Holgorsen Talks TCU’s Blend Of Solid Defense, Efficient Offense
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – TCU has found it’s typical formula for success: Pair a punishing defense with a steady, opportunistic offense and mix in solid special teams.
That’s been Gary Patterson’s modus operandi over his nearly two decades in Fort Worth, and it’s what has the No. 8 Horned Frogs (4-0, 1-0 Big 12) unbeaten and sitting atop the conference with a chance to challenge for the league title. Patterson’s 4-2-5 look has allowed the fewest rushing yards per game in the league at just 94.5, while it’s giving up an average of 18.5 points per game, though Oklahoma State hit TCU up for 31.
On offense, quarterback Kenny Hill has become much more systematic and productive, cutting down on miscues and turnovers while relying on a productive running game. The senior, a transfer from Texas A&M who was coached by current WVU offensive coordinator Jake Spavital in 2014, has completed 72.7 percent of his passes (85-for-117) for 965 yards and nine scores against just three interceptions.
“He’s playing really well,” WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen said. “He has been taking care of the ball better. That was the knock on him in the past. Then critical downs as well. They are running the ball a good bit and not asking him to sit back there and throw the ball 90 percent of the time. He’s managing it well, and is extremely efficient and playing at a high level. His accuracy is good.”
TCU’s offense ranks third in the Big 12 in average points per game at 47.8, just behind West Virginia’s 48.8 and Oklahoma’s 48. Much of that is because of a running game that leads the conference at 232.2 yards per game, ahead of the 231 per outing by the Mountaineers – and that’s without starting running back Kyle Hicks, who has played in just a game and a half this season due to an undisclosed injury.
Hicks, who could return this weekend, has been spelled by back-up Darius Anderson. The sophomore has rushed for 422 yards this season, including putting up 160 yards and three touchdowns in the 44-31 win at then-No. 6 OSU on Sept. 23. Hill threw for 228 yards in the game, while the offense ran the ball 52 times.
“The last time we played in Fort Worth, that’s one of the better offenses I’ve seen in quite some time with (quarterback Trevone) Boykin and (wideout Josh) Doctson,” Holgorsen said. “They were firing on all cylinders. Tough team to beat when they are playing well on all sides of the ball. Defensively they are extremely good and their special teams are extremely solid. That’s why they are a top 10 team.”
The No. 23 Mountaineers (3-1, 1-0), meanwhile, used the open week to get healthy. WVU was without six players in the two deep at the end of the 56-34 win at Kansas, but expect to return all but middle linebacker Brendan Ferns, lost for the season with a shoulder injury. The game should mark the return of David Long at weakside linebacker, while the offense could be bolstered by the return of linemen Jacon Buccigrossi and Grant Lingafelter.
“Looking forward to getting all these guys back,” Holgorsen said. “They are all day-to-day until they can play. Looking forward to being as healthy as we possibly could be this Saturday.”
Half of the Big 12 field remains undefeated in league play, with No. 3 Oklahoma and TCU undefeated overall. West Virginia, Kansas State and Texas are also 1-0 in the conference, with K-State and WVU at 3-1. The Longhorns are 2-2.
“Nobody knows how it’s going to play out,” Holgorsen said. “You take every one and just play it and follow it to see how other teams are doing as well. We aren’t going to sit here and project. It took a couple years (for TCU and WVU) get the depth where we needed it to be. Look at TCU’s roster right now and they are playing two and three deep. They’ve built it up the right way, increased their facilities, which is what we are doing. It’s been fun to watch.”