West Virginia Mountaineers

The TCU Horned Frogs (5-3, 2-3) at No. 21 West Virginia Mountaineers (5-2, 2-2)

By Tommy Smith

The TCU Horned Frogs will be facing the West Virginia Mountaineers for just the second time in history Saturday in Morgantown. The last meeting between these newest members of the Big 12 Conference took place in 1984 during the Bluebonnet Bowl. West Virginia won that game 31-14 played at the Houston Astrodome.

TCU will be looking to win their sixth FBS game making them bowl eligible in their first year competing as a member of the Big 12 Conference. This will be the first time TCU has played a game in the eastern time zone since 2009 when they beat Clemson 14-10. This will be the third and final trip out of Texas for the Horned Frogs, who play nine of their 12 games on the 2012 schedule in the lone star state.

TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin will be making his third start for the Horned Frogs and has impressed after being pressed into duty  replacing the temporarily ineligible to compete Casey Pachall. Pachall left the team after the SMU game to check himself into a substance abuse treatment program with hopes of returning next season to quarterback the Frogs.

Since replacing Pachall, Boykin has trown four touchdown passes in consecutive games which is a school record for a freshman quarterback TCU. If those numbers weren’t impressive enough consider this, Boykin led TCU to score 10 points in the final 4:01 left in regulation to send the Horned Frogs to overtime against the Texas Tech Red Raiders two weeks ago in Ft. Worth. Boykin was 7-9 passing for 122 yards including a 60 yard touchdown pass to LaDarius Brown on a third and twenty. Brown has hauled in four touchdown grabs in five games. Texas Tech eventually won the game in three overtimes but Boykin showed he could deliver in the clutch.

In TCU’s 49- 21 win over Baylor, Boykin was 13-13 on third down pass attempts with 11 going for a first down. Boykin is a duel threat quarterback and has added two rushing touchdowns to his total this season. With running back Matthew Tucker going down with an injury TCU Head Coach has had to rely on plenty of youngsters to contribute and true freshman tailback B.J. Catalon tops TCU in rushing with 362 yards.

TCU is tied with Texas for having played the most true freshmen (16) in the nation this season and has played more true freshmen (16) than it has scholarship seniors (11). Nearly 70 percent of players who have seen action for TCU this season are freshmen or sophomores. The Horned Frogs, 2-1 on the road in Big 12 play this season, are 20-3 in their last 23 overall road games.

As TCU’s head coach, Gary Patterson is 12-8 against ranked teams and TCU is 22-7 in regular-season games following a loss under Patterson. Since 2005, TCU has the nation’s best record (68-3, .958) when ahead or even in turnover margin. The Frogs have 14 takeaways in their last three road games. TCU has to hold on to the ball themselves against West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith and the Mountaineers high-powered offense.

After a commanding 5-0 start to the 2012 season, West Virginia has been blown out in back to back games to Texas Tech and Kansas State. Both those schools play good defense and TCU is capable of doing the same to shut down the Mountaineers on offense. Since the NCAA began tracking statistics in 1937, TCU is tied with Alabama for the most times leading the nation in total defense at five. All five No. 1 rankings for the Frogs are in the last 12 seasons. In 2010, TCU became just the third program in NCAA history to top the nation in total defense in three consecutive seasons (2008-10). The others are Toledo (1969-71) and Oklahoma (1985-87).

True freshman defensive end Devonte Fields tops the Big 12 in tackles for loss (14) and sacks (8). He also leads all freshmen nationally in both categories.

The Frogs have allowed just 22 touchdowns in eight games this season.  TCU did not allow its first touchdown of the year until the fourth quarter of its third game. Virginia reached the end zone with 4:22 left and the Frogs leading 20-0. The West Virginia offense is quite potent and the Frogs will be tested to Saturday on defense.

The Frogs’ 14-game winning streak in road conference games, which had been the longest in the nation and third
best in the NCAA since 1996 was snapped in the 36-14 loss at Oklahoma State. Saturday’s game will be televised on FOX making it TCU’s first appearance back on the network since the 201o Fiesta Bowl.

Since 2005, TCU has the nation’s best record (68-3, .958) when ahead or even in turnover margin. The Frogs have 14 takeaways in their last three road games. Holding on to the football and getting takeaways from the West Virginia offense is the key for the Horned Frogs in this game. They are on the road in a hostile environment. TCU must weather the initial surge from Smith and the Mountaineers to have a chance at being there at the end of this one Saturday.