The Times West Virginian

Bob Herzel

November 2, 2013

WVU’s bowl hopes hinge on TCU game

MORGANTOWN — “Whoever wins this game is going to go to a bowl game. Whoever loses is likely not going to go to a bowl game.”

– West Virginia University defensive tackle Shaq Rowell.

This is an important game.

Forget the records when West Virginia University takes the field in Fort Worth, Texas, at 3:30 p.m. today to face TCU. Forget WVU is 3-5 and 1-4 in Big 12 play and that TCU is the same. Forget that these are the two newcomers to the Big 12 and finding out that the grass on the other side of the fence really is greener.

The winner of this game needs to find two victories in its final three games to go to a bowl game.

The loser will have to win out or do its bowling in a bowling alley.

And things do not look good for WVU.

First off, the Mountaineers are on the road, where they have not won, having been outscored, 164-51, away from Milan Puskar Stadium.

Secondly, they are putting a struggling offense against one of the conference’s top defenses, never considered a good formula for victory.

Coach Dana Holgorsen understands what he and his team are up against.

“It’s going to be a challenge,” he said. “We have to be able to move the ball. We have to be able to get it into the end zone.”

They are coming off a game in which they scored 12 points against Kansas State.

“We can’t score 12 points and beat many people,” offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson admits.

Yet how will they score?

Clint Trickett has won the quarterback job but only one game. He has shown great heart, great courage, but has had an injured arm and failed to grasp the full concept of Holgorsen’s offense.

Put that together against this defense, and you have major problems.

“They’re good against the run, great against the pass. They play the ball in the air very well,” Holgorsen said. “They have tremendous depth and play a lot of people, and it will be a challenge for our offense. As everybody is well aware, we haven’t been playing winning football on offense.”

To move the ball, Trickett is going to need time to pass, which may be difficult. The offensive line is a work in progress, and Pat Eger, called “the heart and soul” of the offensive line by Holgorsen, left the last game with an ankle sprain.

He’s expected to try to play this game – considering the importance of it – but whether he will be 100 percent or not is anyone’s guess. Rest assured TCU will test him.

The Horned Frogs are special when it comes to rushing the passer. They lead the conference in sacks, 24 of them compared to 10 by WVU, which ranks last in the Big 12. Three TCU players have three sacks each, so you can’t focus on any one of them.

“They do a great job of rushing the passer. Their secondary matches routes and covers as well as I’ve ever seen it,” Holgorsen said. “The quarterback has to sit back there with nowhere to throw, and the rush gets there.”

The pressure forces mistakes against a solid secondary, perhaps the best coverage secondary in the Big 12.

Jason Verrett is an All-American who, since the start of the 2012 season has more passes defended (36) than any player in the nation and shut down two high-profile receivers in LSU’s Odell Beckham, who caught one pass for 8 yards, and Texas Tech’s Eric Ward, who did not catch a pass.

Ideally, if WVU is to make headway against TCU, it will have to rush the ball well with Charles Sims, who was used mostly in the passing game last week, and Dreamius Smith, who never got untracked against Kansas State.

If they can establish a run, it could cut back on the pass rush and draw safeties up, which could expose a weakness to deep passes that Texas exposed last week with a 65-yard scoring pass and 224 yards on just nine completions in the game.

TCU’s offense has been disappointing, much as has WVU’s this year.

“Offensively, TCU is searching a bit for offense,” Holgorsen said. “They have great skill. They have three good running backs. They have great wide receivers. They obviously are going to play two different quarterbacks. I think everyone in the conference is dealing with the same kinds of things.”

That sounds good, but TCU is averaging only 23.0 points a game – 14.2 in Big 12 games – which shows something amiss that WVU should be able to explore.

The two-quarterback concept isn’t like the one WVU faced last week at K-State, where there was a running QB and a passing one.

“Whichever quarterback is in there, they typically do the same things, which will make it easier for us to prepare,” Holgorsen said. “With that said, it’s about making plays. We need to continue to make plays and put our guys into critical situations to make plays.”

Perhaps the most dangerous mismatch between the teams is in special teams, where TCU leads the Big 12 in kickoff returns and is fourth in punt returns while the Mountaineers rank last in both departments.

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.

1
Text Only
Bob Herzel
  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Big 12 provides plenty of optimism

    This past week the Big 12 held its annual media gathering in Dallas and served up a heaping portion of optimism for the 2014 season that is now upon us, West Virginia University opening its preseason practices on Thursday.
    This is a time of year when no one has lost a game, not even Charlie Weis at Kansas, and it’s a time of year when opinions are more plentiful than tattoos in an NFL locker room.

    July 27, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU needs White to follow in former receivers’ footsteps

    A year ago Clint Trickett took a lot of grief as the once potent West Virginia offense came unraveled, but there is more that than meets the eye.
    The criticism was not unfounded, of course, although behind each incomplete pass there was the pain Trickett was suffering through to throw it, his rotator cuff in need of surgery.

    July 26, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: O’Toole joins long list of eccentric WVU kickers, punters

    The star of the Big 12’s annual football media day wasn’t a star at all.
    He intrigued the media far more than Bob Stoops, the coach of preseason favorite Oklahoma, and more than Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty, the preseason player of the year.

    July 25, 2014

  • WVU, N.C. State to meet in football

    Following a trend of creating non-conference games against regional opponents, West Virginia University has reached agreement with North Carolina State to play a home-and-home football series in 2018 and 2019.
    The Mountaineers are scheduled to play N.C. State in Raleigh on Sept. 15, 2018, and then play host to the Wolfpack on Sept. 14, 2019.

    July 24, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: ‘Cheating pays’ remark should draw attention

    When Bob Bowlsby, the outspoken commissioner of the Big 12, presented his opening-day picture of the future of college sports in Dallas for the annual media day gathering, his bleak comments were not unexpected.

    July 24, 2014

  • Holgorsen’s program hits turning point

    You can almost sense, as you watch West Virginia University football coach Dana Holgorsen sit before the gathered Big 12 media contingent answering questions in the Omni Hotel in Arlington, Texas, that he senses his program has reached a turning point.

    July 23, 2014

  • Big 12 Media Days Foo_time(1).jpg Trickett’s play key factor for Mountaineers’ success

     In the end, it comes down to the quarterback.
    Always has with Dana Holgorsen, always will.
    Quarterback is the offense with the West Virginia University coach. When he does well, the team wins – almost always.
    When he does poorly, the team doesn’t stand much of a chance.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Saban, family happy at Alabama

    Alabama football coach Nick Saban, whose team opens the season against West Virginia in Atlanta on Aug. 30, denied receiving or turning down this offseason an offer of $100 million to coach Texas, indicating he planned to finish his career as coach of the Crimson Tide.

    July 18, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: ‘Quarterback child prodigy’ comes to WVU amidst very high expectations

    Has West Virginia football coach Dana Holgorsen finally put the arrow he needs in his quiver with the commitment received Wednesday from high school quarterback David Sills, who is a rather extraordinary story and may also just be a rather extraordinary quarterback?

    July 18, 2014

  • WVU kicker Molinari ‘All-American boy’

    West Virginia kicker Mike Molinari may not be an All-American but he is an All-American boy.
    He was honored for that on Wednesday when the Allstate Insurance Company and the American Football Coaches Association announced the West Virginia redshirt senior kicker/punter Michael Molinari is a nominee for the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team.

    July 16, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads