TCU’s Gary Patterson Talks WVU, Bye Week, & Kyle Hicks
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Gary Patterson’s TCU team has been without stud running back Kyle Hicks. But Patterson recognizes that was nothing compared to the injury affront to West Virginia’s defense.
“I have been watching them and game planning,” Patterson said. “Very good at what they do. They are very good. Sounds like they have been beat up a little bit, have some young players. But he has always done a really good job on that side of the ball. They have a couple weeks to get healthy.”
Indeed, the bye week, seen by many fans and pundits as far too early in the season when the schedule was announced, couldn’t have come at a better time for the Mountaineers. WVU’s defense was without six players in the two deep at the end of the 56-34 win at Kansas, but expects all but reserve middle linebacker Brendan Ferns back for the Oct. 7 clash at No. 9 TCU.
Ferns was lost for the season after a shoulder injury, but will linebacker David Long will be back after missing the first four games recovering from a meniscus tear suffered during summer conditioning. Safeties Toyous Avery and Kyzir White – the latter the heart of the defense – and corner Mike Daniels will also be available. In addition, offensive linemen Grant Lingafelter and Jacob Buccigrossi have been cleared.
Texas Christian, 4-0 after a marquee win at then-No. 6 Oklahoma State last weekend, will get a major boost from Hicks if he returns. The All Big 12 Honorable Mention back was termed “not 100 percent” by Patterson in the preseason, and has played in just a game and a half with 128 yards and one touchdown on 23 carries. Hicks did not play against OSU and his injury remains undisclosed.
A 5-foot-10, 210-pound senior, Hicks played in all 13 games last season, starting 12. He led TCU with 1,042 yards with 23 scores, and tallied 103 yards on just 15 carries against the Mountaineers. At an average of 6.9 yards per carry, Hicks was one of the few bright spots for the Horned Frogs in the 34-10 setback in Morgantown. The Arlington, Texas native has been banged up for the better part of the last 10 months, and ran for 192 yards and five touchdowns versus Baylor last year after missing an entire week of practice following an ankle injury suffered a game prior.
“It’ll help a lot,” Patterson said of the off week. “That’s two weeks. But (backup Darius Anderson) has speed and he’s very powerful. We really needed somebody to step up with Kyle Hicks being down. It’s been awesome.”
Anderson ripped Oklahoma State for 160 yards and three touchdowns, the last coming on a 42-yard jaunt that sealed the win with 2:37 left. Anderson took a zone read off the right side, then cut to the the middle and cruised for a 44-31 lead that ended any thoughts of an OSU rally. The sophomore was also an integral part of TCU’s option attack with quarterback Kenny Hill.
“Without him we would not be sitting where we are sitting,” Patterson said of Anderson. “He got here like a lot of freshman, a little lost in a big sea instead of a small pond. But he has grown up and every week he has gotten better in some parts of his game. Pass protection, when to make the cut, and he’s just a sophomore. We just need to keep him healthy. Very proud of the way he has handled things.”
West Virginia’s defense, meanwhile, struggled against the run at Kansas. The Jayhawks amassed 564 yards, 367 on the ground, in scoring their most points in a Big 12 game since 2012. Khalil Herbert rushed for 291 yards, the most for a back in any FBS game this season, though part of that was due to the injuries sustained by WVU’s defense. On the flipside, the offense is hitting for 595 yards and 49 points per game, with David Sills tied for the FBS lead in touchdown catches coming into this weekend.
Quarterback Will Grier has completed 65 percent of his passes (94-for-144) and thrown for 13 scores against three interceptions with 1,374 yards – the seventh most nationally. Running back Justin Crawford leads the Big 12 in averaging rushing yards per game (112.8, 17th in the FBS) and scoring by a non-kicker.
“You got a West Virginia team that’s pretty good,” said Patterson, who is in his 18th season at TCU. “Offensively they have some weapons. The quarterback is doing a great job his first year. He’s very mobile. Got a couple running backs and wide receivers with speed and size. They cause you problems. We’re going to have to compete every down. Like in basketball, contest ever shot. We have our work cut out. It’s like every week in the Big 12 when you are a defensive guy.”