FORT WORTH, Texas —It’s a tad revisionist, the spin West Virginia’s coaching staff applied to last week’s loss at K-State, but when you’re head over cleats in a three-game losing streak it’s human nature to cling to anything that keeps you afloat.
As the company line goes, WVU’s defense was a mere seven plays away from a near-shutdown performance—those seven plays, coincidentally, being K-State’s 7-of-8 conversions on third downs during the second half. Those seven plays (out of 64 the Wildcats ran) transformed a game WVU led into a game it lost badly, 35-12.
“Maybe one of the strangest games I’ve been associated with,” said defensive coordinator Keith Patterson. “To feel like you’re in such control … It’s frustrating that we didn’t execute basically the last four possessions of the game.”
Those four possessions, and the 28-point late-game shelling they yielded, proved yet again that WVU—in it’s current yearlong malaise—is never in control. Leaking confidence, forgoing discipline and averting its eyes from each week’s impending doom, the Mountaineers defense (and, indeed, the entire team) has descended into a state of fragility that prohibits winning football.
“We need to play to win, don’t just play hoping to win,” Patterson said. “Go out and take it.”
Fortunately for West Virginia, Saturday’s opponent possesses a similar complex. And in TCU’s case, the crestfall may sting even worse, considering how Big 12 title projections were heaped upon the Frogs during the offseason. Like WVU, Texas Christian gave a respectable effort at Oklahoma. Like WVU, it lost to Texas Tech by 10. Like WVU, it can only cling to hope of becoming a middling six-win team selected for one of those bowl games we’ll watch over Christmas leftovers.
Unlike K-State, however, TCU hasn’t shown any offensive pop during conference play. The Frogs are as notoriously bad on converting third downs as WVU is at stopping them. And that gives the Mountaineers a chance at the superbly remodeled Amon G. Carter Stadium, especially against an underachieving Frogs team favored by 12.
After TCU made and squandered a significant emotional investment in last week’s 30-7 home loss to Texas, WVU might actually have the better mindset of the two. Ponder that.
Pick: West Virginia 23-21
Ranking the rest of the week’s Big 12 games:
1. No. 18 Oklahoma State 40, No. 15 Texas Tech 34: (Cowboys -1) Consider this an elimination game in the Big 12 championship chase.
2. Kansas State 33, Iowa State 27: (Wildcats -17) After two blowout losses, Paul Rhoads’ team is once again contractually obligated to have a near-upset nixed by a ref’s blown call.
3. Texas 45, Kansas 15: (Longhorns -27) The Mack Brown Old-Tyme Revival Tour continues in a game so one-sided that UT officials have scheduled AD interviews during the second half.