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Mountaineer Gameday: New kids on block have had rocky start in Big 12

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It's tough being one of the new kids on the block.

TCU and West Virginia, bullies and frontrunners in their previous leagues, haven't continued their domination on the Big 12 Conference playground.

Both teams have endured a rocky start in their inaugural tour of this league.

Both teams are toiling in the bottom half of the 10-team conference.

And both teams will be trying to avoid a three-game losing streak this Saturday when the Horned Frogs (5-3, 2-3) make their first trip to Morgantown to face the Mountaineers (5-2, 2-2).

"I don't remember the last time we lost two games in a row," said second-year Coach Dana Holgorsen, who is 15-5 at WVU. "It's the reality of the situation. Every game is going to be tough."

West Virginia got pummeled in consecutive games - Texas Tech and Kansas State combined to outscore the Mountaineers 104-28 - before last week's moment of respite.

If TCU can snag a road win Saturday, it'll be WVU's first three-game losing streak since the conclusion of the 2004 season (Boston College, Pittsburgh and Florida State in the Gator Bowl).

The Mountaineers last lost three consecutive conference games in 2001, Rich Rodriguez's first season as head coach. Those came to teams that eventually bounced to the ACC: Boston College, Virginia Tech and Miami.

West Virginia dominated the Big East after that trio's departure, and TCU and Coach Gary Patterson enjoyed similar success during four seasons in Conference USA and seven in the Mountain West.

Patterson, who is in his 12th season, is 114-33. He has eight 10-win seasons to his credit and lost only seven games in seven seasons in the Mountain West.

Then the Big 12 came calling and TCU made the jump in the level of competition after reneging on its Big East commitment. The Horned Frogs have already lost three games this season, something that only happened once in seven seasons in the Mountain West and three of Patterson's first 11 seasons overall.

And there's still four Big 12 games left for TCU this season - all against ranked opponents (WVU, Kansas State, Texas and Oklahoma).

"I don't know about urgency; you can only do what you can do," Patterson said during Monday's Big 12 coaches' conference call. "You're playing with who you have to play with. I think we're a little bit of a tired football team. Our group hasn't acted much different.

"They understood the competition going into the season and it hasn't been any different. When you're closer in competition it's going to be six-to-eight plays that are the difference in the ballgame and that's held up pretty far."

TCU has lost three of its last four - all in league play - and surrendered 156 points in five Big 12 games. In seven Mountain West games last season, the stingy Horned Frogs defense gave up a mere 116 points. If the pace holds, they'll double that in conference play this season.

TCU hasn't lost three consecutive games since 1998, which was when Dennis Franchione headed the program and the team competed in the WAC.

Patterson won or shared five conference crowns in 11 seasons before realignment brought his program to the Big 12.

Now his Horned Frogs need to knock off a ranked team the final four weeks to simply achieve bowl eligibility.

"We knew the competition level and the margin of error would be a lot smaller week-to-week than what we played in the past," Patterson said, "and I think our kids are learning that."

TCU went undefeated in the Mountain West in 2009, '10 and '11, and had a 25-game conference win streak snapped against Iowa State last month.

Holgorsen doesn't recall the last time the program lost consecutive games because he hadn't brought his Air Raid offense to Morgantown when it happened in 2010 under Bill Stewart's watch.

Of course, those defeats were by scores of 19-14 (Syracuse) and 16-13 (Connecticut).

WVU's two Big 12 losses have been by an average of 38 points.

The four-game introduction to the Big 12 has included a 63-point performance by visiting Baylor, a Milan Puskar Stadium record. Kansas State scored the largest win by a WVU opponent - 41 points - in Morgantown in 52 years.

A fourth quarter touchdown by the Mountaineers managed to keep it from being the most lopsided WVU game in Morgantown since 1891, which is 98 years before a certain boy band chart-topping song debuted.  

The new kids are hangin' tough, but their arrival in the Big 12 has been a rude welcome.


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