It's up to West Virginia defense to halt 2-game skid
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What direction the rest of West Virginia's season will go is unclear.
The same can be said for fellow Big 12 Conference newcomer TCU.
Both teams learned the hard way that making the transition to a power conference is no easy task.
They meet at 3 p.m. today as the Mountaineers (5-2, 2-2) attempt to put a two-game losing skid behind them against the Horned Frogs (5-3, 2-3).
- Matchup: No. 23 West Virginia (5-2, 2-2 Big 12) vs. TCU (5-3, 2-3), 3 p.m. today, Milan Puskar Stadium, Morgantown, W.Va. Mountaineers are favored by 7.
- TV, Radio, Internet: WPGH, Mountaineer Sports Network, Sirius 138, XM 203.
- West Virginia: Coming off back-to-back blowout losses. ... Has nation's worst pass defense at No. 120 (360.14 ypg), rank No. 114 in total defense (493.57 ypg) but is No. 35 against the run (133.43 ypg).
- TCU: Freshman QB Trevone Boykin has completed 47 of 84 passes for 617 yards and five TDs, and three interceptions in his past two games. ... RB B.J. Catalon has a team-high 319 rushing yards. ... Defense ranks No. 12 against the run (98.88) and No. 23 in total defense (333.13).
- Hidden stat: TCU is among Division I-A's best in time of possession, ranking third at 34 minutes, 7 seconds on average.
"West Virginia is not used to this. I don't remember the last time we lost two games in a row," coach Dana Holgorsen said. "It's the reality of this situation. Every game is going to be tough."
The last time this program lost two games in a row came in 2010, the final year under the late Bill Stewart.
The last time they lost three in a row? To end the '04 season under Rich Rodriguez.
The Mountaineers' problems on the defensive side of the ball mounted to an alarming rate in the team's two-game losing streak, just as the once-hot offense hit the skids.
During that stretch the team gave up 104 points and scored three touchdowns on offense.
The Horned Frogs have gone 1-3 since starting quarterback Casey Pachall was arrested for driving while intoxicated, then left school to enter a rehab program.
Pachall's replacement, dual-threat freshman Trevone Boykin, will give West Virginia's last-ranked pass defense multiple problems.
"Their quarterback can sling the ball," linebacker Jared Barber said. "He's really athletic and a tough kid. They've got good playmakers on the outside. I think they're going to try a sling it around a little bit. They're fast and athletic. Up front, they're athletic. I think passing will be what they're going to try and focus on with us."
Boykin has multiple receivers who can do some damage as well.
"He is a dual-threat guy that is dangerous with his feet," said Holgorsen. "He has some weapons around them. The receivers that they have are guys that could have gone to other quality, quality programs. They do a tremendous job of distributing the ball to a bunch of different people."
What is similar about the two programs is the number of freshmen they have had turn to. TCU has used 16 freshmen this season and West Virginia has used 12.
"You can see it from camp to now that they've gotten much better, and they're going to be great players in the future," linebacker Doug Rigg said. "Still, being a true freshman being thrown into the fire of the Big 12, it's like what I felt like last year against LSU. It felt like everything was going extremely fast, which is what they're experiencing on a week-in, week-out basis."
With two weeks since the team's last loss, players said the time helped them return to the basics.
"With the bye week, that's all we focus on, just getting back to the fundamentals of the game, getting back to square one," said center Joe Madsen. "The bye week is a lot like camp, you're almost coming in to the first week again. It's kind of nice to get back into the film room and start studying."
First Published November 3, 2012 12:28 am