West Virginia needs a win, but actually getting one will be much easier said than done for the Mountaineers.
Even though WVU has beat TCU three straight years, making head coach Neal Brown undefeated against the Horned Frogs, this is a new year and TCU is the class of the Big 12 under new head coach Sonny Dykes. Can WVU get back on track and propel their season to at least finishing in a bowl game? Will TCU impose their will and continue their journey to a conference title and maybe more? Those questions will be answered Saturday afternoon at Milan Puskar Stadium.
Here are the 3 keys for West Virginia to complete the upset and show that their miserable show they are far better than their miserable showing against Texas Tech.
Make Max Duggan Uncomfortable
Dante Stills and the WVU defensive line has to have a big game in this one for the Mountaineers to win. Stills, who has been dealing with doubled teams all year, will have to find way to make an impact in the game. WVU has to win the battle in the trenches with the TCU offensive line and get to Max Duggan as much as possible.
This season’s Max Duggan is not the same quarterback WVU faced in past years. He’s been calm, cool and collected all season while slicing up defenses. He’s already thrown for a career-high 19 touchdowns, helping get the Horned Frogs offense to another level. But most importantly, he’s had a very clean season, meaning he’s taken care of the football with only one interception and an 85.5 quarterback rating overall.
How do you counteract such a careful and prolific passer? Get in his face. Knock him down. Rush. Rush. Make him hurry throws. Now blitzing too often could leave Duggan and his quick release an opportunity to pick apart a banged up WVU secondary, but at 3-4, it might also be time to just take a shot and go for broke or risk getting carved up either way.
JT Daniels, Receivers Must Bring A+ Game
West Virginia can score points. That’s been proven this season. But WVU has also had a couple pretty poor offensive games in two of their losses this season. In a loss to Texas, and especially to Texas Tech, the offensive did not do nearly enough. Another showing like those can not happen or the Mountaineers may have to endure a long day in front of their home fans.
It’s fair to say the defense has let the offense down more this season, but it’s not even debatable that Daniels had his worst game as a Mountaineer, and arguably of his entire career, last week in Lubbock. He threw three picks for the first time ever, and even his first game with two interceptions since 2018. While it’s incredibly unlikely he doesn’t respond with a better effort, just taking care of the football won’t be nearly enough against an opponent like TCU.
WVU offensive coordinator Graham Harrell has to get the offense moving all game, which it has shown an ability to do most of the season, and Daniels has to be on point, but the receivers also have to catch what is there. This can’t be a game that includes an abundance of dropped passes. Bryce Ford-Wheaton, who opened the season with back-to-back games with two touchdown catches, has only been able to find the end zone once since, and that was in garbage duty with his team already well behind the Red Raiders.
The Mountaineers need everyone to step up to beat TCU, but especially the offense, who may have to win this one in a shootout.
Keep Defensive Fundamentals on Point
This one is no doubt right out of the coaching staff’s playbook. Both Brown and defensive coordinator Jordan Lesley have harped on a lapse in fundamentals when the defense doesn’t play well. Aa frustrated as the fans are, it’s clear they are frustrated that much more.
The defense has to be smart and be at their best. This means generating a pass rush, as already stated, and it means trying to force turnovers, which became the driving force of the win over Baylor, but it really just means not missing tackles, being in the right spot and minimizing allowing plays to explode for a bigger gain than they were even designed by the TCU offense.
Basically, look at the Texas Tech film and use it as what not do again.
WVU and TCU are set to meet at noon on Saturday with a lot on the line for two teams who have been experiencing polar opposite seasons to date.