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Game Preview: West Virginia vs TCU Q & A With @TheSignalCaller

It's big game day in Morgantown. Let's take a look at what to expect from TCU and the Mountaineers when they square off Saturday Afternoon. First a Q & A on the Horned Frog D with our pal @TheSignalCaller and then the tale of the big play tape.

Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

Game day is here. And GameDay is here. This is the biggest one we've seen around these parts in quite awhile and who better to give us some insight into what makes the TCU D so special than the man on the sideline Jed Drenning? We checked in with @TheSignalCaller for our weekly Q & A to quiz him on that vaunted TCU defense. After that we'll take a quick look at some big play numbers. Let's get fired up to greet the eyes of the nation as they turn towards Morgantown!

@abpriddy: Let's get right to it. You're as good of an Xs and Os guy as I know, so tell me what makes Gary Patterson's defense so great at TCU.

@TheSignalCaller: What makes them unique is they keep their fronts separate from their coverage. So you really have a defense within a defense. And sometimes they take it to another level and you'll have separate calls on both sides of the field for the defensive backs. What that does is allows you to break things down for guys so instead of having to worry about knowing an entire defense, guys just need to know what's going on in their 3 or 4 man group. It allows them to bring younger guys into the mix earlier which adds to their depth.

@abpriddy: so how else does that let their guys do what they need to do on defense?

@TheSignalCaller: Well if you're not trying to read the whole field that's an advantage to them. You're doing a lot of thinking and if you're thinking you're not acting and that split second matters a lot. It allows them to play incredibly fast, and if you can act and not think that helps the D and that's where turnovers come from. It's not a coincidence they're ranked first in the conference in turnover margin.

@abpriddy: So do you see any weakness in that D?

@TheSignalCaller: So much of what they do is based on reading routes, so it makes them difficult to catch off guard. As a receiver you have to be technically sound and a precise route runner. Don't make their job easier by tipping things. So maybe on the back end. The strength is that D line. You don't have to manufacture a pass rush with blitzing because those down 4 get after it.

@abpriddy: What do you think WVU will need to do to attack them?

@TheSignalCaller: Big plays help a lot. The longer you're out there, the more opportunity for something bad to happen. They want to make you drive up and down the field to give them opportunities. If you can pop some big plays it helps a lot, and if you look they've been susceptible to that.

@abpriddy: I'll do that. Thanks as always for the time, Jed. Enjoyed it as always.

@TheSignalCaller: See you at the fifty!

If you want a deeper dive on the Horned Frogs, Jed did some nice work with his Hot Reads piece over at I highly recommend the read. My favorite part was what he had to say about the WVU red zone defense:

On its face, Red Zone Defense appears to be one of the few areas that West Virginia hasn’t shown improvement this season. The Mountaineers currently rank 108th nationally, whereas they finished a modest 65th in this category a year ago. This is where you should feel free to insert your favorite quote about how misleading statistics can be in the wrong hands because a closer look reveals something pretty compelling.
Last year West Virginia allowed the opposition to reach the Red Zone 60 times in 12 games. Sixty is a lot (a whole lot) of trips for a defense to allow into the land of milk and honey. In fact, only half a dozen teams in all of FBS football allowed more last season. Compare that to this year as WVU – through eight games – has allowed opponents to breech its Red Zone just 19 times, tied for the 12th fewest in the country. Extrapolate that and it means West Virginia is on a 12-game pace to limit the number of opponents Red Zone trips to . . .  wait for it . . . 29.  You don’t have to be Pythagoras to realize that would equal less than half of last year’s total Red Zone trips.

Now let's revisit some big play numbers. A look at the stats reveals that the Frogs have been very vulnerable when playing conference opponents:

Plays of 10+ yards: 68 for 89th nationally
Plays of 20+ yards:22 for 78th nationally
Plays of 30+ yards: 13 for 100th nationally
Plays of 40+ yards: 12 for 120th nationally
Plays of 50+ yards: 8 for 120th nationally
Plays of 60+ yards: 3 for 103rd nationally

Also worth noting that a vast majority of those plays were through the air. Now part of that is the cost of doing business in the high-flying Big 12, but even among the conference the Horned Frogs are either at the bottom or near it. On the other side of the coin the Mountaineers have been successful vs conference opponents at gaining yardage in large chunks:

Plays of 10+ yards: 82 for 19th nationally
Plays of 20+ yards: 31 for 7th nationally
Plays of 30+ yards: 13 for 19th nationally
Plays of 40+ yards: 6 for 32nd nationally
Plays of 50+ yards: 4 for 19th nationally
Plays of 60+ yards: 3 for 9th nationally

So there you have it. Long plays will almost certainly play a big part in who wins on Saturday afternoon, and on the surface the advantage is to the Mountaineers. That's all we've got this week so get ready for the game and LET'S GOOOOO!!!!!!