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October 29, 2013After both TCU and West Virginia reached bowl games in their first years in the Big 12, the two teams are both two losses away from being eliminated from postseason consideration.
Both will enter Saturday's 2:30 p.m. game with (3-5, 1-4 in the Big 12) records and TCU coach Gary Patterson thinks there's even more to the similarities.
"They are like us. They are 3-5 and have been ahead, but can't find a way to finish a ball game," Patterson said. "Their skill guys are pretty good. I think the key for them is that they are getting set at quarterback and on defense they have been very physical."
Like TCU, West Virginia has had to start multiple quarterbacks, but both seem to have found their man under center. WVU is using junior Clint Trickett more under center. He has 951 passing yards, but has completed less than 50 percent of his 151 passes this year.
The Horned Frogs appear ready to hand the ball back to senior Casey Pachall after he missed five weeks with a arm injury. He played most of the Texas game.
"Casey brings back a little leadership to the team. He knows how to run the team. The fans were excited, we were excited," TCU tight end Stephen Bryant said. "We love both of them and they each have their own style. It was good to see him out there and we thought he did really well."
Patterson thinks Pachall got a different taste of the game by watching most of this season so far.
"Having to sit out these weeks I think gave him a whole new perspective and got a look at what a coach does and compare it to like what a player sees," Patterson said. "It's a big difference and it's where you need to get to if you want to own the system and obviously we need to do a lot better. In this league, scoring seven points is not going to win you any ballgames."
Getting him back with the starters has both helped and hurt the TCU defense in practice.
"It was nice to see him off the scout time, but it was good having him out on the scout team giving us different looks," defensive back Chris Hackett said. "It's even better having him back on the team though."
They don't have Pachall to help the defense prepare for the Mountaineers' offense. That might be tough because West Virginia does a lot of different things on offense.
"They are doing a lot more of everything. They are using a tight end more in short yardage and one-back stuff," Patterson said. "It takes more to prepare for them than it would with a Mike Leach type system. It takes more to get ready for what you are going to see."
The Mountaineers have been doing a lot of different screens and short passes, but that's just more things to prepare for.
"We've been working on it. You have to understand and play run and pass," Patterson said. "Every motion last week could be a fly sweep or have motion or run a 'jerk' route where a guy comes in to block, but then takes off vertical down the field. They run a lot of plays."
Hackett is up for the challenge that comes with the different offensive looks.
"They bring a lot of challenges because they can go deep with different personnels," Hackett said. "Everybody on the defense has to do their job and it will come together."
The TCU defense has been playing really well considering the tough position the offense has been putting it in. But Hackett thinks it can be even better.
"I think we are still playing at a high level, we just have to come down on a few things we've been messing up on," Hackett said. "We're trying to become one of the best defenses and each week you learn from your mistakes. Each week you get better at that."
West Virginia's defense is in the bottom 20 in NCAA D1 in yards allowed per game, but Bryant is going to take them lightly.
"They bring a lot of speed and they play hard," Bryant said. "They played Oklahoma State hard a few weeks ago and they are going to be a challenge. Every team in this conference is a challenge."
After watching film from plays, Bryant and the offense has seen that they are very close to putting some longer drives together. It's just a few little mistakes that keep happening.
"It comes down to just one or two plays. We watch film and it's just one or two little things that end our drives," Bryant said. "We get stopped on penalties and I think if we just focus up, we will be ready to roll."
Last season, TCU won a wild game 39-38 in double overtime. With Trevone Boykin under center, he connected with Josh Boyce on a 94-yard pass with 1:28 left in the fourth quarter to force overtime. In the extra period, TCU failed to score and West Virginia lined up for the game-winning field goal.
"Everybody thought when they lined up for the field goal that there goes another one," Bryant said. "But Jason (Verrett) made a big play and we capitalized on it and got in the end zone."
Verrett got the block and TCU scored in the second overtime on a 25-yard pass from Boykin to Corey Fuller. Instead of playing for a third overtime, Patterson went for two and the win and Boykin connected with Boyce again for the victory.
The goal for the defense this year is to not make it so close.
"It was a crazy game last year," Hackett said. "We just have to come here and make sure it doesn't come down to the end like that."
Despite the long odds of winning three of their last four, Hackett and his teammates aren't getting down.
"We have four games left and we're trying to get four wins," Hackett said. "We have West Virginia and we have to get this one first. This is a very strong team. We're going to fight to the end."