MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — TCU coach Gary Patterson figures all those injuries that have piled up for the Horned Frogs could present a problem for No. 7 West Virginia.
Patterson joked it might be difficult for West Virginia to put together a scouting plan against TCU’s revolving-door defense.
“It’s been a hard year for us,” Patterson said. “This team hasn’t quit battling.”
TCU has seen 20 season-ending injuries and 36 players have missed playing time.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever been down seven safeties in a three-safety system,” Patterson said. “Freshmen say they want to play, so here we go.”
Patterson and West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen have a mutual respect for each other. Their teams joined the Big 12 together in 2012. Holgorsen always pays compliments to TCU’s defense when the teams meet and, injuries aside, Saturday will be no different when TCU (4-5, 2-4 Big 12) plays the Mountaineers (7-1, 5-1, No. 9 CFP).
In the high-scoring Big 12, TCU has held opponents under 20 points three times in its last five games. Despite the injuries, the Horned Frogs have the Big 12’s best pass defense, allowing 194 yards per game.
“It doesn’t matter who plays these spots in a Gary Patterson defense,” Holgorsen said. “This will probably be the stiffest test that we’ve had to date for our offense.”
And conversely, one of the toughest defensive challenges for Patterson. West Virginia’s Will Grier has thrown for 28 touchdowns, including three in a 42-41 win last week at No. 15 Texas. He’s averaging 327 yards per game.
“I don’t know if we’ve played anybody at this point that throws like they do,” Patterson said.
Some other things to know about the Horned Frogs and Mountaineers:
Time is starting to run out on TCU’s chances to become bowl eligible. The Horned Frogs must win two of their last three games to do that. They have games remaining at Baylor next week and at home Nov. 24 against Oklahoma State. TCU has missed a bowl twice in Patterson’s 18 seasons, in 2013 and 2004.
Holgorsen gushed about the play of his offensive line last week, especially after left tackle Yodney Cajuste was ejected early in the game for throwing a punch after an extra point. Kelby Wickline replaced Cajuste and saw the most action of his career. The Mountaineers finished with 578 yards of offense, including 232 on the ground.
TCU quarterback Mike Collins got his first win as a starter last week. The 6-foot-5 sophomore transfer from Penn completed 17 of 33 passes for 218 yards in a 14-13 victory over Kansas State. Collins took over after Shawn Robinson suffered a season-ending shoulder injury.
A win would move Holgorsen into second place in school history with 61, one ahead of Rich Rodriguez. Hall of Famer Don Nehlen holds the mark with 149 wins.
Grier’s winning two-point conversion run with 16 seconds left at Texas came after he threw a conversion pass to David Sills but the play was nullified because Texas called timeout.
A year ago the Mountaineers were a victim of trickery at TCU.
KaVontae Turpin took a handoff and swept to the right before stopping and throwing back to Kenny Hill, who sprinted down the left sideline late in the third quarter of the 31-24 victory .
“That got us last year,” said West Virginia defensive coordinator Tony Gibson. “They do a really good job of attacking us.”