FORT WORTH — A lot came out of the recent college football weekend — not just the Horned Frogs’ statement second-half rally last Saturday at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Baylor, Kansas State, and Texas’ grip on the Big 12 Conference loosened while Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Christian Universities threatened to tighten their stranglehold.
The Longhorns took nationally -ranked USC to the wire, Vanderbilt upset the former AP No. 18 Wildcats, and the Sooners remained in the top three after trouncing Tulane by a 42-point margin. While Mason Rudolph and the Cowboys torched the Pitt for 59 points and 703 total yards, the Horned Frogs unveiled their Texas triangle of Kenny Hill, Kenedy Snell, and Jalen Reagor.
Despite Reagor’s highlight grab before halftime and Snell’s 71-yard breakaway to pay dirt, TCU will be tested 2:30 Saturday in Stillwater.
Not its offense, though. The defense may face its stiffest competition in an Oklahoma State team that’s on the rise and building early momentum.
“I think the only advantage we have going into the ball game is that we played two teams that had a high level of something,” Head Coach Gary Patterson said. “We’ve had to be in two battles and basically they’ve only had to play until halftime. I think they’ve outscored everybody [a combined] 58-0 in the first quarter of their first three ball games, so you better be ready.”
Oklahoma State may boast arguably the most potent offense in the conference by an institution not named Oklahoma or Texas Christian. Boone Pickens Stadium has also been notoriously difficult for Patterson to navigate, as he’s won less than half of the games in the last 10 seasons.
There’s the rivalry, as well as an added component of an east-to-west facing field, nuances of the wind and playing into the sun to contend with, Patterson added.
The last time the Horned Frogs pulled out a victory in Stillwater — a 24-21 decision in 1991 — George Herbert Walker Bush was still in office.
For almost two decades, winning on the hallowed ground of the former Lewis Field has been his alabaster rabbit, his white whale, and his quizzical conundrum. And for the first time this season, TCU won’t be favored to win.
“We’ve had a couple of screw-ups,” Patterson said. “It’s a hard place to get to, also. I hate to tell you this, but except for Jackson State, I haven’t thought of us as being favored. It’s hard to win ball games in this profession. It doesn’t matter who you are. You better prepare for them all. I thought the SMU game was going to be a battle. They have four [wide receivers] that can play at a lot of places and their running backs are really good.”
The Horned Frogs are 10-15-2 all-time against Oklahoma State and have lost eight of the 11 games played in Stillwater, including four straight at Boone Pickens. That includes a 49-29 loss where TCU limited the Cowboys to two first downs and 122 yards of total offense in the second half.
According to Patterson, wide receiver Ty Slanina, who missed the past two games with an undisclosed injury, is expected to return. Running back Kyle Hicks, slowed by injury since summer practices, will be a game-time decision.
Slanina will add length to a dangerous group of receivers that gained 365 yards from scrimmage against an underrated Mustang defense. The versatility of Snell and KaVonte Turpin as running and receiving options out of the backfield, the threat of Shaun Nixon and Jaelan Austin in the middle of the field, and Reagor and Desmond White up top and out deep will also help the Horned Frogs go blow-for-blow in Saturday’s Big 12 slugfest.
A repeat of an opportunistic and turnover hungry defense highlighted by a Ranthony Texada interception and a Travin Howard pick-6, though, could be the rabbit’s foot Patterson needs to make waves in Stillwater.
The matchup doesn’t just pit conference rivals against one another with the Cowboys, which are No. 6 in the Associated Press Top 25 Coaches Poll, facing the Horned Frogs, which are at No. 16. It allows TCU’s defense, which has fifteen players with at least one tackle and six others with at least a sack, help cement the program as a legitimate threat — to both Big 12 powerhouses like AP No. 3 Oklahoma and other Power 5 Conference foes like AP No. 1 Alabama (SEC), AP No. 2 Clemson (ACC), and AP No. 4 Penn State (Big Ten).
Marcus Matthews-Marion is the managing editor of Texas HS Football. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or across social media platforms @MarcusSMarion.