Football, Justin Jackson, Sports, WVU Sports

COLUMN: WVU put up a fight against TCU, but still showed a very poor defense

We don’t need to go into some detailed and dramatic monologue to explain the odds that were overcome by West Virginia on Saturday.

The Mountaineers seemingly faced undefeated and No. 7-ranked TCU at Milan Puskar Stadium in the same fashion a prisoner facing a firing squad would — with nothing more than a blindfold and a cigarette.

Not even a puncher’s chance was given to WVU, which was more banged up than a 1980 Chevy truck and had about as much momentum as a snowball in you know where.

“Did we play well enough to win? Obviously not,” WVU head coach Neal Brown said following the Mountaineers’ 41-31 loss against the Horned Frogs. “Did we play hard enough to win? Yes we did.”

Regardless of one’s thoughts on where this football season is heading for WVU (3-5, 1-4 Big 12) or where you stand on Brown’s future with the team, you can’t ignore that the Mountaineers bounced back from a butt-whipping the week before and somehow went toe-to-toe with the No. 7 team in the country for the better part of four quarters.

The sad thing about it all, though, is everything that got the Mountaineers to this fickled position they find themselves in was very much on display throughout.

WVU’s defense, as good as it was in parts of the second half, was equally as bad in the first half.

Now, this is not exactly news, because the WVU defense has been the source of frustrations and drinking binges for most of the season.

But even on this day, this defense maybe sunk to new levels not seen before.

TCU (8-0, 5-0) needed only 25 plays to score its first 28 points.

Think about that for a moment, that’s 1.12 points per play, which is good if we’re talking basketball, but you know we’re not talking hoops here.

TCU’s first four touchdowns covered 207 yards — the Horned Frogs finished with 494 total — and the Horned Frogs averaged 52 yards per score in the first half.

“The frustrating ones were the long runs,” Brown said. “They hit some passes, but the frustrating one was right before the half. That burns you.”

Big plays scorched the Mountaineers’ defense.

The one before the half, a 30-yard run by Emani Bailey gave TCU a 28-21 halftime lead.

That drive started at the TCU 27 … with just 1:29 remaining … and the Horned Frogs had just one timeout remaining.

In that moment, I don’t care that you’ve got young guys playing, which WVU did with Naim Muhammad and Raleigh Collins, who were rotating at spear (an extra safety), just don’t let a team go the length of the field in 65 seconds.

The laughable part: TCU didn’t even need to burn its final timeout during that drive.

Young guys should at least be able to tackle or shove a guy out of bounds. The more experienced guys should know this is a moment to at least be in the right position to make a play.

Instead, TCU went 73 yards in seven plays in just 65 seconds to totally turn the tide of the game.

Some of the other ones were just as bad. After recovering a fumble by WVU quarterback J.T. Daniels near midfield, Kendre Miller went right up the middle — untouched — for a 51-yard score.

Some were unfortunate. Quentin Johnston was wide open for a 55-yard scoring pass after a WVU defender fell down, not much you can do there.

Some were mesmerizing, like how does a middle linebacker get asked to cover a slot receiver going deep? That’s what happened when Taybe Barber scored on a 71-yard pass play on TCU’s first score of the game.

Now, WVU made adjustments and played better in the second half.

The Mountaineers contained TCU quarterback Max Duggan, up until he converted a third down with a five-yard run on third-and-three.

The final touchdown on a fourth-down throw with 20 seconds left, we’re not exactly sure what to make of that.

“What we were trying to do was draw them offsides,” TCU head coach Sonny Dykes said. “So, the good thing is we got the flag, and what we do if the jump is guys run vertical routes and we throw it.”

Add it all up, and you’ve got numbers that WVU defensive coordinator Jordan Lesley will not want to see.

TCU needed only 55 plays in all to score 41 points. The Horned Frogs averaged 21.3 yards every time they completed a pass.

Young guys, inexperienced guys or whatever, you would barely expect the numbers to be this bad if WVU were playing an NFL team, let alone a college team.

Brown had little problems with the effort WVU put forth Saturday, and that effort should be applauded.

Still, the outcome was the same for so many of the same reasons as before, and it’s getting hard to see how that changes in the final weeks of the season.

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