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WVU takes its stunning protection to TCU seeking to cement contender standing

MORGANTOWN — A the start of the season, West Virginia’s protection was anticipated to be little greater than a legal responsibility for the Mountaineers. After permitting almost 500 whole yards in a loss to Penn State within the season-opener, the Mountaineers’ protection appeared like it might be in deep trouble this yr.

In lower than a month, nonetheless, that notion has utterly flipped because the protection has turned in back-to-back spectacular performances which have led to 2 Mountaineer victories.

“I feel we’re essentially enjoying higher,” defensive coordinator Jordan Lesley mentioned Monday. “Within the atmosphere of the switch portal and whenever you get guys, nothing is extra invaluable than expertise. That’s expertise within the scheme of your protection and that simply takes time.”

The most important areas of enchancment for WVU (3-1, 1-0 Massive 12) have are available in cross protection and on third downs.

The Mountaineers are at present fifth within the Massive 12, permitting simply 201.3 passing yards per sport they usually lead the convention holding opponents to only 25% on third downs (14 of 56).

“A whole 180 from what we did final yr on third downs,” head coach Neal Brown mentioned. “We’re entering into some extra pleasant down and distances. We’re higher on 1st-and-10 and we’re getting groups into some Third-and-longs.”

The primary true take a look at for WVU’s improved protection will come later at this time when WVU takes on the TCU Horned Frogs (8 p.m./ESPN2).

Final yr’s nationwide runner-up, TCU (3-1, 1-0) is averaging 38.3 factors and 501 yards per sport on offense.

“The numbers are good, however we’ve left numerous factors on the market,” TCU coach Sonny Dykes mentioned this week. “I feel we’re a great distance from enjoying on the stage we have to play at. No less than, we haven’t up thus far. My hope is we’ll do this Saturday.”

The Horned Frogs have scored a minimum of 34 factors in each sport this season, however West Virginia figures to be the hardest protection they’ll face but.

“I don’t see a weak spot defensively,” Dykes mentioned. “Usually whenever you go into per week you begin groups and say ‘we wish to go after this man’ or ‘they’re not good at this.’ You don’t actually see a lot of that with West Virginia. They’re only a actually stable defensive soccer group.”

Offensively, TCU is led by sophomore quarterback Chandler Morris, who has thrown for 1,121 yards and 9 touchdowns already this season. He’s additionally added 184 dashing yards and two extra scores on the bottom.

Main receivers JP Richardson (185), Warren Thompson (159) and Jaylon Robinson (120) are all already over 100 yards receiving, as is tight and Jared Wiley (120).

“They’ve obtained good weapons on offense,” Brown mentioned. “They’re an actual seasoned group offensively.”

Like WVU, TCU misplaced its season-opener — a 45-42 shootout in opposition to Colorado — and gained its subsequent three video games.

“I feel just like us, they simply obtained higher,” Dykes mentioned. “They performed a reasonably good opponent in week one and doubtless didn’t play their finest sport. They’ve had an opportunity to get again on observe and simply proceed to get higher on either side of the ball.”

For the second week in a row, WVU’s beginning quarterback is up within the air heading into kickoff. Starter Garrett Greene didn’t play final week in opposition to Texas Tech as redshirt freshman Nicco Marchiol made his first profession begin.

WVU has not out-gained an FBS opponent but this season, but it surely has gained video games over Pitt and Texas Tech thanks largely to the best way its protection has been enjoying.

“You’ll be able to see, sport to sport, they get higher offensively,” Dykes mentioned. “They’ve turn into extra sure of who they’re and their identification and it’s the identical factor on protection.”