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Scuffling West Virginia a decided underdog against TCU

| Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013, 10:12 p.m.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The lowdown on West Virginia's Saturday journey to Fort Worth, Texas, to take on TCU can be found in the opening point spread for this Big 12 game between two of the conference's have-nots.

TCU opened as a 14-point favorite over the struggling Mountaineers, which might seem to be a legitimate evaluation considering that TCU is 3-1 in home games this season and West Virginia is still seeking its first road victory.

But in Big 12 games this season, and TCU has played five of them — more than half their conference schedule — the Horned Frogs are averaging just 14.2 points.

That's right, a team averaging 14.2 points is a 14-point favorite over West Virginia, which five games into last season ranked fifth in the nation in scoring.

This season, WVU's offense is lackluster. The Mountaineers scored seven points against Oklahoma, zero against Maryland and 12 against Kansas State. Their record —3-5 overall, 1-4 Big 12 — is the same as TCU's.

The difference, and what explains the seemingly ridiculously high point spread, is that TCU can play defense while WVU is hemorrhaging points — 73 to Baylor, 37 to Texas Tech and 35 to Kansas State in the past three games, all losses.

The bookmakers have to believe that TCU, ranked 92nd in the nation in scoring, 99th in passing offense, 108th in passing efficiency, 102nd in rushing offense and 110th in first downs, will find a way to score against the Mountaineers.

It has been that bad on both sides of the ball for West Virginia, but it is the offense that bothers coach Dana Holgorsen the most.

His analysis of his offense?

“We have got to figure out a way to move the ball and get it into the end zone,” he said.

That would be easy to do if it were just one area of the offense that is holding him back. But quarterback play has been awful, and the running game up and down. The receivers have been hit or miss and the line play substandard.

Also, there are several players on the injured list, including center Pat Eger who is day to day with an ankle injury; cornerback Daryl Worley, also day to day with a shin injury after missing the game against Kansas State; linebacker Doug Rigg, whose status is unknown after his second concussion; and defensive lineman Dontrill Hyman, who is day to day with an ankle injury.

It makes it tough, but this is the portion of the football season when most teams are short-handed.

“What can you do about it?” Holgorsen asked. “The next guy up has got to step in and do the job. Injuries are no excuse. Shoot, I bet TCU would like to have its best pass rushing end as well.”

Clint Trickett figures to start at quarterback for WVU again this week, even though he was yanked last week for Paul Millard as Holgorsen looked for a spark.

Trickett completed 15 of 28 passes for 227 yards but missed a lot of open receivers and was hurt by drops.

“He was missing throws he should have made,” Holgorsen said. “He had issues and wasn't trusting his offensive line like he should have. He got antsy and his eyes were not in the right place, and he missed some reads.”

Bob Hertzel is a freelance writer.

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