FORT WORTH, Texas — By extending a streak, West Virginia ended some worrisome skids on Saturday night.
For the third time in a row, WVU handled TCU, thus ending a three-game losing streak and a seven-game road losing streak as the Mountaineers pulled away in the second half for a 29-17 win at Amon G. Carter Stadium.
Credit a bye week, a beat-up TCU squad or a good night — the first in quite some time — but West Virginia reversed several of its worrisome tendencies from a 2-4 first half of the season. WVU entered the game 125th out of 130 FBS teams in turnover margin at minus-7 but collected a trio of TCU turnovers while not losing the football on offense. The Mountaineers’ struggles in the run game have been well documented, but on Saturday, WVU piled up 229 rushing yards, with Leddie Brown going for 111 with three touchdowns.
That run game had been an anchor dragging down an inconsistent and often ineffective offense over the first half of the year, but the Mountaineers accumulated 487 total yards while holding a potent TCU offense to 393, and all of it added up to a crucial, relieving and sweet victory to get the Mountaineers (3-4 overall, 1-3 Big 12) back in the hunt for a potential bowl berth.
“I thought we handled the bye week in a positive manner,” WVU coach Neal Brown said. “Proud of our players. They had a ton of energy, they strained tonight. Quality team win.
“We handled adversity, something we didn’t do at Baylor.”
As good as it all felt in the end, it couldn’t have felt worse at the start. In WVU’s 45-20 loss at Baylor two weeks ago, the Bears scored on a 75-yard pass on the second play from scrimmage. TCU didn’t wait that long as Derius Davis took the opening kickoff 100 yards to put the Horned Frogs up 7-0 just 14 seconds in.
But unlike that matchup against the Bears, the Mountaineers responded — again and again and again. WVU scored on four of its five first-half drives with the fifth containing a single run by Brown that served to run out the last 14 seconds of the second quarter after a TCU field goal.
After Davis’ return, the next 13 points belonged to WVU as Brown sandwiched a 5-yard touchdown run between a pair of Casey Legg field goals of 27 and 38 yards.
With the Mountaineers up 13-7, TCU finally got going as quarterback Max Duggan hit a wide-open Taye Barber on fourth-and-goal from the WVU 5-yard line to put the Horned Frogs (3-4, 1-3) back up 14-13.
However, the Mountaineer response was swift as quarterback Jarret Doege led a six-play, 65-yard drive ending in a 1-yard dive from Brown, making the score 20-14. TCU came right back down the field, but with time waning and TCU facing a fourth down inside the WVU 5 again, the Horned Frogs settled for a 24-yard field goal from Kell Griffin, sending the teams to the half with the Mountaineers leading 20-17.
West Virginia had rolled up 304 total yards by halftime and though the offense may not have been quite as sharp in the second half, the Mountaineer defense took up the slack. West Virginia entered Saturday ranked 118th out of 130 FBS teams with only two interceptions on the season, but the Mountaineers doubled that total in the second half, with the two takeaways leading to 10 WVU points.
Midway through the third quarter, with TCU facing a third-and-4 at the Mountaineer 23, Daryl Porter Jr. stepped in front of a Duggan throw and sprinted 42 yards the other way, giving the Mountaineers possession of the ball at the Horned Frogs’ 42-yard line. The interception led to a 49-yard Legg field goal, his third of the game and 13th in 13 tries on the season to give West Virginia a 23-17 lead.
TCU forced a West Virginia punt early in the fourth quarter, but on the ensuing play, Charles Woods outjumped a Horned Frogs receiver and ran back to the TCU 15. Three plays later, Brown scored his third touchdown of the day, this one from 3 yards out, and after a failed 2-point conversion attempt the Mountaineers led 29-17.
“Two groups right off the bat that have been beat up a little bit this year and I thought they came out and played extremely well,” Brown said. “First the defensive backs, three takeaways within that room, limited big plays for the most part, thought they played their best game of the season by far, and then the offensive line. We ran for 229 yards and we were able to run four-plus minutes off the clock at the end of the game.”
From there, West Virginia defense got the plays it needed. Linebacker Josh Chandler-Semedo hit TCU running back Zach Evans for a 5-yard loss on a fourth-and-2 at the WVU 35 on the next Horned Frogs possession. After a 38-yard Legg field goal attempt was blocked, his first miss of the season, Sean Mahone forced a fumble from TCU’s Quentin Johnson and Woods recovered it as the defense turned the ball back to the offense one more time.
Doege completed 21 for 28 passes for 257 yards. Backup quarterback Garrett Greene finished with 69 yards on two carries with a key 67-yard scamper as part of a first-half drive that resulted in Legg’s second field goal. Bryce Ford-Wheaton led WVU’s receivers with six catches for 65 yards and Sean Ryan had four receptions for 81 yards.
Duggan was 16 for 26 for 244 yards and Zach Evans, who led the league in yards per carry average, settled for 62 yards on 18 rushes.