Head coach Gary Patterson sent a youthful defensive unit onto the field for Saturday’s contest against Southern University.
Defensive linemen L.J. Collier and Joseph Broadnax were held out of the season opener due to “disciplinary reasons,” according to Athletic Director Jeremiah Donati. Along with Ross Blacklock’s season-ending Achilles injury, Patterson said the team was without three of their starting four defensive linemen.
Safety Niko Small said the team had no doubts despite going into the game without two major contributors on the defensive line and said it was “a better look at where we are and where we need to be.”
The new-look defense proved to be up for the task. TCU limited the Jaguars to 185 yards of total offense, and 55 of those yards came from one play.
“I think our defense played well,” linebacker Garrett Wallow said. “We’re a humble team, so I know we have a lot more improvement to do. I think we played very good as a whole unit.”
Patterson’s defensive squad allowed an average of 3.2 yards per play and just nine total Jaguar first down. The Horned Frogs defense also forced nine punts to go along with three turnovers.
Safeties Ridwan Issahaku and Innis Gaines each picked off Southern’s quarterback John Lampley and linebacker Ben Wilson recovered a fumble late in the game.
Southern recorded their first and only score of the ballgame while trailing 31-0, tricking the defense with a play-action pass and catching Small off-guard.
“We lost our focus,” Patterson said, “so I helped them regain their focus at halftime.”
Small called it a “coverage bust.”
“[Coach] expects perfection and we expect it as well,” Small said. “When it’s not perfect, he gets a little agitated and we get agitated, too, so we know we have to live up to that expectation.”
Patterson played his first group for roughly half of the game, leaving the rest of the contest to give the second and third groups experience.
“I think it was great for our guys to get their feet wet and understand the pace of the game,” Small said. “We have some players, they all came out here and did what they are supposed to do.”
Defensive ends Brandon Bowen and Ochaun Mathis as well as linebacker Alec Dunham were three of those players with little experience who made an impact on Saturday’s game.
Dunham recorded five total tackles, including one for loss. Mathis’ three total tackles were good for third-most on the team.
“I was very proud of the young guys,” Small said. “They got in there, we were all a little excited, but they understood the pace of the game and did what they needed to do. They handled themselves well.”
A short week stands between the Horned Frogs and SMU next Friday. Small said the rushed week will not affect the team’s preparation.
“We have to rush things a little bit more with the short week,” Small said. “The game plan will still be the same for us either way though.”
Kickoff in Dallas is scheduled for 7:00 p.m Friday.