MORGANTOWN - Another beatable opponent on the road. Two ingredients that have haunted this year's edition of the West Virginia University football team and third-year head coach Dana Holgorsen.
It's the same scenario the old gold and blue faced a week ago and the result was an ugly 35-12 loss to a Kansas State team that was winless in Big 12 Conference play.
"Week nine, West Virginia," TCU head coach Gary Patterson said. "They're a little bit like us. They've had opportunities. They've not been able to find a way in the end to finish ballgames. Even last week at Kansas State, they were ahead at halftime."
But, just like road games at Oklahoma (16-7), Maryland (37-0), Baylor (73-42) and KSU, the result a loss. And, now the Mountaineers (3-5, 1-4 Big 12) find themselves in a must-win scenario over the final four games of the regular season.
Problem is the Horned Frogs (3-5, 1-4 Big 12) are facing the same fate if they don't come out on top in three of their final four games of the campaign.
"Because that number (six) is sneaking up on us it'll probably be used as motivation," Holgorsen said. "I feel like we have a lot to play for. I think the players feel like they have a lot to play for.
West Virginia (3-5, 1-2
Big 12) at TCU (1-4, 3-5)
3:30 p.m. today
"What we do matters and we have an obligation to put our best foot forward, get out there, practice hard and put our best foot forward on Saturday."
That hopefully will begin with an offense that struggled to put 12 points on the scoreboard a week ago, even electing to forego a short field goal just before the half that ended in a failed fourth-and-short run by Parkersburg South graduate Michael Molinari.
Any improvement the offense will see against a TCU defense that leads the Big 12 in quarterback sacks with 24 begins with former-FSU backup signal caller Clint Trickett.
"That isn't going to happen this year," Holgorsen said when asked if Trickett had the ability to change plays at the line of scrimmage. "I've come to terms with that. He's going to do his absolute best to understand and go out to execute it. That's 100 percent for the offseason.
"He needs to look at cut-ups from an entire year without the pressure of trying to prepare for an opponent. He needs to sit in a room and study it, then go outside and work on that for a couple of months."
He also needs a corps of receivers that are capable of making plays consistently.
"I thought we played our worst game at receiver two weeks ago," continued the coach. "I thought we played OK last week. It wasn't a winning performance and it's not progressing like I wanted it to progress.
"I think everybody would agree that last week offensively was not a winning performance. You can take shots but you have to win downfield. You're going to have covered people and make the proper plays and make the proper throws to catch the ball and get up the field."
The running game also is struggling.
Leading rusher Charles Sims was limited to 48 yards on eight carries against the Wildcats and has only 600 yards and four touchdowns on 120 attempts. Junior college transfer Dreamius Smith has as many scores, but only 394 yards on 80 carries.
Combined with the apparent loss of Dustin Garrison for the season and the lack of production from true freshman Wendell Smallwood, a strong running attack may not return in 2013.
That leaves WVU's best chance at getting win No. 4 on the defense.
But that unit has been almost as inconsistent as the offense and will face a TCU offense led by preseason all-Big 12 quarterback Casey Pachall.
Making his first start since early in the season in TCU's 31-7 loss to Texas, Pachall has completed 30-of-64 attempts for 314 yards and no scores. His backup, Trevone Boykin, has made good on 103-of-174 attempts for 1,176 yards and five scores with seven interceptions.
They will be facing a Mountaineer secondary that ranks dead last in the Big 12 in pass defense efficiency and next to last in passing yards surrendered (261.4 pg).
"I think what it boils down to is confidence," said defensive coordinator Keith Patterson. "We need to play to win, and not play just hoping to win and that something good is going to happen to us. That is how I have felt over the past couple of weeks. Instead of going out there and trying to take the win, we have played flat. We need to go out with confidence and take the win. If we do that over the last couple of weeks, then we will have a chance to win."