WVU Faces Large Step Up Vs. TCU
MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — Let us first understand that this week West Virginia’s once-beaten football team takes a step up in class.
Check that. Not a step, more like an elevator ride, except that the TCU team they face is up near penthouse while the last three games against East Carolina, Delaware State and Kansas were teams sitting near the basement.
This is especially true with the defense they will face at TCU compared to East Carolina 128th out of 129 teams in FBS, giving up 50.6 points a game), Kansas (ranking 122nd giving up 39.8 points a game, and Delaware State (ranking 81st in FCS division, giving up 31.5 per game).
WVU scored more than 55 points against all three of those teams and averaged 57 per game against them … but TCU is far closer to Virginia Tech defensively than the Larry, Curly and Moe of the schedule.
Yes, WVU moved the ball well against Virginia Tech, who ranks 24th in total defense allowing 315.4 yards a game, but put only 24 points on the board.
TCU figures to be just as hard to score on, standing 29th in defense at 323.5 yards allowed a game, while ranking 26th in the country in scoring defense, giving up 18.5 points a game.
TCU and Virginia Tech haven’t just lineup against patsies, either, TCU having beaten Oklahoma State in its last game and Tech splitting decisions with WVU and Clemson.
Here’s the biggest rub against TCU’s defense … they are hard to run against and the running game has emerged as a key factor for WVU with Justin Crawford surpassing 100 yards in each of the first four games and with McKoy doing likewise along with him in the Big 12 opener against Kansas.
Gary Patterson’s Horned Frogs, however, are allowing less than 100 yards rushing a game, ranking 13th in the nation by giving up just 94.5.
This, of course, will put a lot of pressure on the WVU offensive line.
WVU Coach Dana Holgorsen felt that was a strength against Kansas … and doesn’t think it should be scoffed at just because it was the Jayhawks.
“The best part of Kansas’ team, and it was not even close, was their (defensive) line,” he said last week. “They have good players on their (defensive) line.”
It was stressed in practice all week to the offensive linemen that they were facing a challenge and they took the challenge on squarely.
“Our (offensive) line kind of was tired of hearing about it and stepped up to the plate and played pretty well, in my opinion,” Holgorsen said. “We had one sack, which was the second play of the game where (quarterback Will) Grier rolled out of there and it should have been an easy completion but they played it pretty well.”
“When you have a couple of 100-yard rushers, that’s not just Nos. 25 (Crawford) and 4 (McKoy) being good players, which they are, but we had some space in there as well.”
The pass protection will also be challenged this week as TCU stands 26th in the nation in sacks with 2.75 per game. Holgorsen and offensive coordinator Jake Spavital are serious about keeping Grier from taking hits and this will be challenge for he will feel some pressure from a solid defensive team and scheme.
Holgorsen is hoping that things will improve simply with the addition of more bodies on the O-line as they expect injured senior guard/tackle Grant Lingafelter and offensive lineman Jacob Buccigrossi to return from injuries.
“We still need depth, getting Grant back is important, getting Buccigrossi back is important. We’re still trying to develop Kelby Wickline, we’re still trying to develop Isaiah Hardy, so we have some guys to work with this week to try to get a little bit better,” Holgorsen said.
The truth is, this key game in the season well may be decided in the trenches.