MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–Up next for West Virginia University is No.5 Texas Christian University, which will be a tall task for the Mountaineers who have lost three straight.
Head coach Dana Holgorsen is well aware that the Horned Frogs are a dangerous team.
“They have put themselves into position where they are pretty hot here lately,” he said. “I thought they were pretty good last year. Defensively, they were outstanding. They could have been considered as good as anybody, finishing 12-1 last year. Their only lost was at Baylor early in the year.
“It was a really good football team, and this year they picked up right where they left off. They don’t look any different to me this year. They have some new bodies on defense, but they don’t look any different to me.”
TCU is a veteran offensive force led by senior quarterback Trevone Boykin.
“I thought he (Boykin) was the best player in college football last year,” Holgorsen said. ” This year, he is not doing a whole lot different. He has great people around him. A lot like Baylor, all their o-line guys are back from a year ago.”
Holgorsen thinks Boykin has matured into a tremendous quarterback over the last four seasons.
“With a guy that has gone from a freshman to a senior, his maturity level has probably grown tremendously,” Holgorsen said. “He has played in a lot of games. Switching positions probably gave him a better knowledge of the overall game. Then (co-offensive coordinator/inside wide receivers Doug) Meacham came in with a system and a plan that he believed in. He had a plan, with not only him, but the overall offense. He’s definitely benefited greatly from it.”
The Horned Frogs have one of the top offensive lines in the country. Center Joey Hunt is one of the best interior lineman in the country.
“They have a lot of seniors up front, led by their center,” Holgorsen said. “The Hunt kid, No. 55, is potentially the best center in the country. He’s a really good player. There are a lot of good seniors up front. They’re big. They’re experienced. They have played a lot. When you have a quarterback and an o-line like that, then that’s a good place to start.”
Senior wide receiver Josh Doctson is Boykin’s favorite target and is a legit threat the for the WVU secondary. He has caught 60 passes for 1,067 yards.
“Doctson is playing as good as good as anybody,” Holgorsen said. “He is his favorite target. He has 12 touchdowns already, so it is going to be a chore to hold him down and contain.”
Doctson reminds Holgorsen of Kevin White.
“He reminds me a little bit of Kevin last year,” Holgorsen said. “He is bursting out onto the scene. He is an under recruited guy making a name for himself. He is developing into a great, physical receiver, and he is establishing that kind of rapport with the quarterback that allows you to have those kind of stats he has.”
But Holgorsen is aware TCU has multiple threats in the receiving core.
“The problem with them, much like it was a week ago, if you start focusing on one, they have a lot of other guys that can hurt you,” he said. “(Senior wide receiver Kolby) Listenbee is playing well. The (senior tailback Aaron) Green kid is playing well. The new kid (freshman wide receiver KaVontae) Turpin, No. 25, is extremely fast and incredibly shifty, so they put him anywhere from slot to running back.
“They have a lot of weapons and everything goes with that quarterback. He is a heck of player, and he is fun to watch. It is going to be challenging for us to contain.”
Holgorsen knows that TCU is a threat on the defensive side of the ball.
“Defensively, (TCU head coach) Gary (Patterson) has been doing the same stuff defensively for the better part of the two decades,” he said.” He has a great scheme. They are sound and well coached, but they had some great bodies that they had to replace. One of their safeties and both of their corners last year are all in the NFL.
“They were really good players, and they replaced them with a lot of young kids who don’t have much experience, but they are good athletes and are ready to play. Their defensive front is what really stands out. It is the same guys as last year. They have about four or five of those guys left. I think they only replaced one from last year’s team. ”
Senior safety Derrick Kindred has 42 tackles on the season and Holgorsen knows the Horned Frog’s defense improves as they get more experience.
“Their captain, the safety, is a heck of a player. He is a downhill type of guy that makes sound tackles as well,” he said. “They are a group that is getting better and better each week. With that kind of experience, they lost some kids to injury at the beginning of the year, but you can tell that this group that continues to improve. Especially coming off of a bye week, I would anticipate these guys to look fresh and ready to play.”
TCU also has a solid special teams unit.
“Their kicker is a heck of kicker,” Holgorsen said. “He got us last year in the last few seconds. Their team speed on coverage units is spectacular. The speed that they have at returner is something as well.”
Freshman wide out Turpin is a viable weapon in the punt return.
“The Turpin kid, the freshman, is a little bitty guy that is as quick as can be,” Holgorsen said. “He’s back there at kick return with one of the fastest kids in college football with Listenbee. It’s going to be a challenge for our cover units. I have been happy with our coverage units, but it’s going to be a challenge containing some of the better guys out there.”
TCU and WVU joined the Big 12 in 2012, but the Horned Frogs quickly found success while the Mountaineers have struggled, but Holgorsen is optimistic for the future of his team.
“It’s a good measuring stick with where we are at,” he said. “We had identical records in year one and year two. Both times that we played against them, they were overtime games. Last year, they won some close games, and we lost some close games. A year ago, we were sitting here at 6-2, and we were up 10 points in the fourth quarter against TCU, but they figured out a way to win.
“I think that shows how close we are. With that said, we are not finishing close games as well as they are right now. I think they won 19 out of 20. It’s pretty dang good. I think we are close, and we are not fair off. They have a ton of seniors on offense right now, and we have a ton of seniors on defense. Offensively, we have to continue to improve to the point where we can affect some games at the end like they did a year ago. That is my job to get our guys to that point offensively as soon as possible.”
Last year the Mountaineers lost a heartbreaker to TCU and Holgorsen thinks one thing his team must do differently is protecting their quarterback.
“We have to do a good job of protecting (junior quarterback) Skyler (Howard),” he said. “We didn’t do a great job with that last year with Clint (Trickett). He got rattled a little bit. He would be the first to admit that.
We have to protect them up front. We have to run the ball effectively, and I think we ran the ball effectively early on last year. That’s the key, but doing it over the course of the game would have been nice as opposed to shutting things down in the third quarter.”
While the Horned Frogs may have a good passing game, Holgorsen knows they can get beat by the rushing game.
“Offensively, they’re going to try to run the ball,” he said. “They’re averaging 225 yards a game, rushing. They have a big, physical o-line with some quality backs and a quarterback that can run it as well. It is our job to contain that defensively. We contained Baylor in the run game with the exception of the quarterback keep, and we have worked hard on that, because we know he’s going to do the same stuff.”
Holgorsen hopes Thursday’s game is good for the WVU football program.
“The exposure is good,” he said. “It should be a live environment in Fort Worth.”
The Mountaineers and the Horned Frogs will go to battle on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at Amon G. Carter Stadium.