TCU linebacker Ty Summers calls out the defensive signals against Oklahoma State. (Photo Courtesy of Sam Bruton/TCU photographer).

While co-offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie implemented the air raid uptempo passing attack as TCU’s offensive gameplay at the end of 2013, the Horned Frogs have found success this season going old school: relying on a punishing ground game and stifling defense. Those two elements will be key in No. 16 TCU’s effort to upend No. 6 Oklahoma State Saturday in Stillwater.

The Frogs are tied for the Big 12 Conference lead in rushing yards per game (230.8) and second in time of possession (31:49).

“We just want to outlast our opponent,” senior left tackle Joseph Noteboom said. “Our defense is going to play well; we know that and we feel like we’re running the ball well, so we just need to keep that up, not stray away from what we’re doing well.”

The rushing attack, led by sophomore running back Darius Anderson’s 262 yards and three touchdowns, has allowed the TCU offense to lead the NCAA in third-down conversion percentage (66%). The offense has been gaining a lot of its yards on first and second down, which have led to manageable third and short situations.

“When you perform well running the ball as offensive lineman, it’s motivating and you just want to keep doing it,” Noteboom said.
Relying on the run has also translated to the scoreboard, as the Horned Frogs are seventh in the nation in scoring.
On the other side of Saturday’s game, the Cowboys average the fourth-most points in the country, converts on third downs at a 56 percent clip (5th in the NCAA) and totals the third-most yards per game in the nation.
“They’re a high-powered offense, and that’s what we’re going to be seeing these next few weeks in the Big 12,” senior cornerback Ranthony Texada said. “We’re definitely going to have to have a good week of practice and get ready to battle them at their stadium.”
Texada and the Horned Frog secondary will have a  tall task this week as they face the NCAA active leader in receiving touchdowns (29), receiving yards (3,290) and yards per catch (19.9): OSU’s wide receiver James Washington. Although Washington is the main attraction for Oklahoma State at wideout, the Cowboys have a deep wide receiver core for its Heisman hopeful at quarterback, Mason Rudolph, to choose from.

“They have guys on both sides at both the outside wide receivers: Everyone talks about Washington, but no one talks about No. 15 [Chris Lacy] and No. 3 [Marcell Ateman],” TCU head coach Gary Patterson said. “They do a good job with their inside receivers too with [Jalen] McCleskey and No. 17 [Dillon Stoner], so they know the system, do a good job blocking and they do a lot with their tight ends where they split them out on screens and the things they do outside.”

Bottom line: Patterson’s defense has to get pressure on Rudolph like it has in its first three games this season, totaling eight sacks, the third-highest mark in the Big 12, and continue to be stingy on third down, allowing opponents to pick up first downs on third downs 26.2 percent of the time, the best mark in the conference.

“If you give Rudolph time, he’ll do what he does, and if you’re going to stay in the ball game, you can’t allow Oklahoma State to throw the deep ball, plain and simple,” Patterson said. “You have to make them drive it, then you have a chance.”

OSU’s defense also presents a challenge to TCU, since it has scored a touchdown in every game this season and not allowed a point in the first quarter of any game this season.

“They’re very aggressive, they’ve had a lot of takeaways and they have more depth up front than they did a year ago,” Patterson said. “You have to get ready to block them.”

It’s that defense that gave Patterson a reason to save a couple of offensive pieces for Saturday’s showdown. Senior wide receiver Ty Slanina, who missed the last two games with an undisclosed injury, is expected to return. Senior running back Kyle Hicks will be a game-time decision after not playing in the second half against SMU, Patterson said.

Kickoff at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater is set for Sept. 23 at 2:30 p.m.