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TCU Still Looks Vulnerable After West Virginia Showcase

Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire

While the box score would tell you that TCU hardly broke a sweat against West Virginia, the Mountaineers actually put the Horned Frogs to the test in a 30-point loss.

Early in the second half broadcast, Joel Klatt mentioned that the score really doesn’t do justice to how well the Mountaineers were playing. He was right, even after allowing 30 points at that point, Dana Holgorsen’s 3-3-5 defense was actually performing adequately.

That is to say, it was containing plays for the most part but broke down with penalties.

This is not to act as an apologist for Big 12 officiating or to say that TCU was lucky. No, this is to say even during the first drive for TCU’s offense, it was getting held up, but was able to capitalize on penalties (correct call or not) as well as any team in the nation.

West Virginia had four pass interference calls on third and long against its defense in the first half alone. Three of TCU’s four scores in that half were partly due to the Mountaineers’ haphazard defensive discipline. The Mountaineers came into this game with the most penalty yards per game in the conference with 86.2 yards donated to the opposing team.

Heading into their tumultuous month of November against Baylor, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State, though, the Horned Frogs may be in for a rude awakening after the Mountaineers showed glimpses of how to beat this playoff contending team.

Baylor and Oklahoma are much better teams than West Virginia, but if they force the refs to throw more laundry on the field, TCU will have an easier time running past those contenders. It’s the Oklahoma State game that should have TCU fans most concerned, though, as the Cowboys are a much more disciplined team featuring the best defense in the conference.

Trevone Boykin showed few signs of being stopped, but when he did it was due to him trying to take deep shots that overthrew his targets. He consistently slipped through West Virginia’s pressures and found open space to run (leading the team with 84 yards on the ground). Klatt even called him “Houdini” at one point during the broadcast.

But if there’s a team that can stop the magic feet of Boykin and force him to play from behind, it’s the Pokes, led by a daunting defensive line that leads the conference in sacks and tackles for loss. Not only is this a team that is hands down the best defense in the conference — they only one to allow under 20 points per game — but the Pokes also have the advantage of playing on their turf. Stillwater is one of the toughest venues in the nation to play at and has even made teams like 2013 Baylor fold.

Back to Thursday night’s game. Looking at the other side of the ball, West Virginia also had missed opportunities that the rest of TCU’s slate (except Kansas) should probably be able to capitalize on. The Mountaineers have found out that Skyler Howard is not the answer at quarterback yet, as each overthrown ball Boykin had Howard matched with two of his own. When the ball did hit his target’s numbers, his receiver would drop it. That’s a bad combination.

Two sure-fire touchdowns were taken away because of that, and two additional balls had to be brought back to the line of scrimmage. Considering that, this game could have very well been decided by a field goal like the past three meetings.

Teams like Baylor—with a Heisman contending receiver in Corey Coleman—or even Oklahoma State’s vastly underrated receiving group won’t make those mistakes against TCU’s depleted defense like West Virginia did.

Though TCU took the Mountaineers’ gifts graciously, the brunt of the Horned Frogs schedule will be taking note of this game to make sure their games turn out a little more competitive.

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