Patterson, in his 13th season, is overseeing much of the same conference and personnel changes that have plagued West Virginia. Both the Horned Frogs and Mountaineers are 3-5 overall, 1-4 in the Big 12 and face near must-win games this weekend if both want to keep length bowl streaks alive. Both programs also rank in the bottom three of the conference – thank goodness for Kansas – in scoring and the bottom half in total offense. WVU has been held to just 12 points over its last five quarters, while TCU has managed just 17 points its last two games, including being shutout for the final three quarters in a 30-7 home loss to Texas last weekend.
"I think everybody felt good going into it," Patterson said of the UT contest. "I know we're not doing well, but I don't think anybody thought it would go south. We just haven't done what we have needed to do. We dropped seven balls in the ball game that had a chance to extend drives. When it's not going well, there's a lot of ways to point fingers. Now we have to find a way in the next four ball games to win three of them.
"We have turned it into four one-game seasons, and the next one is West Virginia. That's really the thing, making sure we give ourselves a chance to do that. At this time of year, you really don't get a chance to fix a lot of things. You are what you are. So how do we make it better? That's what we are trying to get accomplished. If you don't (get the needed wins), you're home for Christmas."
That should sound eerily familiar to Mountaineer fans, whose team has lost 11 of its last 14 to BCS foes, including a 39-38 double overtime home defeat to TCU last season. West Virginia, losers of three in a row, are trying to find some semblance of execution on the offensive side, and a way to both convert third downs and get its defense off the field in similar situations. TCU's defense, much like WVU's at times, has played at a high level relative to its offense, though Patterson said that isn't causing a rift in the team.
"I think they've handled it ok," Patterson said of the discouraging season and differential in execution for the units. "The way we do things as a team, there's never been a line drawn on years where we have been one or the other. I think they are playing well. … The last two weeks, both opponents had two weeks to prepare for us. It doesn't matter what time of year you do it, when you have two weeks to prepare, you move faster. It makes a difference. Your kids are more aware of what they are going to see, and you're able to put some things in, game-plan wise, that you wouldn't have had otherwise. It happened in the Oklahoma State and Texas game. They changed up what they did on both sides of the ball, they changed some tendencies.
West Virginia faced a similar situation in its loss at Kansas State. For the second straight game, the Mountaineers held a lead at the half, but couldn't hold and badly wilted down the stretch. Both teams have little reason for confidence when holding the lead, and this contest is expected to be close into the final quarter in a battle of offenses rated 944th (TCU) and 96th (WVU) in points scored. The Horned Frogs are 99th in passing yards and 102nd in rush yards; the Mountaineers 56th and 89th, respectively, among the worst rankings in recent memory for both.
Patterson, 119-41 in his TCU tenure, has had just one losing season in his 13 years in Fort Worth, and led the Frogs to Mountain West Conference domination its seven years in the league. TCU won at least 11 games in all but one season, and made bowl appearances in the Fiesta and Rose in winning six of its seven postseason games. But TCU has struggled in Big 12 play, going 7-6 with a bowl loss last season paired with the 3-5 start this year – meaning the fortunes of both programs are near-mirror images, including identical records over the last two seasons. Patterson said he expected issues with adjustment and talent level, and that it might take up to half a decade for his program to fully integrate in terms of talent and depth.
"Like I've always said, it takes you two years on both sides of the ball to be able to do that," Patterson said of being competitive. "In recruiting, I thought it would be three to five years. So, really, there hasn't been anything where I've felt there was an adjustment. It's one of those things where you lose some guys here and there and, suddenly, you're playing with 50 to 55 instead of 70-75. It's made a difference."