MORGANTOWN - West Virginia has watched second-half leads slip away in its last two games, leaving the Mountaineers fighting to stay out of the Big 12 basement.
West Virginia (3-5, 1-4 Big 12) can't afford another late lapse when it plays at TCU (3-5, 1-4) on Saturday to try to break a three-game losing streak.
The Mountaineers led Kansas State 12-7 in the third quarter last week, but the Wildcats scored the final 28 points. West Virginia's final four drives included two turnovers, a punt and a failed fourth-down conversion.
Two weeks ago the Mountaineers led Texas Tech by 11 late in the third quarter before losing 37-27. West Virginia compiled 437 yards of offense but managed 33 total yards on its final five drives.
West Virginia knows all about relinquishing a late lead to TCU. Last year the Horned Frogs came from 10 points down in the second half to win 39-38 in double overtime in Morgantown.
Chances are West Virginia's offense will be tested again if second-half points are needed. TCU has the Big 12's third-best defense, allowing 350 yards per game. The Horned Frogs have a league-high 15 interceptions and 24 sacks.
"They're good against the run, great against the pass," said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen. "They have tremendous depth and play a lot of people, and it will be a challenge for our offense. As everybody is well aware, we haven't been playing winning football on offense. We need to continue to improve."
The blame for West Virginia's troubles is shouldered on many fronts. The defense has allowed at least 35 points during the losing streak and the injuries are piling up. Kansas State's offense went 7 of 8 on third-down conversions in the second half.
"I can feel that we have lost some confidence," said West Virginia linebacker Isaiah Bruce. "We did not come out with the same intensity or confidence to finish the game. We need to get back to how we started the season."
Holgorsen hopes to have four starters back this week, including three on defense. Cornerback Daryl Worley missed the Kansas State game with a shin injury, linebacker Doug Rigg sat out with his second concussion of the season and both defensive end Dontrill Hyman and center Pat Eger had ankle problems.
Clint Trickett has completed just 51 percent of his passing attempts over the last three games. He was pulled in favor of backup Paul Millard on West Virginia's final two drives against Kansas State. The offense has been hampered by Trickett's inability to change plays at the line of scrimmage.
"That isn't going to happen this year," Holgorsen said. "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 months."
With attention on the team's struggles late in games, West Virginia offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson points out the Mountaineers didn't exactly put on a scoring show early against Kansas State, either. West Virginia had three turnovers overall, two inside the Wildcats' 20-yard-line.
"We can't score 12 points and beat many people," Dawson said.
West Virginia hasn't beaten anyone on the road, where it is 0-4 this season. A loss at TCU would mean the Mountaineers would have to win their final three games to become bowl eligible.
West Virginia has played in a bowl in 11 straight seasons. TCU has a streak of eight straight going.
"Because that number 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."