WVU Sports with Tom Bragg

(AP PHOTO)

WVU PASS OFFENSE vs. TCU PASS DEFENSE

West Virginia junior quarterback Jarret Doege came back down to earth a bit last week after a great game the week before at K-State. Still, WVU’s offense looks much better with him at QB. TCU has one of the best secondaries in the Big 12, with sophomore safety Trevon Moehrig leading the team with four interceptions. As a team, the Horned Frogs have 13 interceptions and have broken up 43 passes this season.

EDGE: TCU

TCU PASS OFFENSE vs. WVU PASS DEFENSE

Horned Frog freshman Max Duggan has settled in as the starter at quarterback for TCU, but the offense has still struggled at times to move the ball through the air. TCU ranks ninth out of 10 teams in the Big 12 in passing offense. West Virginia’s defense is in the middle of the Big 12 pak when it comes to defending the pass, but the Mountaineers played a solid game against high-powered Oklahoma State last week with senior cornerback Hakeem Bailey standing out.

EDGE: WVU

WVU RUN OFFENSE vs. TCU PASS DEFENSE

The Mountaineers still ahve the worst rushing offense in the Big 12, and it’s not even close. Sophomore Leddie Brown has been better in recent weeks, but WVU still averages just 72.1 rushing yards per game. TCU, meanwhile, allows 141.9 rushing yards per game and has stood tough against some of the best the conference has to offer. TCU junior linebacker Garret Wallow leads the Horned Frogs with 15 tackles for a loss and is tied for the team lead with 3.5 sacks.

EDGE: TCU

TCU RUN OFFENSE vs. WVU RUN DEFENSE

Duggan has been the Horned Frogs’ biggest threat on the ground in recent games, but TCU likes to spread its carries around among a few players. Senior Sewo Olonilua has been TCU’s biggest threat to score on the ground with a team-high seven rushing touchdowns this season. WVU held OSU’s Chuba Hubbard, the nation’s leading rusher, well below his average last week and will be looking to build on that performance. Junior lineman Jeffrey Pooler had his best game last week with six tackles and a sack.

EDGE: TCU

SPECIAL TEAMS

When the Horned Frogs and Mountaineers meet Friday in Fort Worth, it will be a battle of Australian punters. WVU’s Josh Growden is wrapping up his one-season stop in Morgantown having been a bright spots for the Mountaineer special teams as a graduate transfer from Louisiana State. TCU freshman Jordy Sandy has turned into a weapon for the Horned Frogs with a league-leading 24 punts downed inside the opponent’s 20-yard line.

EDGE: TCU

INTANGIBLES

TCU has a lot to play for Friday against West Virginia. The Horned Frogs are sitting on five wins and need one more to become bowl eligible, and should have a definite advantage with the home crowd and veteran coach Gary Patterson in their corner. First-year West Virginia coach Neal Brown’s squad can’t make a bowl, but can play spoiler for TCU, send its seniors out with a win and get a head start looking ahead to 2020.

EDGE: TCU

QUIP — Mountaineers can’t get over the hump but go down swinging in season-finale.

PICK — TCU 24, WVU 20

(photo via @WVUhoops on Twitter)

West Virginia escaped its first game in Mexico at the Cancun Challenge on Tuesday, clawing back from down 15 points in the second half to grab a 60-55 win against Northern Iowa.

The Mountaineers were flat-out bad for most of the game’s first 30 minutes but got some late-game heroics from torch-bearer Miles “Deuce” McBride and a controversial Emmitt Matthews put-back that ended with Matthews taking a nasty spill to the floor and Northern Iowa being tagged with a flagrant foul.

This game was tough to watch as West Virginia only led for 1:52 against the Panthers and looked like a team that had no business winning for most of the contest. Then McBride scored 14 of his game-high 18 points in the second half and hit several big shots down the stretch as the Mountaineers got back into the game after trailing by as many as 15 points with a little more than 10 minutes to play.

“Deuce made some huge shots for us,” WVU coach Bob Huggins said. “He’s in the huddle at the end when we needed to get it up the floor, he’s saying, ‘Just give it to me. I’m good.'”

The Mountaineers outscored UNI 33-13 over the game’s final 10:32 after scoring just 20 points in the first half. WVU got more aggressive on the defensive end and slowly but surely found some rhythm on offense.

“We went to pressure because that was what we had to do to speed the game up,” Huggins said. “We couldn’t let them play at their tempo. We were fortunate enough to get some turnovers and some baskets off of turnovers and finally some shots.”

Freshman forward Oscar Tshiebwe played like a freshman again, finishing with just six points and two rebounds in 14 minutes of playing time. As a team, in what has gone from a singular occurrence to possible trend, the Mountaineers couldn’t buy a bucket for most of the game. Derek Culver finished with 15 rebounds but when West Virginia was struggling it felt like he was getting beat for possession more often than not.

We could pick this WVU performance to pieces, but the important thing to remember is the Mountaineers won and are playing for a tournament championship on Wednesday. West Virginia takes on Wichita State for the Cancun Challenge title after the Shockers pounded South Carolina in Tuesday’s early game to wipe out any chance of an on-court Bob Huggins-Frank Martin reunion.

Wins were hard to come by last season for WVU, and with a roster that is still pretty young it feels important for these Mountaineers to figure out not just how to win but how to win ugly if need be. West Virginia survived Tuesday’s scare with its unbeaten record, but should be in for another challenge for the Shockers on Wednesday in Mexico. Tip is scheduled for 8:30 with the game broadcast on CBS College Sports Network.

 

(photo by Sean McNamara, for the Gazette-Mail)

West Virginia redshirt freshman safety Kwantel Raines entered his name into the transfer portal on Tuesday after first-year WVU football coach Neal Brown alluded to that possibility during his Monday press conference.

“He is trying to figure out what he wants to do,” Brown said. “I haven’t talked to him yet.”

247Sports broke the news of Raines’ intent to leave the Mountaineers on Tuesday, and later in the day Raines gave an interview to Pittsburgh Sports Now.

“This decision to transfer was very hard,” Raines said to PSN’s Mike Vukovcan. “I was there [at West Virginia] for two years and I really liked it there, but I felt it was time to go.”

Raines said he left WVU because of “things going on at home.” The Aliquippa, Pennsylvania native also said he had reached out to a school closer to his home town than Morgantown for a possible landing spot.

“I reached out to Pitt already and if they reach back out to me and have interest, there’s a good chance that I’ll be there, but you never know if schools want you yet so we’ll see,” Raines said. “So I guess it’s all in their ballpark right now. That’s the only school that I’ve contacted, although I’ve had some schools reach out to me.

“It would be a blessing if they would offer me again but honestly, I’ve always treated every offer that I received as a blessing.”

(AP photo)

To the shock of very few, the West Virginia Mountaineers are the hottest college football ticket in the state.

Online ticket marketplace Vivid Seats recently reached out to me asking if I would be interested in some free data their company had compiled about what college football tickets people in West Virginia are buying. I said I was interested, and the folks at Vivid Seats provided that data to the Charleston Gazette-Mail in the form of an interactive map (seen below). On the map, each zip code in West Virginia is color coded by school and the data was recorded by tracking the number of tickets sold to a school’s home games back through 2012.

Mountaineer blue dominates most of the map, but there are pockets of Marshall green around Huntington and several other schools scattered around the state.

Click here for a larger version of the interactive map or check out the embedded version below. If you want to look for a specific zip code, click on the magnifying glass in the upper left corner of the map and type it in.

Areas in white on the map are not mapped to zip codes, and areas in black lack sufficient data.