TCU players, coaches wary of Howard’s improved play

The offseason improvement of West Virginia quarterback Skyler Howard, a senior from White Settlement Brewer, has become one of the favorite topics this season for Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen.

Holgorsen said the team’s offensive execution as been “1,000 times better” this season as Howard, a second-year starter, has meshed with his receivers and first-year offensive coordinator Joe Wickline. TCU players and coaches have noticed the same thing heading into Saturday’s game between the Horned Frogs (4-2, 2-1 in Big 12) and No. 12 West Virginia (5-0, 2-0) in Morgantown, W.V.

Howard has thrown for 318 yards per game with a 66.1 percent completion rate this season, up from last year’s 54.8 mark (lowest among Big 12 starters last year). He’s also second on the team in rushing touchdowns (3), including two in last week’s 48-17 rout of Texas Tech.

“He looks a lot different. He’s been throwing the ball really well and he’s using his feet more than he did against us last year,” TCU defensive end Josh Carraway said at Tuesday’s news conference. “He’s really taken control of the offense. He’s got a great offensive line in front of him that gives him time to stand back there and put the ball wherever he wants. Plus, you’ve got to be ready if he pulls it down and runs.”

In last year’s game, Howard completed just 16-of-39 passes during the Horned Frogs’ 40-10 victory in Fort Worth. TCU coach Gary Patterson described Howard as a “scrapper” who brings lots of intangibles to the table.

“He’s one of those guys that plays really hard and is all-in,” Patterson said. “They’re allowing him to do more this year because he’s more experienced. He’s helping them find ways to win games.” 

Jimmy Burch: 817-390-7760, @Jimmy_Burch