Texas Christian at West Virginia

The Sports Xchange

November 07, 2018 at 6:21 pm.

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Saturday, noon p.m. ET
SITE: Milan Puskar Stadium, Morgantown, W.Va.
TV: FS1
SERIES: TCU leads 4-3. The Horned Frogs won 31-24 last season.
RANKINGS: West Virginia No. 9

PLAYERS TO WATCH
Horned Frogs

–RB Darius Anderson is by far TCU’s most explosive and dependable playmaker but has tapered off some as his opportunities have been reduced throughout the season. He’s become the flash-and-dash runner to Sewo Olonilua’s grind-it-out option. Anderson carried 13 times for 48 yards and the game-deciding touchdown in TCU’s 14-13 win last week over Kansas State; he has 536 yards and four touchdowns on 100 carries for the season.

–QB Michael Collins, a transfer from Penn, has taken the reins of the team after Shawn Robinson suffered a season-ending shoulder injury against Oklahoma. Collins passed for 218 yards and a touchdown and ran for 22 more in the win over Kansas State.

–LB Ty Summers needs just 30 tackles to become the all-time tackling leader in the Gary Patterson era. He has 43 stops, 3.5 of them for loss, two quarterback hurries and a sack through the nine games. Summers did not play against Kansas State because of an undisclosed injury.

Mountaineers

–QB Will Grier, the fifth-year senior and potential Heisman Trophy finalist, has thrown for 2,618 yards and 28 touchdowns, including 346 yards and three TDs in the win over Texas last week. He has found 12 different receivers and recorded 15 300-yard passing performances and 16 multiple-touchdown games during his WVU career. Grier is tied for second nationally in touchdown passes per game (3.5). He ranks No. 3 nationally in passing touchdowns (28), No. 3 in passing efficiency (184), second in yards per pass attempt (10.03), and No. 4 in points responsible for per game (22).

–RB Kennedy McKoy carried 17 times for 94 yards in the win over Texas, in which the Mountaineers rolled to 237 yards on the ground. McCoy has had his share of carries over his first two years, and now has 81 totes for 460 yards and two touchdowns, and nine catches for 119 more and a TD over West Virginia’s first eight games. McKoy has enough speed to break off long runs, and his physicality on contact is unmatched. He’s not afraid to pass protect either, an absolute necessity for a running back who plays for coach Dana Holgorsen.

–S Kenny Robinson had a team-high tying 10 stops, including a tackle for a loss, in the win over Texas and has 55 tackles on the season.

KEYS
TO THE GAME

No. 9 West Virginia, which has one of the nation’s best quarterbacks leading one of the land’s most potent offenses, has its fate for a Big 12 title — maybe even a spot in the playoffs — in its own hands.

Win out and win the league and a spot in the final four. While the concept sounds easy, the road is full of steep obstacles, beginning with Saturday afternoon’s dustup in Morgantown against wounded but dangerous TCU.

West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen refuses to look past this week’s challenge against the Horned Frogs.

“We don’t talk about playoff stuff,” Holgorsen said. “I don’t know if you’re referring to the CFP stuff, which we pay no attention to, or the Big 12 Championship, which that’s our goal. You can say that’s a lofty goal if you want to, but that’s everybody’s goal in the Big 12 is to play in that game, so that’s what we’re striving for.”

The Mountaineers (7-1, 4-1 Big 12) are where they are because they beat No. 17 Texas 42-41 last week in Austin on a gutsy do-or-die two-point conversion after their final touchdown with 16 seconds to play.

Holgorsen has been universally praised for his gumption to play for the win rather than the tie, but he said Saturday that the decision was made way in advance of the final score. Momentum and the way the Mountaineers were handling the Texas defense had factors in the end-of-game decision, as well.

“I told the guys on the sideline before we got the ball, ‘Guys, let’s go down and score and we’ll go for two and win this thing,'” Holgorsen said. “They went out there and believed it. They came to the sidelines after we scored and already knew what our two-point play was going to be.”

TCU heads to Morgantown after outlasting Kansas State at home 14-13 last Saturday when the Wildcats missed a PAT attempt late in the game. After a stretch of three straight losses, a series of injuries and some just plain ol’ bad play, the Horned Frogs (4-5, 2-4 Big 12) were pleased they finally had the ball bounce their way for a change.

The Horned Frogs have struggled to force turnovers this year but produced three against the suddenly hapless Wildcats, marking the first time it’s been on the winning side of the turnover equation since its season opener over Southern.

“Finally, we got a little luck,” Gary Patterson said. “We’ll take it one at a time. It was kind of like Santa Claus hopes I had a good year because it hasn’t been very good for me to be honest with you up to this point — on or off the field.”

Despite the number of injuries to their defensive backs, the Horned Frogs still have the Big 12’s top-ranked pass defense, allowing 190.7 yards per game. West Virginia has the second-most explosive pass offense in the conference behind quarterback and Heisman hopeful Will Grier.

Something has to give on Saturday.

“Obviously we’ve been playing some people that throw the football,” Patterson said. “I don’t know if we’ve played anybody to this point that throws like they do. They have a lot of weapons.”

For a team that used to winning but went the entire month of October without a victory, last Saturday’s result may mark a turnaround to the season.

TCU needs to win two of its final three games to earn a bowl spot. The Horned Frogs also play at Baylor and are then home against Oklahoma State.

West Virginia and TCU are facing each other for the eighth time with the Horned Frogs holding a 4-3 series lead. All but one meeting has come since the schools began Big 12 play together in 2012. The road team won the first three meetings in the Big 12 series with each game decided on the final play.

Prior to 2012, the only previous game between TCU and West Virginia was a 31-14 Mountaineers’ win in the 1984 Bluebonnet Bowl in the Astrodome in Houston.