When Texas posted a 1-2 start, the team’s season seemed all but over, but a three-game winning streak has given the Longhorns new life heading into this week’s game against the Horned Frogs.
“They’re not the same Texas team that people thought they were,” senior safety Elisha Olabode said. “They’re fast. They’re physical. I think they’re starting to get their swag back.”
After its own struggles in recent weeks, TCU (3-4, 1-3 Big 12) will try to begin a similar turnaround Saturday in Fort Worth. The Horned Frogs look to unseat the Longhorns (4-2, 3-0 Big 12) from their place atop the Big 12 standings when the two teams clash at 6:30 p.m. on Fox Sports 1.
The Frogs have gone 1-2 in their last three games and are coming off a frustrating loss to Oklahoma State last Saturday. Senior quarterback Casey Pachall has not been cleared to return after suffering a broken forearm, so sophomore Trevone Boykin is expected to start again this week. Boykin threw three interceptions against the Cowboys, but head football coach Gary Patterson said the quarterback position is not the only problem with the offense.
“We’ve got to do a lot better job of protecting him,” Patterson said. “It’s hard to have confidence if you’re not feeling like you’re secure in the pocket and we don’t run the ball as well as we need to, to set those kinds of things up. There’s a lot of things that we need to fix.”
The Frogs passing offense is ranked No. 100 in the country with 191.1 average yards per game. TCU also gives up an average of two sacks per game. Giving running backs B.J. Catalon and Waymon James room to work could take some of the pressure off of Boykin and create chances in the play-action passing game.
However, TCU will be facing a Texas run defense that has drastically improved its performance since the beginning of the season. After giving up 550 rushing yards and 276 rushing yards to BYU and Ole Miss, respectively, Texas head coach Mack Brown fired defensive coordinator Manny Diaz and gave the job to Greg Robinson. The switch has been widely seen as a major reason behind Texas’ improvement.
In the three games since Robinson became defensive coordinator, Texas has allowed just 3.7 yards per rush and sacked opposing quarterbacks 13 times. When the Longhorns defeated Oklahoma 36-20 in the Red River Rivalry, they limited the Sooners to 263 total yards and only two third-down conversions. Patterson said Texas showed a high level of physicality in that game.
“I thought they dominated Oklahoma,” Patterson said. “Both sides of the football. [Their] running against Oklahoma was probably the best that I’d seen Texas run against Oklahoma in a while.”
Contributing to that physical run game was sophomore running back Johnathan Gray, who ran for 128 yards against the Sooners. Gray, an Aledo native, leads the Longhorns in rushing with 562 yards and four touchdowns on the season.
“He was the national player of the year [in high school],” Patterson said. “He’s a good player. He’s got great vision. Obviously he’s a hometown favorite, so he’ll be very fired up to play in front of the home folks.”
The other key player for the Texas offense is senior quarterback Case McCoy. McCoy took over as the starter after junior David Ash sustained a concussion against Kansas State, and has played well. In response to a question on Monday regarding why TCU might be favored to win this week, McCoy said “Probably because I’m the quarterback, right?” Patterson, however, disagreed with McCoy’s assessment.
“I think he’s a good player,” he said. “I don’t know why he would say that. He’s reading too many blogs. The bottom line is, you get judged as a quarterback by whether you win or [lose], and since he’s been the…quarterback, they’re 3-0.”
The Frogs are hoping to begin a winning streak of their own with a victory on Saturday.