Three days removed from crushing overtime-loss to Texas Tech, the TCU Horned Frogs, now 4-4, hope to get back to their winning ways as they look ahead to their Waco road trip this weekend in which they take on rival No. 13 Baylor. Head coach Gary Patterson and players spoke to members of the media on Tuesday as the team’s focus shifts 90 miles south of Fort Worth.
No luck in close games
Okay, maybe Kansas is the outlier, but it is alarming as to how little luck TCU has had this season when the ball game is on the line in the closing minutes. In week two, the Frogs led in the final minutes against Arkansas and lost in overtime after an attempted game winning field goal was blocked. Three weeks later, Kenny Hill couldn’t muster any offense on the final drive of the game when TCU trailed Oklahoma by six. And on once again on Saturday, the Frogs squandered a fourth quarter lead before falling to Texas Tech in double overtime. The common denominator: all of those losses came on home turf.
“We’ve got a way to win close ball games…the ugly wins,” Patterson said. “We’ve had three ballgames where lost by less than seven points. You can say you missed a field goal, but you could have done a lot of other things too.”
It’s the not the first time in the Big 12 era that the football gods have shown little love to the Frogs in close games, as they suffered a similar fate in 2013 with one-score losses to Oklahoma, West Virginia, Kansas-State and Baylor over the course of the season. As frustrating as it can be though, players are trying to take away more positives than negatives from the trend.
“In the back of your head, you know you can play well,” defensive end Josh Carraway said on the close losses. “We know that we’re able to play to the best of our abilities. Each week you just try to get better and better.”
Offense and quarterback questions
It’s safe to say that nobody expected the Frogs, the same team that put up 46 points on Oklahoma four and a half weeks ago, to only put up 23 points against a Texas Tech defense that ranks second to last in the nation among all FBS programs. The biggest concern surrounding the unit now may very well be the quarterback situation, as Kenny Hill was pulled late in the loss to Texas Tech in favor of red-shirt sophomore Foster Sawyer. Patterson said that while Hill is likely to start on Saturday, we shouldn’t rule out seeing split action between Hill and Sawyer.
“The quarterback position is ‘much is given, much is asked,’” Patterson said. “It’s a very high standard across the country. Both of them were able to manage the game, but you also have to be able to work with others.”
Patterson added that he felt there was more spirit to the offense with the return of sophomore wide-receiver KaVontae Turpin, but said the running game and the outside receivers could step things up. The former hasn’t gotten any easier either, as running back Kyle Hicks suffered a minor-foot injury Saturday that resulted in limited carries for the remainder of the game. Patterson said however that Hicks is probable for the game against Baylor.
“There is no secret to getting back to doing what you need to do on offense,” Patterson said. “As a general rule, you don’t fool people very often anymore.”
Next up: Baylor
The Frogs head back to Waco this Saturday for the first time since the infamous 61-58 game in 2014, the one game that arguably kept the Frogs out of the inaugural College Football Playoff that season. They’ll have their work cut out for them if they intend to hand their rival Baylor Bears just their third loss at McLane Stadium since it opened in 2014, as Baylor’s offense remains the formidable force that we have all come to know over the past few seasons. Led by quarterback Seth Russell, Bears’ offense ranks 11th in the nation with their average of 42.3 points per game.
It’s not just the offense though, as Baylor’s defense has shined bright this season. Their average of six forced 3-and-outs per game is the fourth best in the country, and their average of 352.9 yards allowed per game puts them atop the entire conference.
“They’re playing really well on defense,” Patterson. “They run around, they’re athletic, and they really do a great job.’
The rivalry between the Frogs and Bears, one that has escalated to become one of the most intense in all of college football the past two seasons, is as neck-and-neck as it can get. Not only is the all-time series tied at 52 apiece, but the last three meetings between the two have been decided by a cumulative 13 points, with the game being decided on the final play of the game the last two seasons. The Frogs prevailed in double overtime in 2015, while the Bears prevailed on a last-minute field goal and interception in 2014 and 2013, respectively.
“I’ll be honest, it’s one of the games that I’m never able to pick,” Patterson said.”
Only five days are left until we find out if we are in for another nail-biter between the two or an uncharacteristic lopsided affair. So, buckle up.