After a grueling road trip to Minneapolis to begin the season in which the Frogs outlasted the University Of Minnesota 23-17, the Horned Frogs have an anticipated crowd of 49,000 strong behind their back this week.
They’ll take on the Lumberjacks this Saturday at 2:30 p.m.
The Frogs enter the game ranked No. 3 in the nation, dropping from the No. 2 spot after narrowly escaping the Golden Gophers last Thursday.
The Alabama Crimson Tide took over the No. 2 spot after defeating the Wisconsin Badgers 35-17 in Arlington last Saturday night. The Ohio State Buckeyes remain at No. 1 after defeating the Virginia Tech Hokies 42-24 on Monday evening.
Stephen F. Austin (SFA) enters the weekend fresh off a 34-28 loss to Northern Arizona University in their home opener at Homer Bryce Stadium in Nacogdoches, Texas.
The Horned Frogs enter the game as the heavy favorite against the Lumberjacks. However, the Frogs will be depleted this weekend, especially on defense.
TCU will be without junior linebacker Sammy Douglas, whom TCU head coach Gary Patterson said on Tuesday will miss the remainder of the season with an apparent knee injury suffered in last week’s game in Minneapolis.
They’ll also play without the other starting linebacker from last week: Freshman Mike Freeze. Freeze is on a personal leave of absence and Patterson said he doesn’t know if he’ll return.
The team may also have to go on without senior defensive tackle Davion Pierson and senior defensive end James McFarland, both of whom missed the opening game against Minnesota after suffering injuries in camp.
Patterson said that McFarland is close to joining Douglas in being shut down for the season, as he’ll have surgery next week on a broken toe.
On the offensive side, receiver Deante Gray is expected to be absent from the starting lineup once again. Patterson said on Tuesday that there is no timetable for Gray’s return.
While the losses are setbacks for the Frogs, a weak opponent should give the younger defensive players a chance to boost their confidence before TCU enters Big 12 play at Texas Tech on Sept. 26.
It is also a chance for the Frogs’ offense, which stumbled in week one against Minnesota, to work out any kinks before facing high-quality FBS opponents.
The Frogs put up only 23 points against Minnesota, fewer than they scored in any game last season. Despite the Gophers’ stiff defense, players such as senior wide receiver Josh Doctson were not happy with the offensive performance.
“Personally I felt like I didn’t have a good game,” Doctson said. “I need to play with more effort and be more physical. I watched the film and saw myself do a lot of things that were uncharacteristic from a year ago, especially without the ball.”
Doctson said he saw similar uncharacteristic actions from the rest of the offense as well.
“We saw things during the film from all of us that we didn’t like,” Doctson said. “We realized that we really need to step it up, so we’ll be ready from here on out.”
The Frogs will have to step it up if they want to remain in the national spotlight. Coming off a lackluster offensive performance in week one and now playing a FCS opponent at home, many critics expect TCU to crush the Lumberjacks if the Frogs are indeed a national powerhouse.
Despite the lopsided predictions for Saturday’s contest, Patterson said they won’t be overlooking over Stephen F. Austin.
“They have Texas speed,” Patterson said. “We need to be ready to play.”
While only an FCS team, the Lumberjacks finished 8-5 last season, good enough for a berth to the FCS College Football Playoffs.
The Lumberjacks will be led by junior quarterback Zach Conque. Entering his first full season as starter, Conque exhibited his potential when he completed a career high 21 of 23 passes for three touchdowns last season against McNeese University.
He also led the Lumberjacks to a 27-17 upset against then No. 8 Southeastern later on in the year. Last week Conque went 28-38 for 297 passing yards.
The Lumberjacks also boast talent in the forms of senior wide receiver Aaron Thomas and running back Joshawa West. Thomas owns the school record for total receiving yards but is also a threat on special teams, recording 56 and 46-yard returns last season against Weber State and Northern Iowa, respectively. Last week Thomas recorded seven receptions for 71 yards.
West rushed for 69 yards over 17 carries last weekend. West has raw talent and speed, so expect to see a considerable amount of action from him on Saturday.
It’s not hard to predict the winner in this one. The gap between FCS team and an FBS heavyweight is so monumental, and the Frogs should walk away victorious with relative ease. However, it will be interesting to see how the Frogs play after last week’s performance.
With a narrow win over Minnesota and the news about Douglas and McFarland’s injuries, the last few days should serve as a wakeup call to the Frogs. If the team comes out with the right mindset and is motivated to make a statement after last week’s showing, TCU may take control of this game immediately.
TCU: 59 SFA: 21