Neal Brown’s West Virginia squad is back at home on Saturday to host the TCU Horned Frogs in Big 12 conference action. The game is slated to get underway at noon ET on FOX.
The Mountaineers (4-3, 3-3 Big 12) are coming off a narrow 17-14 loss to Texas a week ago, in which they struggled to find the end zone despite two red zone trips late in the fourth quarter. TCU (3-3, 3-3 Big 12) on the other hand, took a dominating win over Texas Tech at home, 34-17.
The upcoming meeting will be the tenth between the two programs. West Virginia holds a one-game advantage, the difference coming from a 31-14 victory for the Mountaineers in 1984. TCU and West Virginia didn’t meet again until the Mountaineers’ Big 12 move in 2012, from which point the series is even at four.
Most recently in 2019, West Virginia was able to end their rocky first season of the Neal Brown era with a nail-biting victory over the Horned Frogs in Fort Worth. Although his team came up on top, Brown has the utmost respect for his upcoming opponents.
“We’d love to run away with it, but I don’t think that’s going to be the case,” Brown said on this week’s episode of The Neal Brown Show. “I think this is going to be another game that’s familiar in the Big 12.”
This week’s contest will be Military Appreciation Day for the Mountaineers, and they will don special decals on their helmets.
Here are some of the top storylines heading into this week’s contest:
Doege vs. Duggan
WVU quarterback Jarret Doege is in the middle of his best stretch as the Mountaineers’ signal caller. For four straight games, he has thrown for over 300 yards while tossing six touchdowns and only one interception.
“His accuracy has gone up, his leadership skills have went up, he’s taking care of the football knock on wood, and put us in position to not lose turnover margin,” said offensive coordinator Gerad Parker. “And it’s put us in a position to win football games, or be in them. So we’re very happy with where he’s at.”
Doege is quick on his feet, and his coaching staff has tried to get him to use his mobility as more of a weapon — but there’s no doubt that he is more of a pocket passer. TCU’s Max Duggan, on the other hand, is not.
Duggan is top ten in both rushing and passing yards in the Big 12, and is one of several dual-threat quarterbacks the Mountaineers will have faced this season. If you ask someone from Fort Worth, they might even say he’s the best — not just in the Big 12 this season, but in TCU history.
“[Texas Tech head coach] Matt Wells said he’s the best running quarterback in the Big 12. With all of that said, he’s been really efficient throwing the football up until last week as well,” said TCU play-by-play man Brian Estridge this week in an interview for Mountaineer GameDay. “TCU has had some good quarterbacks over the years — Trevone Boykin and Andy Dalton come to mind as the most recent guys — when it’s all said and done, I think Max Duggan will be the best to come through here. I think he has that kind of potential, he has that kind of moxie, that kind of savvy about him, that when I think it’s all said and done, he’ll be that guy.”
The “sophomore” against the veteran
The Big 12’s longest-tenured head coach will be squaring off against one of the conference’s newest.
While the second-year coach Brown got the better of TCU’s Gary Patterson in their first meeting as head coaches, but that just reinforced his respect for his opponent. This season, he says the Horned Frogs are a well-coached unit, and look like a “typical Gary Patterson football team.”
“[I have] a lot of respect for a Gary Patterson-coached football team,” Brown said on The Neal Brown Show. “They’re going to be really good on defense, they’re going to try to run the football and their return units are always as good as anybody in our league, so it’s going to be a challenge.”
What’s the status of WVU’s run game?
Neal Brown indicated that WVU leading rusher Leddie Brown was injured on the first play of WVU’s loss to Texas while blocking, which contributed to his season-low performance of just 47 rush yards.
“He wasn’t the same,” Brown said on Tuesday. “We’re going to take care of him this week. We’re hopeful that he’ll play and we won’t know until later in the week.”
Later in the week on his Thursday radio show, Brown repeated the same line: he’s still hopeful his tailback will get the green light.
If he doesn’t play, the carrying duties will fall on Alec Sinkfield. The redshirt junior has seen considerable time as the Mountaineers’ spell back, with some good performances mixed in this season, peaking with a 123-yard game in the season opener against Eastern Kentucky.
It’s also likely in this case that freshmen Tony Mathis and Avarius Sparrow would get some carries. So far this season, they’ve combined for 66 yards on 21 carries.
Where to watch
The Mountaineers and the Horned Frogs kick off at noon ET on FOX.
Before kickoff, be sure to tune in to your West Virginia Nexstar Station for the newest episode of The Neal Brown Show at 9 a.m. ET. Don’t change the channel when it’s over, as we’ll kick off your Saturday with a live edition of Mountaineer GameDay, featuring Anjelica Trinone from the stadium and Nick Farrell and Amanda Mazey in studio.