TCU has a simple goal when it takes on Texas Tech in Lubbock on Thursday night: to send a message.
“It’s the first game in the Big 12,” cornerback Jason Verrett said. “Make a statement. If we want to win the conference, we’ve got to start 1-0.”
The team's aim for its second season in the Big 12 is to win the league, and this year the race for the title is as wide open as ever. Opening the conference schedule with a win would be big, but head football coach Gary Patterson said Tuesday that doing so on the road against an undefeated team will be a difficult task.
“Texas Tech is 2-0,” Patterson said, “scored 102 points in two ballgames…So we’ve got to get ourselves ready to play.”
The game will kick off at 6:30 p.m. on ESPN, and sophomore Trevone Boykin will take center stage as the Horned Frogs' starting quarterback. Senior quarterback Casey Pachall suffered a broken left forearm during last Saturday's game against Southeastern Louisiana.
Boykin started against the Red Raiders last season, throwing for 332 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions in TCU's 56-53 triple-overtime loss. He said Saturday that the Frogs have not forgotten that game.
“They came down here and got a win on our home turf,” Boykin said. “So we’re trying to go down there and get a ‘W’ on theirs.”
Defensive end Devonte Fields will also make his first start of the season against the Red Raiders after serving one game and three quarters of his two-game suspension. Patterson said the sophomore will serve the final quarter of his suspension later this season.
Fields’ ability to rush the passer will help the Frogs against Texas Tech, which has the second-ranked passing offense in the country. Fields will be asked to disrupt the rhythm of freshman quarterback Baker Mayfield.
Mayfield, a walk-on who won the starting job after Michael Brewer suffered a fractured vertebra before the season, has been integral to the success of Texas Tech’s “air raid” offense. The freshman has completed 71.1% of his passes for seven touchdowns and no interceptions. He also leads his team in rushing yards.
Patterson said TCU actually brought Mayfield to campus multiple times while he was in high school but did not offer him a scholarship, which may give the quarterback extra motivation Thursday.
“I’ve heard he really wants to beat us,” Patterson said.
Of course, most of Jones AT&T Stadium will want to see a TCU loss on Thursday. That is something the Frogs are used to.
“It’s fun just to go into someone else’s environment,” Verrett said, “just to see how many people hate you and want you to lose.”
TCU's journey to achieve its goal of a Big 12 championship will begin in that wild, hostile atmosphere. Ultimately, the Frogs hope to quiet the crowd and make a statement.