, 132).
"We're getting ready to hit the gantlet," Brown said. "Evans, I think he's played at an extremely high level all year. Miller does get a little bit overlooked, but look at his production."
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Updated October 21, 2021