WVU Notebook & Highlights: TCU Edition
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Much has been made of the attrition suffered by Gary Patterson’s TCU football team this year.
The Horned Frogs’ coach said that some 40 players have missed four or more games this year with half that number being lost for the season. Included on the injured list are key contributors such as quarterback Shawn Robinson, defensive lineman Ross Blacklock, linebacker Ty Summers and safeties Innis Gaines and Niko Small. Additionally, wide receiver/kick returner KaVontae Turpin was dismissed from the team for disciplinary reasons.
But WVU also knows from dwindling numbers, particularly at linebacker where defensive coordinator Tony Gibson has been forced to experiment and also insert formerly seldom-used players into crucial roles. Earlier this year, he moved 5-foot-9, 191-pound JoVanni Stewart from safety to linebacker because of injuries. The latest crisis spot is middle linebacker, where Gibson has had to dip deep into the depth chart to find bodies.
On Saturday, reserve Zach Sandwisch came off the bench to spell Shea Campbell in the second half. Campbell, a junior walk-on from Morgantown High, had started the last two games in place of Bridgeport’s Dylan Tonkery, who has been nursing a groin injury. Tonkery dressed on Saturday but only was on the field for a few plays before limping off. Campbell suffered a neck stinger, so he didn’t see much action in the second half against TCU
“Mike (middle linebacker) is the jinx position,” Gibson said.
Sandwisch, a 6-foot-2, 225-pound sophomore from Woodville, Ohio, finished with four tackles, three solo, in one half of play. He stopped Darius Anderson for a one-yard loss in the third quarter and tackled Frogs’ quarterback Mike Collins for no gain on another series.
“I’m so proud of him,” Gibson said. “He’s probably been yelled at more than any player in Mountaineer history – by me. But he made some big tackles for us today.”
Brendan Ferns, a sophomore who has suffered multiple injuries since arriving at WVU three years agao, was also available and used on special teams and at linebacker late in the game. The reserve middle linebacker played in just four games last year before suffering a shoulder injury that required surgery and shelved him for the year. He missed his redshirt freshman year with a torn ACL and re-injured the same knee in the spring.
“He got a little choked up when was going in,” Gibson said. “He’s been through so much.”
With Tonkery unable to go, and with both he and Campbell questionable for the Mountaineers’ final two games – at Oklahoma State Nov. 17 and home against Oklahoma on Nov. 23 –Gibson would appreciate the additional depth which Brendan Ferns, who returned to limited action on Saturday on special teams and at linebacker, and Quandarious Qualls, who did not dress, would provide.
Qualls, a junior college transfer, will be able to redshirt this year as long as he does not appear in more than four games. WVU’s held him out of action Saturday with the idea of keeping him within that limit.
Ferns and Qualls both resumed practicing this week but Gibson said he’s being careful not to rush them onto the field.
STAYING NEUTRAL: TCU lost to Oklahoma 52-27 on Oct. 20 as Sooners’ quarterback Kyler Murray threw for 213 yards and four touchdowns and ran for 51 more.
WVU’s Will Grier completed 25-of-39 passes for 343 yards and three touchdowns in Saturday’s 47-10 win over the Horned Frogs.
Which player impressed Patterson more? He’s not saying.
“Grier is a good football player,” he said. “They’re both so different.”
The two Heisman candidates will meet Nov. 23 in Morgantown, with the possibility of the game being a preview to the Big 12 championship game.
Patterson told reporters, “I’m going to do what you do – sit back and watch.”
CLASS ACT: It’s sometimes difficult to get two words out of a coach after a loss but, after discussing Saturday’s 47-10 drubbing at the hands of WVU, Patterson actually started to leave the interview area but then returned to the podium to talk about something that was on his mind.
“I didn’t want to leave without saying something positive about this state,” he said.
Patterson then talked about meeting and making friends with Brad Paisley and his father, Doug Paisley. The Paisleys are from Glen Dale, W.Va. Patterson also mentioned his admiration for WVU basketball coach Bob Huggins and football coach Dana Holgorsen.
Patterson proudly displays an autographed guitar by Paisley in the “recruiting room” at his home, something he received about 10 years ago from Paisley at an event both attended in Texas.
“That’s the only autograph that’s going to be on that guitar,” Patterson said.
Patterson and Paisley became reacquainted in 2016 at a private party Paisley was playing at.
“I like the way he handles himself and the way he gives back to people,” Patterson said.
That night, Paisley told Patterson something that has stuck with the coach.
“He said, ‘People mature to the level of when they become famous,’” Patterson said. “He became famous later on in his life, in his 30s, instead of earlier. That was a unique statement to me that he said and I think he lived by it and I think that’s cool.
“Some gain stardom so early and they never mature past that age that they become that. For a guy like him, everything he’s done, to recognize that and see it and do it really stayed with me.
“I think it applies to not just musicians, but coaches, anybody that rises, the TCU coach concluded. “You get caught up in everything going on. A lot of respect for him and his dad.”