Patterson Dissects Difficulties WVU Deals To Defenses
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – As Dana Holgorsen has often said, when navigating the Big 12 schedule, one wants to have all the bullets in the chamber.
TCU counterpart Gary Patterson is trying to avoid any assumptions about the Mountaineers’ biggest guns. The Horned Frogs head coach has seen the skill set of Will Grier, understands that Justin Crawford leads the league in rushing and knows David Sills remains tied for the national lead in touchdown catches despite playing one fewer game due to the open date this past weekend. The question Patterson is considering is which is most imperative to slow?
“They are ranked higher, total offense-wise, than the ones we just got done playing,” Patterson said. “You gotta find a way to slow them down. You’re never going to stop them. You have to stop the big play and control the run. Grier runs around really well also, so that dictates coverages and everything else that you do. It’s another Big 12 ballgame. You better get ready to go.”
TCU’s defense has been thus far, holding Oklahoma State to 31 points in Stillwater, which in conference play is a win. They also shut out Jacksonville State in the opener and held Arkansas to just seven points in another road victory. The Frogs lead the Big 12 in rush defense, rank second in scoring and total defense at 18.5 points and 323.5 yards per game. West Virginia leads the conference in scoring offense (48.8) and is second to TCU in rushing at 231 yards per contest.
Those numbers remain impressive when viewed nationally as well, with WVU coming in at second in the FBS in scoring and total offense (594.8 ypg), seventh in passing offense and 27th in rushing. Besides Sills, Gary Jennings is second in the league in receptions per game and third in yardage, while Marcus Simms ranks second in all-purpose yards. We can go on.
While Crawford is atop the Big 12 in yards per game (112.8, also good for 16th nationally), he also ranks 13th at the FBS level in yards per carry at 7.4. Add in Kennedy McKoy’s versatility and 6.6 yard per carry average, and the power style of Martell Pettaway, and West Virginia’s offense has every weapon it needs to force TCU to play honest.
“They have two backs, and it helps you when you have two backs,” Patterson said. “They have been physical. They go inside, go outside and any time you have guys who can beat you and catch the football, the more abilities you have the more you have to stop. They have a good football team on offense with those wide receivers on the outside, so you have to be very careful what you want to overload, the pass or the run.
“Guys have to make tackles in space or you can’t overload it. They can cause you problems. If you have one guy, then I can double him. You take all the guys they have and it makes it much more difficult.”
That’s not to mention Grier, who is sixth nationally in touchdowns and points responsible for, No. 5 in total offense, No. 7 in passing yards per game, No. 9 in passing efficiency, No. 14 in yards per pass attempt and No. 17 in completions per game. He has thrown just three interceptions, and shown the ability to escape pressure and extend plays. That’s a must against TCU’s 4-2-5 look that’s confusing on the back end and caused OSU QB Mason Rudolph issues while picking off a pair of passes.
“The quarterback a year ago beat us,” Patterson said when asked to compare Grier to Skyler Howard. “He was a competitor and a runner. Grier throws the ball better as far as the deep ball. The last guy was a winner and Dana and his group did a great job and they have done the same with Will Grier. He’s only in his fifth game in the system.”
Like West Virginia, TCU used the off week to recover physically. Unlike West Virginia, the Frogs also had to come down from a major road win in the 44-31 pasting of the then-No. 6 Cowboys.
“We talked about it. I talked to them about it in the locker room as soon as I walked in. We will see,” Patterson said of how his team will respond. “We gotta get guys healed up and getting back to make sure we are doing everything. If our group can’t figure out we have eight tough games left we’ll have issues. Texas getting better, Baylor is getting better. Everybody is doing what they are supposed to and getting better. If you want to win a championship you have to find a way to do that.
“Everybody is going to lose a couple players. Depth is the name of the game. We need to keep rotating and growing guys up. That’s a part of the game, how fortunate and lucky you are to stay healthy. We understood what the first four ballgames were about. We wanted to be at least 3-1 coming out of it and we’re fortunate to be 4-0. Now we go back to being 0-0 and see how many of the last eight we can win.”