West Virginia-TCU Preview
Fans of TCU and West Virginia may not want to turn their televisions off early for Thursday night’s Big 12 matchup in Fort Worth.
That’s because their meetings the previous three years have all been decided on the game’s final play, though the fifth-ranked Horned Frogs hope to take care of business earlier in the contest as they seek to extend their school-record win streak to 16 games.
The Big 12 series between these schools has been thrilling, with TCU winning 39-38 in double-overtime in 2012 before losing 30-27 in overtime the next year. The Horned Frogs overcame an early 13-point deficit and won 31-30 last year on a field goal as time expired that marked the visiting team’s third straight victory in this matchup.
"Our games against West Virginia have been two one-point games and a three-point game, it’s always been a war," TCU coach Gary Patterson said.
Both teams had last weekend off since playing Oct. 17. TCU (7-0, 4-0) cruised past Iowa State 45-21 while West Virginia was crushed 62-38 by No. 2 Baylor.
"It should be a live environment in Fort Worth," West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. "The Big 12 does a good job with their scheduling of Thursday night games. Both teams will never play the Saturday before a Thursday game."
TCU’s Big 12 and national title hopes received help over the weekend when Baylor quarterback Seth Russell was lost for the season since he will require neck surgery.
Russell’s injury could also aid the Heisman Trophy hopes of Trevone Boykin, who is fifth in the nation with 25 touchdown passes and 15th among quarterbacks with an average of 62.9 yards rushing.
The versatile Boykin started at quarterback the two times TCU prevailed in this matchup. He had 11 catches for 100 yards as a receiver in the lone defeat.
"I think it’s all about containing him and not letting him get outside and make plays," Mountaineers linebacker Jared Barber said. "Especially when he gets flustered and wants to tuck the ball and run, we definitely have to contain. That’s the biggest thing for us."
West Virginia (3-3, 0-3) has dropped three straight against opponents that are a combined 20-1, also falling to No. 12 Oklahoma State and No. 14 Oklahoma.
"They’re a lot better football team than 3-3," Patterson said. "They’ve played all three of those teams that only have one loss between ’em."
West Virginia quarterback Skyler Howard will play for the first time in his hometown. The Fort Worth native went to Brewer High School in the city and initially joined Stephen F. Austin as a walk-on and Riverside City College before he latched on with the Mountaineers.
Howard has thrown for 15 touchdowns and six interceptions while being sacked 18 times.
"It’s always exciting to play a big game like this," Howard said. "As far as going back home, it’s just another game. It’s a business trip. Last week, we stayed in Fort Worth, and I was able to see my family. It was kind of the same thing, but it’s not going to be a big deal. We’re playing ball."
His primary target will be Shelton Gibson, who is fourth in the Big 12 with 90.0 yards receiving per game with six touchdowns.
A depleted West Virginia secondary will have its hands full with TCU’s Josh Doctson, who leads the nation with an average of 152.4 yards receiving. Doctson has 11 TDs in his last five games.
The Mountaineers are more vulnerable defending the pass because of a season-ending knee injury to Karl Joseph on Oct. 6 in practice. The safety is still tied for third in the country with five interceptions.
"He was just a great player, the safety that they had," Patterson said.
Wendell Smallwood is third in the Big 12 with an average of 113.0 rushing yards for the Mountaineers, amassing 64 on 15 carries in last year’s TCU game.
TCU’s Aaron Green is fifth in the conference with 90.3 rushing yards per game, with 63 last year versus West Virginia.