\ Kevin Kinder

No. 12 West Virginia Readies For Match-Up Versus Texas Christian

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - The steady build of excitement over this West Virginia team became a broiling cauldron when it went on the road and lambasted Texas Tech 48-17. But as head coach Dana Holgorsen noted, the real challenge is to bring a high level of performance each week.

Thus the task at hand for the suddenly 12th-ranked Mountaineers. "You get over it real quick," Holgorsen said. "It was a good plane ride home, but then after that you settle in and get back to work."

With many more eyes on that job. No longer can WVU continue to operate outside the national consciousness, not after a 5-0 start and its latest defensive performance in holding among nation's statistically-elite offenses more than five touchdowns and 200 yards below the average. Indeed, it appears West Virginia has the magic for slowing Texas Tech, a formulaic blend of shrouded intentions and interchanged looks and pressures that creates doubt and hesitation in the mind of quarterbacks and coordinators alike. If Tony Gibson could patent it, he would, though Holgorsen said it isn't a secret at all.

"What we do defensively is hard for me to attack. It's why we do what we do," he said. "It's good against the spread. It seems like because we move people around so much there's 12 to 13 people out there. Only having three down linemen gives you more second level players you can move around and blitz people from different places and cover people as well. Gibby does a great job of getting those guys motivated and playing hard, being able to adjust and get lined up quickly against these uptempo offenses. TCU does the same stuff. It's another spread offense that has great talent with good quarterback play that can move the ball around. We gotta get lined up quick and disguise things and keep people off balance."

West Virginia finished with a season-best four sacks against the Red Raiders, and put the handcuffs on an offense which had racked up an NCAA-best 544 passing yards per game while rolling nickels at 55 points per over the initial five outings. It will get a much more balanced attack in TCU, which is tied with Oklahoma for fourth in the Big 12 in scoring at 40.2 points per game. Quarterback Kenny Hill ranks just behind Tech's Patrick Mahomes in total offense and passing yardage and efficiency per game. The Horned Frogs also boast tailback Kyle Hicks, who averages 5.6 yards per carry and is nearing 500 yards this season.

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Texas Christian is second in the league passing offense (362.5 ypg) and sixth in rushing (168.2), and are tied for fourth with Oklahoma State at 4-2 overall, 2-1 in the Big 12. The Frogs two losses have come at home against Arkansas in a 41-38 double overtime decision and versus Oklahoma in a tight 52-46 tussle. TCU beat West Virginia 40-10 last season, marking the last loss for the Mountaineers before they began their current 10-1 stretch. The 40 points are the most allowed in the last 10 regular season games by a defense that seems to be improving every game out, as Holgorsen affirmed in detailing how Gibson reloaded the unit despite heavy losses to injuries and the NFL.

"We have done a good job recruiting here recently, in getting key components in grad transfers, four year transfers, junior college transfers, to step in and be effective," Holgorsen said. "It's hard in this league to replace guys like we replaced last year, NFL guys, and lose the best player in Dravon Henry before the season. You have to have depth, gotta have a two-deep with guys who are veterans and who have played ball and who physically can hold up. We've got older, experienced guys and when one guy goes down, you are replacing him with a body that can go in there and play ball."

Notes: When teams begin winning, even the questions seem to have more of a sheen to them. Holgorsen was asked if food tastes better when winning - it apparently does - and was then tossed this perhaps over-due query: 

"Dana, the cameras caught you chugging a Red Bull on the sidelines. Has anyone ever contacted you about a Red Bull endorsement?"

"I'm really happy with Coca-Cola," Holgorsen said, toeing the company line. "They are a huge sponsor of WVU. (The cameras) caught me in a weak moment. After that, I went back to drinking the Coke and Dasani that I normally do."


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