The honor and privilege of playing the first Big 12 Conference game of the 2016 season goes to a team off to a miserable 0-2 start and a team coming off a “how’d-that-happen” double overtime loss. Welcome to Iowa State at TCU (11 a.m. Saturday, FS1).
The Frogs went from No. 14 to unranked thanks to their 41-38 double-overtime loss to Arkansas. TCU has allowed 41 points in two games; the only Power Five teams that have allowed more points are Texas Tech and Kentucky.
So much for the preseason story line that a depth chart loaded with returning starters would hold the fort until an offense needing to find new play makers found its way.
TCU coach Gary Patterson’s message to his team this week has been using the slap-in-the-face loss to the Razorbacks as a wake-up call.
“What you have to understand, sometimes to go forward, you need to go back,” he said. “I’m not saying that’s what we’re going to do. I’m just saying you have to learn from all the losses. And as coaches, I go back to what I said — people handle failure a lot better than they handle success.”
The Frogs are accustomed to winning, with 24 victories in their last 28 games. The loss to Arkansas reduces their chances at making the College Football Playoff but the start of Big 12 play opens that door to a potential league title.
What Patterson learned about his team is that perhaps Saturday’s loss didn’t sting as much as it should have.
“There wasn’t as many tears in that locker room, as much as I would have liked to have seen, for that close a ballgame, the way it turned out,” Patterson said. “A lot of that has to do with you have a lot of young guys that haven’t put in that off-season work here.
“If you go back two years ago, when we lost to Baylor, there wasn’t a dry eye. Our kids wanted it bad. Maybe because you have a lot invested. It was an older football team, there was a lot invested.”
Quarterback Kenny Hill is third in FBS in total offense with 477 yards per game and the Frogs are averaging 48.5 points and 617 yards per game. While Hill’s two pick sixes have skewed the defensive points-allowed numbers, TCU’s defense has been a disappointment. Opponents are converting 43.3 percent on third down; last season, TCU allowed a 27.8 percent conversion rate on the get-off-the-field down.
“Losing is a disease. If you allow it to, it grows on you,” said Patterson, who has a 31-11 record in games following a loss. “Around here, we get back to work, we go about our business, we don’t dwell on things we don’t need to dwell on unless you need to get better at it. And one of those things is pass defense.”
Iowa State, which hasn’t started a season 0-3 since 1997, could provide the pick-me-up that Patterson defense needs. Thus far under first-year coach Matt Campbell, the Cyclones’ offense has been ineffective. And that’s being kind.
Iowa State is 115th in total offense, averaging 299 yards per game. Running back Mike Warren, last year’s Big 12 freshman of the year, has a total of 51 yards rushing on a surprisingly low 19 carries. Junior quarterback Joel Lanning has been sacked six times (the Cyclones’ offensive line is inexperienced) and has as many touchdown passes (3) as interceptions (3).
“For myself and our staff and our players, we have to get better,” said Campbell, whose team has committed 19 penalties in its two losses. “Really, there is no excuse. I’d love to sit here and make a bunch of them, but there is none.
“Nobody feels sorry for us, we’ve got to continue to get ourselves better.”
Iowa State wants to start winning. TCU wants to recapture the feeling of what it’s like to dominate.
“Once you start winning a lot, you feel like you’re unstoppable,” TCU junior linebacker Sammy Douglas said. “And sometimes, you need to get woken up, get beat, and get back up.”