FORT WORTH, TEXAS — Admittedly it wasn’t the Will Grier/David Sills point-a-minute juggernaut of 2018 or the Pat White/Steve Slaton explosion-waiting-to-happen of 2007, but for 2021, Saturday’s performance in Fort Worth was a high-water mark for this season.
West Virginia’s 29-17 victory at TCU included the Mountaineers’ most points this season against an FBS opponent and its 229 net rushing yards were the year’s best no matter who the foe. It was just the third time this season the Mountaineers eclipsed 100 yards on the ground, and not coincidentally 3-4 WVU has won all three when topping the century mark via the rush.
“I feel like the last two weeks the offense practiced at a high standard, and that led to this game,” said West Virginia running back Leddie Brown. “That’s why we were so productive.”
Brown rushed for 111 yards against the Horned Frogs, marking the second time this season he has run for more than 75 yards, as he had 161 in WVU’s victory over Virginia Tech. He now checks in at No. 11 in Mountaineer history with 2,356 career rushing yards. Saturday was also his ninth 100-yard game, which ties him for 12th all-time at West Virginia.
“We knew in this game that both teams were going to run the ball, and the team that ran the ball better was going to win,” noted WVU’s junior running back, as his club outgained TCU on the ground, 229-149. “We knew we had to play more physical up front and in the backfield. We did that.
“Our o-line was more physical than TCU’s d-line.”
Brown’s backup, Tony Mathis, added 48 rushing yards, which is the second-best outing of the sophomore’s career. WVU’s second-string quarterback, Garrett Greene, accounted for 69 yards on the ground, 67 of them coming on one scamper. Only a pair of Leddie Brown runs of 87 yards last year against Kansas and 80 yards this season against VT have been longer in the three-year era of head coach Neal Brown.
“It was big for the team and big for himself,” said Leddie of Mathis’ effort. “It gave him confidence and took some of the load off my shoulders.”
West Virginia’s improved run game took some of pressure off the Mountaineers’ aerial attack. WVU had been second in the Big 12 in passing yards (265.8 yards), but it was just 2-4 before Saturday and had lost three straight because its offense lacked balance. With a running attack that accounted for a season-best, West Virginia’s 258 passing yards in Fort Worth looked even better than any previous contest this season, even though it was actually the third-lowest total in the first seven games.
“I’ll sing it well: our running game was very good, and it was an overall good team win,” said WVU quarterback Jarret Doege, who completed 21 of 28 passes for 257 yards and just as importantly, didn’t throw an interception, as the Mountaineers won the turnover battle against the Horned Frogs, 3-0.
West Virginia’s offensive line, which had struggled at times through the first half of the 2021 season, used an off week to make significant improvements, helping Leddie Brown and company average 5.6 rushing yards per carry and keeping Doege out of harms way against the TCU passing rush, as he was sacked just once.
“Our running and passing combination was really important,” noted Doege. “It’s just a testament on how hard our o-line worked the past two weeks. They are a tough, physical unit, and I think they just cleaned up some things the past two weeks. They’re pretty good when they play like that.
“We never quit. We just kept fighting. That was the message I gave the offense after the Baylor game,” said WVU’s quarterback of bouncing back from a three-game losing streak. “We know the defense is the same way. We just kept fighting, kept battling, kept coming to play each week.”
It was West Virginia’s fourth consecutive victory over TCU, and in the process, the Mountaineers snapped a seven-game losing streak in road games on their opponent’s home field.
“I had a lot of family here, so it was fun to get the win with them watching,” said Doege, who is a native of Lubbock, Texas. “Two-for-two in Fort Worth feels pretty good.”
The last time WVU had enjoyed a road victory had also come at Texas Christian’s Amon G. Carter Stadium, when Doege and wide receiver Isaiah Esdale hooked up for a late 35-yard TD to lift West Virginia to a 20-17 victory in the Mountaineers’ 2019 season finale.
“In warmups, I threw (Esdale) a pass, and it was a flashback. It looked exactly like (the game-winner in 2019), felt just like it, and he caught it the same way,” smiled Doege. “He came up to me after the catch and said it felt exactly like the game-winner.”
The Mountaineers didn’t need any last-minute magic on their 2021 trip to Fort Worth. Instead, they took care of business earlier, running and passing their way to a 12-point victory over the Horned Frogs.