TCU, West Virginia try to keep pace in Big 12 race

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) – TCU and West Virginia share somewhat of a kinship as the two youngest members of the Big 12. Their head-to-head series has been close, too.

Three of their four meetings since joining the league in 2012 have been decided on the final snap. Two went to overtime.

“We really have a lot of respect for each other,” said TCU defensive end Josh Carraway. “They’re going to battle their butts off, just like they know we’re going to go out there and battle our butts off.”

No. 12 West Virginia (5-0, 2-0) is off to a surprising start but still has to face the conference’s traditional heavyweights, starting Saturday with the Horned Frogs (4-2, 2-1). There are showdowns later against No. 9 Baylor and No. 16 Oklahoma, which are tied for first place at 3-0.

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TCU edged the Mountaineers 31-30 in 2014 and 39-38 in double overtime in 2012 after making the 1,200-mile trip to Morgantown, so coach Gary Patterson has a formula for beating West Virginia on the road.

“Score one more point,” he said.

TCU is the underdog this time and will face a West Virginia team coming off its best game of the season, a 48-17 win last Saturday at Texas Tech .

West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said he told his team the next day that “if you like the feeling that you’re having right now, then you’ve got to prepare. If you don’t prepare, then we’re not going to be in position to be able to win. Then everybody’s going to tell you that you suck again. Then you’re going to be in a bad mood. It’s reality.”

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TCU is 31-9 on the road since 2009. Lately, though, the Horned Frogs have struggled anywhere they play, losing to Arkansas and Oklahoma at home and barely winning at Kansas .

“On the road, it’s just about finding your comfort zone, bringing your own energy,” said TCU wide receiver John Diarse. “That’s tough, depending on the place. West Virginia does have a reputation of having a hostile crowd. We’ve just got to go in and be confident in what we do, be comfortable in what we do and minimize the mistakes.”


Other things to know about the sixth-ever meeting between TCU and West Virginia:

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CLOSE CALLS: Both teams have had to squeeze out some wins. TCU came from nine points down in the fourth quarter to beat Kansas on the road two weeks ago. West Virginia beat Kansas State by a point after the Wildcats missed a late field goal, and BYU nearly came from 16 points down in the fourth quarter but was intercepted on its final drive near West Virginia’s end zone.

RB PASS CATCHER: One of the focuses for West Virginia will be stopping TCU leading rusher Kyle Hicks, who also has a team-best 27 receptions for 308 yards. “He’s big. A thick kid, hard to bring down, but can still run a little bit,” said West Virginia defensive coordinator Tony Gibson. “He’s busted a couple big runs and he catches the ball well, so they aren’t afraid to use him.”

FACING HOMETOWN TEAM: West Virginia quarterback Skyler Howard is a native of Fort Worth, Texas. Howard has improved his passing accuracy significantly to 66 percent and is fourth in the Big 12 with 318 yards per game.

SUSCEPTIBLE DEFENSE: TCU has allowed 40 or more points three times this season. “Two years ago when they came here, they led pretty much every defensive category that existed,” Holgorsen said. “So just because they’re not, that doesn’t mean that they’re not good. They’re really good.”

COMEBACK FROGS: TCU overcame double-digit deficits against West Virginia in the second half in 2012, 2013 and 2014, losing only the 2013 game in overtime.