According to Dana Holgorsen, the plan last week was to have his Mountaineer football team work on technique and fundamentals, with a little recruiting sprinkled in over the weekend. He said the heavy prep work for TCU begins today.
With that in mind, let’s take an early look at the Horned Frogs.
TCU jumped out to a 14-0 lead at Oklahoma State yesterday afternoon before allowing 36 unanswered points in a 36-14 loss to the Cowboys. In the process, TCU’s nation-best streak of scoring at least 20 points in a game was snapped at 33.
The 5-3 Horned Frogs have now lost more than two games in a season for the first time since 2007 when they went 8-5.
Freshman quarterback Trevone Boykin, who replaced starter Casey Pachall four weeks ago, completed 21-of-40 passes for 185 yards and a touchdown with one interception against Oklahoma State. A week prior, Boykin led TCU to a 10-point comeback with 4:01 remaining against Texas Tech to send that game into overtime, the freshman completing 7-of-9 passes for 122 yards, including a 60-yard touchdown to LaDarius Brown, to get the Horned Frogs into OT. Also, Boykin was 13-of-13 on his third-down pass attempts against Baylor in a win earlier this year and is completing 61.6 percent of his pass attempts for 1,122 yards and 11 touchdowns heading into Saturday’s game against West Virginia.
Whether or not Boykin will be healthy enough to play on Saturday remains to be seen. He left the Oklahoma State game late with a leg injury and was replaced by sophomore Matt Brown, who completed three of his four pass attempts with the fourth being picked off to end the game.
“We did a good job early of holding them to field goals, but when you get your chances on offense you’ve got to make plays and we didn’t do that,” TCU coach Gary Patterson told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram after the game. “We only scored one touchdown (the other came on an interception return). I’d say that’s not good enough to win in the Big 12.”
Oklahoma State quarterback Wes Lunt made his first start in more than a month against the Horned Frogs and threw for 324 yards and a touchdown, hitting several long passes against TCU’s secondary. TCU’s defense gave up 471 yards to the Cowboys, including 147 on the ground. Despite that, TCU is still permitting less than 100 yards per game rushing for the season.
Injuries and suspensions have turned TCU into one of the youngest teams in the country. Entering the Oklahoma State game, the Horned Frogs were tied with Texas for having played the most true freshmen in the country this season with 16. In fact, TCU has played more true freshmen than it has scholarship seniors (11), and including redshirt freshmen, the Horned Frogs have played 28 total freshmen, which ties North Carolina for the most in college football.
“We’re young,” said TCU center James Fry following yesterday’s loss to Oklahoma State. “When we’re in a corner we don’t know how to fight back yet. We get excited when we’re on top and when we start losing we kind of get shocked … oh, this doesn’t happen to TCU. We were crushing people 60-0 last year and now it’s close and going into the fourth quarter every game. That will come with experience and as we develop these players.”
West Virginia, too, has become a much younger team with 18 freshmen or true freshmen playing in last Saturday’s 55-14 loss to third-ranked Kansas State. Last week, Holgorsen said most of their decisions to play younger players have been made based on performance.
“You have to figure out is the ceiling higher for a younger kid versus an older kid,” Holgorsen explained. “It usually is, but that doesn’t always mean it is. After you make that decision it’s all about performance. If a guy is not performing, you make the change. The biggest motivation in college football is playing time, but you don’t want to sit a guy down that you don’t think the guy behind him is better than him. You want to play the better player – you want to use playing as a motivation if you can, but our depth is the issue.”
Actually, depth has been an issue for both teams and a primary reason for their recent struggles. And both programs have not been accustomed to losing. TCU’s senior class has a 41-6 record heading into Saturday’s game against West Virginia while the Mountaineers have averaged at least 10 wins per year over the last seven and have three BCS bowl victories to their credit.
West Virginia and TCU were nationally ranked heading into this year, with West Virginia being pegged as a possible national title contender, and while West Virginia is still in the rankings (No. 23 in this week’s AP poll), both teams are desperately seeking a win on Saturday to right the ship and end the regular season on a strong note.
“I said it was going to take multiple games to see what we are made of,” said Holgorsen. “We tell our team not to worry about what the papers says; what the rankings say, what the television says or what the Internet says. This week, the same people that were (once) saying we were great are now saying we are bad. Why pay attention? Pay attention to what we say in here (in team meeting room). Worry about your academics and worry about your health.
“Do a good job of getting in the weight room and getting bigger and stronger,” Holgorsen added. “When you have practice, don’t go through the motions. Go out and get better. If they are thinking about anything other than that, then they are not thinking about the right stuff.”
Saturday’s game has been slated for a mid-afternoon kickoff and will be televised nationally on Fox.
After TCU, West Virginia has games remaining at Oklahoma State, 14th-ranked Oklahoma, at Iowa State and Kansas. Following West Virginia, TCU wraps up its regular season with games against third-ranked Kansas State, at Texas and 14th-ranked Oklahoma.Check out Antonik's new book The Backyard Brawl: Stories from One of the Weirdest, Wildest, Longest Running, and Most Intense Rivalries in College Football History now available in bookstores. A portion of the sales benefit the WVU Department of Intercollegiate Athletics. Also, be sure to "Like" the new Backyard Brawl Facebook page and tell us your personal WVU-Pitt story.