5 Questions: West Virginia

No. 7 TCU hopes to keep their playoff hopes alive as they travel to Morgantown this Saturday to battle No. 20 West Virginia. The Frogs and Moutaineers are tied in Big 12 play with 3-1 records. What should Frog fans be expecting from West Virginia? We visited with BlueGoldNews.com Managing Editor Michael Carvelli to get those answers.

1. West Virginia had one of the biggest upsets in college football this season with their win over Baylor two weeks ago; what did the Mountaineers do on defense that slowed down the high-flying Bears' offense?

The biggest thing I think WVU did was just challenge Baylor in a way that not many teams had tried to do much throughout the season. The Mountaineers brought a lot of pressure and they were successful defending the Bears in man coverage. West Virginia hasn’t been afraid to change up what it has done and the odd look that comes with the 3-3-5 stack defensive scheme is something that can catch a lot of teams off guard because it’s not a defense that many teams see too often. A big thing Tony Gibson said after that game was that they saw that the approach of constantly sending pressure and challenging the Baylor receivers one-on-one as something nobody had tried to do, and as he said it, WVU went into that game believing it had “nothing to lose."

2. Kevin White has literally set the Big 12 on fire with his play this year; what's been the biggest reason why he's improved so much or has he always been this type of player and we're just now seeing it?

I think everyone always knew Kevin White had the potential to be a really good receiver in this offense, and it’s part of the reason why there were some really high expectations for him when he came in a year ago. Honestly, I don’t think there was much of a chance for anyone on that WVU offense to play up to their potential last season (and you can probably look at the numbers and see that was the case). It was an offense in which just about every player the Mountaineers were going to be counting on to make plays, including White, Mario Alford, Clint Trickett and Charles Sims, were all newcomers and hadn’t been on campus very long. They didn’t know the scheme, they weren’t comfortable in the program and it showed. This year, White is healthy and he knows what he’s doing and is playing with a level of confidence that might even potentially be higher than where it was for Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey a few years ago. He believes that he’s going to catch and score every time that ball is thrown to him.

3. Weather for the game on Saturday is forecasted to be in the low 40's with chance of rain/snow and some strong wind gusts. How much do you see this affecting both teams when it comes to passing the football; is the stadium generally a hard place to throw when the wind is bad?

I don’t think I’ve seen the wind have too much of an effect on teams when they come to Morgantown, but even if it is bad on Saturday - much like Dana Holgorsen said before the Texas Tech game a few weeks back - both teams have to deal with it and if it bothers one quarterback it could bother the other just as much. As far the potential cold weather, it could be kind of tough for TCU considering the Horned Frogs haven’t left the state of Texas yet this season. There’s always a potential for some struggles going on the road like this, especially with the weather and crowd atmosphere at WVU, and it will be interesting to see how TCU is able to deal with it.

4. The Mountaineers have drastically improved on defense the last two ball games holding Baylor to 27 and Oklahoma State to 10; what's been the biggest turnaround on the defensive side of the ball?

This is a West Virginia defense that has benefitted from gaining experience during those first two seasons as members of the Big 12 Conference in which it struggled so much. In 2012, when WVU finished in the bottom five nationally in a handful of statistical categories, the Mountaineers were stuck playing tons of freshmen and other underclassmen who were thrown into the fire against some of the nation’s best offenses with little or no experience. They have that now, and it’s showing. These guys really love to play for Tony Gibson as well. It’s an interesting connection between the players and the first-time defensive coordinator who has always been known as someone who has built great relationships with his players. The fact that these guys are enjoying playing, know what they’re doing and are in a scheme that is helping them adjust to what they’re going to see in the Big 12 is such a big factor in the improvement of this unit.

5. What are your keys for a Mountaineers win on Saturday?

West Virginia needs to start quickly and find a way to get into a rhythm early on. If this offense can get moving and put together a few nice drives and get rolling early, good things can happen. WVU has shown that it is able to succeed through the air and on the ground this season, so there are plenty of ways the Mountaineers are going to be able to strike. And defensively, much like they were able to do against Baylor and Oklahoma State the last couple weeks, the Mountaineers have to make the Horned Frogs uncomfortable and try to put them in tough situations to have success the way they have so far this season. West Virginia has been great getting off the field on third down this season (again, something it couldn’t do the last two years). Teams are successfully converting on just 30 percent of their third downs against WVU - and only 18 times on 64 third downs at Milan Puskar Stadium. West Virginia needs to do those things if it wants to win this game.

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