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Keys to the Game: TCU vs. West Virginia

The Mountaineers are unbeaten on their home field this season, but the Horned Frogs have fared well on the road.

West Virginia v TCU Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

The West Virginia Mountaineers are enjoying a resurgent 2020 campaign after finishing 5-7 overall this past season. Much of that success has come in Morgantown, where the Mountaineers are 4-0 with wins over Kansas State, Kansas, Baylor and Eastern Kentucky. TCU has won each of its first two road games this year, and the Horned Frogs will look to extend that streak to three games when the two Big 12 teams square off on Saturday.

West Virginia’s defensive front has attacked opposing quarterbacks, and the Mountaineers have held every opponent minus Texas Tech under 28 points this season. West Virginia ranks first in the Big 12 in yards allowed per game (271), second in points per game (19.6) and third in sacks (21). Opposing passers are averaging only 5.8 yards per catch, second-best in the conference behind Oklahoma State.

Those numbers don’t bode well for the TCU offense, which saw quarterback Max Duggan struggle with only 72 passing yards and an interception while completing fewer than 50 percent of his passes against Texas Tech. Duggan dominated on the ground, running for 154 yards and three scores, but West Virginia has been stout in the run defense department this season, surrendering only five rushing touchdowns through seven games.

Here are three keys to the game between the Mountaineers and Horned Frogs.

Move the Pocket

TCU’s offensive line may struggle to hold an impressive West Virginia defensive front that will field multiple players with at least three sacks on the season including Ahkeem Mesidor, who’s tied for sixth in the conference with four. Rolling Duggan out of the pocket on passing plays could create opportunities for the sophomore quarterback to use his legs, avoid the pressure from the defensive line and either pick up first downs on his own or find receivers.

Simple Throws Early

Darwin Barlow and Zach Evans have emerged as TCU’s top running backs over the last few games, and given Duggan’s recent performance on the ground, West Virginia will look to force the Horned Frogs to make plays through the air. Duggan struggled mightily against the Mountaineers in 2019, finishing 15-of-36 with two interceptions. Quick passes early in the game will allow Duggan to build a rhythm, throw before the pressure arrives and create chances for TCU’s playmakers to make moves in space.

Stop Leddie Brown

West Virginia didn’t have many marquee playmakers on offense in 2019, but that’s changed this fall with the emergence of running back Leddie Brown, who’s second in the conference with 741 rushing yards in seven games. His nine touchdowns are also second-best among Big 12 running backs. Quarterback Jarret Doege has spread the ball around this season, with eight West Virginia players totaling at least 100 receiving yards including Brown and four players recording over 200 receiving yards. However, Brown has been West Virginia’s biggest playmaker, and TCU must make him a nonfactor this weekend.

Brown’s health Saturday could be the difference.