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West Virginia to Battle Potent TCU Offense

Game gets started at 7:30 p.m. on ESPNU

FILE - West Virginia linebacker Josh Chandler-Semedo and teammates cornerback Dreshun Miller, left, and safety Sean Mahone, right, tackle Iowa State running back Breece Hall, center, during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Ames, Iowa, in this Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020, file photo. Chandler-Semedo is part of the All-Bowl Team for picking off a pass, forcing a fumble and delivering 13 tackles in West Virginia’s 24-21 victory over Army. (AP Photo/Matthew Putney, File)

MORGANTOWN — Oftentimes, a bye week is a blessing.

It’s time to recover. Time to get right, mentally and physically. For West Virginia, it also allowed extra time to prepare for the high-powered TCU offense the Mountaineers will face on Saturday (7:30 p.m., ESPNU).

Among those leading the Horned Frogs’ offense is quarterback Max Duggan, who enters the week ranking as the third-best passer in the Big 12, has been praised for his abilities as a dual-threat.

“You can do everything right and he can still make a play with his feet,” senior linebacker Josh Chandler-Semedo said. “It’s very similar to the Virginia Tech game; we had everything covered and he makes a 3rd and 24 possible with his legs. That’s always a different dynamic. You’ve got five receivers out wide, including the running back, and you’ve got to worry about the sixth, which is probably the best athlete on the field. Especially, in this case, like it was against (Virginia) Tech.”

Duggan’s impact on the running game is miniscule compared to that of running backs Zach Evans and Kendre Miller, who have combined to rush for almost 1,000 yards in six games. Evans has been particularly impressive, averaging roughly 140 yards on the ground in the last five games.

The duo is a huge piece of the TCU offense, and it’s easy to see why. Opponents have been unable to contain the pair and, along with Duggan, the Horned Frogs give opposing defenses many problems when they have the ball in their hands.

Throw in a mix of veteran wide receivers, like Quentin Johnston and Taye Barber, plus an experienced offensive line, and the Mountaineers are facing a true test in their first week out of the bye. The Horned Frogs’ offense currently ranks third in the conference in total offense, as well as fourth in scoring.

“Anytime you face an explosive offense, you’re trying to protect the goal line. You can’t protect the uprights all the time,” defensive coordinator Jordan Lesley said. “They’re explosive, they’re gonna make some plays. What you hope to, and (against) Baylor, where we really didn’t, was we didn’t protect the goal line. That’s six points, seven points, however you want to look at it, versus three. If we can just continuously put the game in the hands of a kicker … that’s where you like your odds.”

TCU’s offense scores an average of 37 points per game, 15 more than West Virginia’s defense allows. The unit will need to have a tremendous impact and limit the Horned Frogs if the Mountaineers hope to snap their current three-game skid.

A victory against TCU would do wonders for a West Virginia team that has gone a month without a win. The 2-4 Mountaineers are currently on pace to miss a bowl game, but a key win this week could shift momentum for the second-half run.

“There’s zero margin for error. I can only speak for myself, but I’m not going out like that,” Chandler-Semedo said. “Excuse my language, but that’s piss poor, in my opinion. I’m not going out like that, not in my senior year. Whatever has to happen, has to happen. I don’t care which way we go, I’m not finishing the season 2-10, 3-9, whatever it wants to be. That’s not happening.”

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