FORT WORTH — Seventy-two hours after the aftermath of Ames, Texas Christian University stands on the outside of the College Football Playoff picture looking in.
After the 14-7 loss to Iowa State on Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium, the Horned Frogs plummeted to No. 8 in the Associated Press and Coaches Polls — down from a consensus No. 4.
“We’re 7-1. We’re going to stay the course. If that would have been Oklahoma State we would’ve gotten beaten by it wouldn’t have been like the sky was falling. But they still have it in their mind that ‘it’s Iowa State,’” Head Coach Gary Patterson said, letting a guttural chuckle escape and sliding in a quick air quote before he continued. “Iowa State isn’t Iowa State [anymore]. That was a good football team.”
He noted the pin-drop silence on the plane ride back to Texas. He mentioned the Iowa State-Texas matchup, hinting that a “couple more breaks” could have changed the 17-7 result. He vocalized how parity is the essence of college football and Iowa State’s grueling path to the end of the season — matchups against Kansas State, Oklahoma State, and West Virginia — and how wins or losses could shape the Big 12 title picture.
TCU, however, may be helped rather than hindered by the then No. 20 and now No. 14 Cyclones’ giant-killer persona. That may be doubly so after they knocked off former No. 3 Oklahoma three weeks before and nearly upending the Longhorns on Sept. 28 and especially if they successfully run the table.
“There’s a lot of football to play in these last four weeks,” Patterson continued. “There’s really good chance the second team in the championship game has two losses. The way its all going, it could be three.”
KENNY’S RESURGENCE, UPTICK FOR KAVONTE?
Before Saturday Kenny Hill, Jr., a Southlake Carroll High School product-turned Aggie-turned Horned Frog, was riding an improbable hot streak, enjoying career highs in completion percentage and turnover margins. TCU, too, entered the game as a 7-point favorite per Oddshark.
Then like a lightning, they were hit by a red and gold cyclone.
“He was upset,” Patterson commented. “He was fine when we got off the plane and fine Sunday. Inside our walls, the reason we’ve lasted here 20 years, though, is because we don’t beat each other up. You correct your problems within your family and no one else needs to know about it. You let the rest of the world think what they want.”
In the same vein as Dorthy in the “Wizard of Oz,” He and the Horned Frogs were, “Not in Fort Worth anymore. ” Hill accounted for all three of TCU’s turnovers, including an interception and fumble in the red zone.
A closer peek at the game film, though, showed the interception — and possibly the fumble — lay with others not sporting the No. 7 on the front and back of their jersey.
“Nobody knows this, but one of the younger receivers ran the wrong route four times,” Patterson said. “The question is, ‘How did he and we fight?’ What would have been the storyline if we’d have fought back, hit a couple of field goals and won 16-14? We still wouldn’t have played that great on offense.”
Patterson said Kansas could have been a key to the upset, the Occam’s Razor of college football.
“When you come off a game like Kansas where everything goes right, it’s not uncommon for you to have a game where everything goes wrong,” he said.
Part of the offense’s failure, he continued, fell on the shoulders of the staff for not including arguably the team’s most dynamic weapon.
“We’ve got to get (KaVonte) Turpin more touches. They covered him up on different things,” Patterson added. “There were plays we were going to be a part of that he wasn’t a part of. There are four games left. We’ve got to find ways [to include him]. He’s too dynamic. There’s no reason to hold anything back.”
OUT OF THE POT, INTO THE FIRE
The Horned Frogs’ nest two opponents — Texas at Amon G. Carter Stadium and Oklahoma in always daunting Norman — could represent the best two defenses they’ve seen all season. The Longhorns were nearly responsible for upsetting USC on the road Sept. 16 with a green true freshmen quarterback and the Sooners blew out now No. 3 Ohio State 31-16 on Sept. 9.
[su_pullquote align=”right”]On Facing Buchele vs. Facing Ehlinger “They both run the same offense. One’s probably a better runner and the other’s maybe a better passer. They’re both hard chargers and will do whatever they have to do to win the ball game. I think the bigger message is about what they’ve been able to do defensively.” – Gary Patterson on facing Texas’ offense on Saturday.[/su_pullquote]
Despite its 31-9 “easy” win against Texas last season under former Head Coach Charlie Strong, Patterson said there are no easy wins in the Big 12. Especially when Tom Herman, known for having a knack for upsets, looms in the lurks of Austin.
“We’ve won four out of five against them and the only game that was easy was in 2014, Everything else has been close,” Patterson said. “I saw where Coach Herman said they don’t want to be embarrassed. I don’t think they have. It was an early ball game and it didn’t lie with the players. You have to have a great plan. The next week they stayed in the same place and beat Oklahoma in the rivalry.”
The Horned Frogs double-cloud defense will face either Arlington Lamar’s Shane Buchele (82-114, 813 yards, 4 TD, 3 INT) or Austin Westlake’s Sam Ehlinger (107-192, 1,419 yards, 6 TD, 4 INT), or both. A second or third loss would almost assuredly remove TCU from any whisper of a chance of reaching college football’s final four, let alone a significant bowl game.
HELP FOR THE HURTING
During his tenure with Houston, Herman had the luxury of 6-foot-3 and 290-pound sophomore wrecking ball Ed Oliver. In Austin, he has 5-foot-11 and 288-pound senior Poona Ford.
Patterson said linemen Garrett Altman and Kellton Hollins return from injury against Texas to provide depth to a thin offensive front line. Their possible return is probably an immediate response to the daunting task of slowing Ford and the Longhorn defensive line.
“Altman will be a lot better. So will Kelton Hollins, who hurt himself during the fourth to last play of the KU game. he would have been our backup center,” Patterson said. “He’ll be back. Altman won’t be completely well but we can finish a ball game with him. We’re facing a pretty good nose guard from Texas this week — probably better than the one we just played.”
Ford had nine tackles for loss during the double-overtime loss to USC, helping the defense hold USC’s potent rushing attack to 71 yards and 1.9 yards per carry, and had two tackles and two knockdowns in the Longhorns’ 17-7 win at Iowa State. The Longhorns also held Oklahoma State 35 points and 182.7 yards below its season averages during the overtime loss.
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