It’s a bottom line business and TCU’s Gary Patterson is a bottom line coach. As the Horned Frogs approach the end of the first half of their season, it adds up this way:
- Two losses already, both at home.
- No chance to make the College Football Playoff.
- Little margin for error going forward in terms of a Big 12 Conference championship.
TCU (3-2, 1-1) heads to Kansas Saturday following a 52-46 loss to Oklahoma last Saturday. Patterson’s team went up 21-7, fell behind 49-24 and rallied to within three points before losing. The back-and-forth aspect of that game left the Frogs defeated and drained.
“For two years, and for many years here, we learned how to win close games,” Patterson said. “And now we’ve found a way to lose two games. Like the final drive of the game. We get illegal procedure, and it’s first-and-15, for heaven’s sake. Not happy.”
Patterson pointed out the penalty as an example of the attention to detail that has plagued TCU, which started the season ranked 13th. Other than the second half at SMU, the Frogs have been inconsistent. When the defense plays well, the offense sputters. Once the offense starts rolling, the defense can’t shut down the opponent.
With a chance for a game-winning drive against the Sooners, the penalty on first down got the offense off schedule and four plays later the series ended without mounting a threat.
“(Attention to detail) is something that he’s preached from day one,” TCU defensive end James McFarland said of Patterson. “He says that makes the difference between winning and losing those close games.”
Both of TCU’s losses have come by a total of nine points. The Frogs are a four-touchdown favorite against the Jayhawks but past history indicates otherwise. TCU is 4-0 against Kansas in Big 12 play but the average margin of victory has been 8.5 points. Last year in Fort Worth, the 15th-ranked Frogs prevailed, 23-17.
“Any time we play Kansas, they always give us a good game,” McFarland said. “KU always has a couple of fresh wrinkles when they play us. We know what to expect. We’ve got to be ready for it.”
Kansas announced this week that sophomore Ryan Willis will start at quarterback. The Jayhawks are ninth in the Big 12 in total offense and last in scoring offense. But in their last game, they were within nine points of Texas Tech in the third quarter in Lubbock before the Red Raiders pulled away.
“They’re a lot better on defense. They’re very physical and they’re playing hard,” Patterson said. “I see a lot of progress at KU.”
TCU is second in the Big 12 in scoring and third in total offense. Quarterback Kenny Hill is third in FBS with 387 passing yards per game and 11 passing touchdowns. Considering that Texas Tech had eight passing touchdowns against KU, Hill could have a big day.
A victory at Kansas would restore some momentum and hope that a strong finish could push the Frogs to the top of the final Big 12 standings. Patterson pointed out this week that the parity in the Big 12 could mean that the conference champion could have two losses.
“The Big 12 race is still wide open,” senior defensive end Josh Carraway said. “If we run the table, I think the chances are still out there to win the Big 12 title.”
For that to happen, the bottom line is that TCU needs to handle the business of details that it has ignored in the first five games.
“A lot of people in this world think 80 percent is perfect anymore,” Patterson said. “If you want to be special, you can’t run nine plays on offense and then have a 15-yard penalty or a 5-yard penalty. Then it’s second-and-15 or it’s second-and-10 or first-and-25. It’s hard to get out of those holes.”