TCU-West Virginia Preview
The Mountaineers' inability to contain their opponents remains a concern.
Hoping to have worked out its kinks during a bye week, No. 23 West Virginia tries to get back on track Saturday against fellow Big 12 newcomer TCU, which appears likely to have quarterback Trevone Boykin available as it visits Morgantown for the first time.
While the Mountaineers (5-2, 2-2) averaged 52.0 points in opening 5-0, they haven't been able to get much going in back-to-back losses. One week after falling 49-14 at Texas Tech, West Virginia suffered a 55-14 home defeat at the hands of then-No. 4 Kansas State on Oct. 20.
"This is about as low as it gets," said Smith, who threw his first two interceptions of the season.
The bye week, though, appears to have come at just the right time for West Virginia, giving the Mountaineers a chance to regroup.
"It's like everything in life," offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said. "There's going to be good days and bad days. So we have to stay positive and just keep forging ahead. That's the only way you work yourself out of a rut."
Getting Smith going again figures to be the first priority for West Virginia. After averaging 399.2 yards and totaling 24 touchdown passes in his first five games, the Heisman Trophy hopeful has averaged 209.0 with a combined two scoring strikes in his last two.
"If he thinks that all this falls on his shoulders, he's sadly mistaken," coach Dana Holgorsen said. "He needs to relax a little bit and not bear that burden. That's not his job. We're going to get him back on track from the standpoint of just worrying what he needs to control."
The Mountaineers also need to pick up the pace defensively. West Virginia is giving up averages of 39.9 points and 493.6 yards to rank seventh-worst in the FBS in both categories.
"Nobody's pointing fingers anywhere," Holgorsen said. "We all understand that we have to continue to as coaches put them in position to be successful, teach them how their technique is, teach them how they make the plays, build confidence in them to where they can do it, and then get out there and work hard on it."
While it wasn't certain if the Mountaineers would have to face Boykin this weekend, the redshirt freshman is likely to play despite suffering a left knee injury during last Saturday's 36-14 loss at Oklahoma State. Boykin, who took over under center with Casey Pachall suspended indefinitely, dropped to 1-3 as a starter, completing just 21 of 40 passes for 185 yards with a touchdown and an interception against the Cowboys.
"We had our chances and we were in the ball game," said coach Gary Patterson, whose team was outscored 33-0 over the final three quarters. "We only scored one (offensive) touchdown, and that's not good enough to win in the Big 12."
Hoping to avoid losing three in a row for the first time since a four-game skid in 1998, TCU (5-3, 2-3) knows it faces another tough task against the Mountaineers.
"It's a big ballgame going into West Virginia. Both of us came into the Big 12 this year and are on the same path. We understand what we have to do," Patterson said. "We have to get ready to play. It's a great venue in Morgantown, and they have great fans and some really good players."
The Horned Frogs had posted four straight wins over Top 25 foes before falling 56-53 to then-No. 18 Texas Tech in triple overtime Oct. 20.
West Virginia hasn't suffered consecutive defeats on its own field since losing its first two home games in 2003.
The Mountaineers took the only previous matchup in this series, winning 31-14 in the 1984 Bluebonnet Bowl.