TCU head coach Gary Patterson met with members of the media Tuesday as the Horned Frogs look ahead to their Saturday morning showdown with the Iowa State Cyclones. Coming off a grueling loss the hands of Arkansas in double overtime last Saturday, the Frogs now have the opportunity to get their mojo back this weekend as they open up conference play in front of their hometown crowd.
The Horned Frogs were a minute away from defeating the Arkansas and moving to 2-0 on the season, but instead the Razorbacks completed the improbable comeback, downing TCU and dropping the Frogs out of the AP Top 25 for the first time since September 2014.
As rare as defeat may be for the Horned Frogs since the start of the 2014 season, it is not unchartered territory for Patterson, and he noted that the locker room reaction to Saturday’s loss was different than what he had seen in the past.
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“There weren’t as many tears after the game as you’d like to see. This team is younger and hasn’t gone through as much work as the guys who lost to Baylor two years ago,” Patterson said.
It was not as though the players walked away without a sense of urgency. Linebacker Sammy Douglas said the loss was a teaching moment for him and others.
“When you lose you have to get back up and keep moving forward. It’s a big learning experience,” Douglas said.
Patterson said that as easy as it can be to over-analyze and get concerned about the long term goals such as conference title and playoff bid, the Frogs need to set their focus on the games immediately in front of them.
“Going into game three, our goal is to get six wins. You have to first be bowl eligible. These days it’s hard to win ballgames no matter who you are playing
Even as the team prepares to face a Cyclone Squad that is 0-2 coming out of the gate, Patterson said Tuesday that Iowa State should not be looked at as a cupcake opponent.
“They have a great tailback, a great receiver corps, and pretty much all of their big guys on defense are coming back. Their punter is also arguably the best in the conference,” Patterson said.
The TCU defense only allowed 28 points in regulation against Arkansas opposed to the 41 they surrendered to South Dakota State in week 1, but after the breakdown in the last minute (only further propelled by the penalty enforced on kickoff), questions remain about the sustainability of the unit. The hot topic for many skeptics continues to be the secondary.
“We don’t usually dwell on things unless we need to get better at them, and one of the things we need to get better at is our pass defense.”
In regards to the breakdown of coverage on the reverse two-point conversion that the Razorbacks used to tie Saturday’s game, Patterson noted that ironically the Frogs ended their Thursday practice with the exact same play on offense.
“The only guys who seemed surprised when Arkansas ran that play in the game were the guys covering it,” Patterson said.
Patterson remarked after the loss that players wouldn’t be pleased when they watched the film, and Douglas affirmed that was indeed the case.
“We knew that we made a lot of mistakes going into the viewing, but we didn’t realize it was that much,” Douglas said.”
The Frogs’ defense can however be encouraged by their ability to make big stops and force opponents to field goals when facing them in the red zone, as the Frogs demonstrated by holding Arkansas to six points in the first half outside of the pick-six.
“Between the first and second game, we now know how to come together as a team on defense,” Douglas said.
After the kicking unit, led by back-up kicker Ryan Graf, failed to get the job done late Saturday with a low field-goal attempt that was blocked, Patterson said that kicker Jonathan Song could be nearing his return after the missing the first two weeks due to a foot injury sustained during camp.
“He’s getting better. He’s close,” Patterson said.
Patterson did not say if Song would be returning for Saturday’s game against Iowa State.
Along with Song, Patterson said middle-linebacker Travin Howard is also “getting healthier.” Howard has seen very limited action after he was briefly hospitalized for a non-life threatening medical condition several weeks ago. Howard has only contributed for half a tackle over two games.
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* In Song's absence, the Frogs have turned to freshman Ryan Graf. Overall Patterson has been happy with Graf's performance. He did have a field goal blocked on Saturday, after being iced by a timeout for the second straight week. Patterson made a comment (not sure if it was a joke) that next time he might run the other kicker in. In week one against SDSU after the timeout Graf hit the crossbar.
* Iowa State might use a two-QB system on Saturday, but both Joel Lanning and Jacob Park appear to be running the same offense according to Patterson. “We have to prepare for all of it.” Lanning has gotten the most time so far, but supposedly it is an open competition this week.
* After having two last season, Saturday’s 11 a.m. start is the only early game scheduled (so far) for the Frogs this season. “It is only a challenge if you are not playing well,” said Patterson. “You got to grow up…I told them three weeks ago. Win or lose, the emotion after that ball game, win or lose, that you have to get ready and it will be a short week.”
* Patterson was excited for Sammy Douglas entering the season because of how much he’s grown since the Iowa State game last season, where he was forced to start and only played a quarter (torn ACL). Douglas had 17 tackles against Arkansas.
* Patterson mentioned three official visitors this weekend for TCU. We believe one of them to be DeSoto quarterback Shawn Robinson, who told us two weeks ago the Iowa State game would be his official visit. In addition, Aledo offensive lineman Wes Harris is on a bye week as well.