Several key TCU players should be back today, including offensive lineman Blaize Foltz, defensive end Stansly Maponga and receiver Brandon Carter.All three have missed playing time with injuries, adding to the Horned Frogs' continuing tally of roster depletion that rivals any school in the nation.Receiver Josh Boyce has also battled a nagging ankle injury for the past month, but he hasn't missed any games. In fact, the junior from Copperas Cove High School hasn't missed a game since bursting on the scene as a redshirt freshman in 2010.Boyce has been one of the few steady holdovers from the Andy Dalton era, and no matter who's throwing the passes -- Dalton, Casey Pachall or today's starter, Trevone Boykin -- Boyce has been the reliable target.He has brushed off double teams this season to lead the Frogs with 507 yards and 44 receptions. He'll be on the same field as two of the best receivers in the nation today as West Virginia showcases Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, who rank in the top nine nationally in yards and top five in receptions per game. Both TCU (5-3, 2-3 in the Big 12) and West Virginia (5-2, 2-2) try to end two-game losing streaks at 2 p.m. today at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown, W.Va.With another year of eligibility, Boyce is poised to surpass Mike Renfro as TCU's all-time leader in receiving yards. Boyce ranks sixth all-time with 2,151 yards. He trails Renfro, who had 2,739 yards from 1974-77, by just 588 yards. Renfro went on to play for the Houston Oilers and Dallas Cowboys."It's great to put up pretty big numbers at a school like this, but honestly I wouldn't know any records if you guys wouldn't have told me," Boyce said. "I don't really pay too much attention to it, but it's pretty good."It sounds too sincere, however, coming from Boyce, who genuinely doesn't seem to care about much else other than winning. Boyce says he'll glance at his numbers from the previous season to measure how he did and where he wants to go in the coming season. In 2011, he finished 15 receiving yards shy of breaking Jimmy Young's '08 TCU record of 1,012 yards in a season."I look at the beginning of the season to kind of set a goal, but I don't really go into it like that," he said. "Always just do better than last year. I've got a couple more games to do that. Whether it was in the stats or being a better on-the-field leader, just be better than last year."Being a reliable receiver on the field is one thing, but Boyce, along with senior Skye Dawson, have been great role models for the bevy of young receivers thrust into action the last couple of seasons."It helps to have a guy [such as Boyce] when most of your guys are sophomores or less," said TCU coach Gary Patterson, who wanted Boyce to become more physical this season. "You can become tough. I think it comes with maturity. Some people do it, some people don't."Boyce showed again last week his toughness. He made a couple of circus catches, including one where he went up high over the middle, made the catch, and had his legs taken out from beneath him. He came down awkwardly, but held onto the ball. He got up slowly but stayed in the game."I'm all right," Boyce said. "I didn't know he was throwing to me. Skye had run a corner route and I thought he was throwing to him. I just jumped up and caught it. It hurt for a second, but I was in the moment, so it didn't really hurt that bad."The double teams are less frequent now that other receivers have proven to opponents that they can't be ignored. Dawson, along with freshman LaDarius Brown and sophomores Cam White and Carter, have each taken turns being the go-to guy this season. But Boyce remains that steady, reliable hand."I've seen a lot of different type of coverages, but I help out a lot of other guys, a lot of receivers get one-on-one coverage so it's great for them," he said. Last week, Boyce thought the offense lost its edge in the second half, but insists it didn't quit against Oklahoma State"A lot of players got tired, you could see that," he said. "We have a lot of young guys... fourth quarter, hostile environment, frustrated. [There were] mental lapses, you could see that, but I don't think we quit. Not at all."One thing's for certain: Josh Boyce didn't.Stefan Stevenson817-390-7760Twitter: @FollowtheFrogs
1 Pass rush/big plays Last week these were the two storylines for the Oklahoma State game. But, really, they work as one and are the biggest key to TCU's defense slowing the Mountaineers' pass offense. Don't be fooled by the offensive eggs laid by the Mountaineers against Texas Tech and against Kansas State. They're explosive, and they're due.
2 Frogs' running game TCU must sustain drives and eat up the clock, as they did so well against Baylor three weeks ago. To do that, the running game must be used. Last week, TCU rushed 27 times, the fewest this season, and finished with only 121 rushing yards. Trevone Boykin needs to use his legs more, and Aundre Dean and B.J. Catalon need to step back up if Matthew Tucker is unable to play because of injury.
3 Containing Tavon Easier said than done, but preventing West Virginia's Tavon Austin from doing too much damage as a receiver or on kick returns must be a priority. It's not easy, because his teammate Stedman Bailey is an equally threatening weapon for quarterback Geno Smith. Say a prayer for the TCU secondary.
4 Maponga TCU defensive end Stansly Maponga should play some today, according to coach Gary Patterson. That's a big deal, even if his injured foot, which sidelined him for the past two games, isn't 100 percent, and even if he only plays in passing situations. His mere presence gives WVU something to think about and could free up freshman right end Devonte Fields to add to his Big 12-leading 7.5 sacks total.
5 Thin connections These schools are meeting for just the second time. The previous meeting was the 1984 Bluebonnet Bowl in Houston. Frogs tight end coach Dan Sharp had three receptions for 29 yards and a touchdown, and TCU radio analyst John Denton was the punter on that team. West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen coached TCU receivers coach Trey Haverty at Texas Tech from 2001-04.