TCU (5-3) at (23) West Virginia (5-2)
Saturday, Nov. 3, 3 p.m. (et)
From The Sports Network
By Gregg Xenakes, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: With the 2012 season falling apart before their eyes, the TCU Horned Frogs try to regain their composure this weekend, but it won't be easy as they challenge the 23rd-ranked West Virginia Mountaineers in Big 12 Conference action in Morgantown.
Expecting to make the transition to a new league without much trouble, the Horned Frogs suffered a major loss when starting quarterback Casey Pachall left the program early in October in order to seek inpatient treatment at a drug and alcohol facility following an arrest on drunk driving charges. The team was 4-0 at that stage and nationally ranked, but that wouldn't last for long.
Not only did TCU drop a 37-23 decision to Iowa State at home the first week of October, the team has gone on to drop two more outings, including a 36-14 final versus Oklahoma State on the road last weekend. The back-to-back setbacks were the first since 2007 for TCU and the defeat also snapped what had been a streak of 14 straight conference road wins, the longest in the nation and the third-best in college football since 1996.
As for the Mountaineers, they too opened the 2012 campaign with major fireworks, starting with a 69-34 blowout win over in-state rival Marshall. The team owned a five-game win streak thanks to a 48-45 victory over Texas in Austin on Oct. 6, but then WVU began showing cracks in the armor.
The Mountaineers offense went from being one of the most potent in the nation to coming up with just 14 points in each of the last two games, while the defense gave up a combined 104 points. The most recent defeat came on Oct. 20 versus Kansas State in an unsightly 55-14 final, at home no less.
"No excuses, it starts with me," said WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen when talking about getting his team back on track. "We'll fix what the problems are, we'll keep plugging along and try to get better."
The only previous meeting between these two programs took place in 1984 when the Mountaineers captured a 31-14 win in the Bluebonnet Bowl.
Only a few weeks earlier the Mountaineers were touting quarterback Geno Smith as a potential Heisman candidate, but against Kansas State not only did the signal-caller disappear under the spotlight, he and the rest of West Virginia got a taste of the latest flavor of the week in Collin Klein.
While Klein was allowed to throw for 323 yards and three touchdowns, adding another four touchdowns on the ground, Smith managed to complete 21-of-32 passes for just 143 yards, none longer than 13 yards. Smith tossed only a single TD, was sacked four times and had a pair of passes picked off. The only other scoring for the Mountaineers came on a 100-yard kickoff return by Tavon Austin late in the second quarter.
The defense for WVU had been suspect from the very start of the season and Kansas State again exposed the group by scoring on all seven red-zone opportunities and averaging close to eight yards per snap. Coach Holgorsen may have felt comfortable with allowing such large numbers when his offense was operating at peak performance, but that's no longer the case.
Granted, Smith is still second in the conference and fifth in the nation in total offense with 353.3 ypg, and he has completed 74.3 percent of his pass attempts for 26 touchdowns, but clearly the last two opponents have figured out how to slow down and virtually stop the WVU offense. Austin (74 receptions, 788 yards, nine TDs) and Stedman Bailey (59 catches, 800 yards, 14 TDs) are still the best in the business down the field, but there's more to winning games than simply running up the score whenever possible.
In fact, the WVU defense not only ranks 115th in the country in points allowed (39.9 ppg), the group is also dead last in passing yards permitted (360.1 ypg).
Ironically, the Horned Frogs have been known as a defensive stalwart in recent years and again this season the team ranks first in the Big 12 and 12th in the country with just 98.9 ypg allowed, but really the group needs to focus more on getting the offense, particularly new starting quarterback Trevone Boykin, up to speed.
It appeared as though TCU might be able to keep up with the Cowboys last Saturday in Stillwater, scoring the first two touchdowns of the day, but after that the squad was never heard from again, not only missing a pair of field goals but also turning the ball over on their final three possessions of the meeting.
Quarterbacks Trevone Boykin and Matt Brown combined to hit 24-of-44 passes for 223 yards and a score, but each tossed an interception. Defensively, TCU was rattled quite a bit by the Cowboys, but one small positive was the 11-yard interception return for a touchdown by Elisha Olabode early in the first quarter.
"It was obvious in the third quarter and for the second week in a row that when they turned up the gas, we couldn't finish," TCU head coach Gary Patterson said of the competition. "I have to give Oklahoma State a lot of the credit. They did a great job. We did a good job of holding them early to field goals, but you have to make plays when you get your chances on offense. We didn't do that. We can't turn the ball over."
While Boykin may be seen as a more mobile quarterback than Pachall, the truth is this TCU offense was built around the latter, especially after he played so well last year after stepping in for the departed Andy Dalton. After eight games last season the Horned Frogs were ranked eighth in the nation in scoring with 42.9 ppg and right now the team is scoring almost 10 points less (33.3 ppg) per outing and in the high-scoring Big 12 that's just not going to cut it.
The more the TCU offense stumbles and gives the ball back to the Mountaineers, the more devastating the score could become for a Horned Frogs squad that could go from a national power to sitting at home during bowl season.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: West Virginia 41, TCU 31
10/31 10:38:09 ET