TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin will play a large role in the Horned Frogs’ game plan this week against Kansas State, even if he is not throwing passes.
The Frogs (4-6, 2-5 Big 12) have used Boykin at wide receiver and quarterback this season, and when they face the Wildcats (5-4, 3-3 Big 12) on the road Saturday, he could be playing a new position: punt returner.
“To be honest with you, we about put him at punt returner last week and probably will this week,” said TCU head coach Gary Patterson on Tuesday.
Boykin practiced at punt returner last week, and Patterson said the sophomore looks like he has done it for “a million years.” The coach said he hopes the move will give the team a spark, something the quarterback has been able to do in different ways each of the last two weeks.
Against West Virginia, Boykin started at wide receiver and caught 11 passes for 100 yards. He played quarterback in third down and goal line situations Saturday against Iowa State. The result?
Three rushing touchdowns on five carries, including the game-winning score with 38 seconds left.
“He’s just a natural athlete,” Patterson said. “Trevone just likes to play. It doesn’t really matter to him [what position he plays]. He just likes to play.”
Boykin is not the only one who has helped the team’s performance in recent weeks. The receivers as a group have played better in the last two games. Wideout David Porter said this improvement is because he, LaDarius Brown and Brandon Carter called a players-only meeting for the receivers two weeks ago to help the group refocus.
“We’ve been a little more focused than we’ve usually been,” Porter said. “So yeah, we’ve played pretty great these last two weeks.”
TCU could be without a number of players for the second week in a row. Running back Waymon James is still suspended for a violation of team rules. Running back B.J. Catalon, safety Elisha Olabode and cornerback Jason Verrett all participated in practice this week after sitting out Saturday with injuries, but that “doesn’t mean they’ll play,” Patterson said.
Those losses could hurt the Frogs against the Wildcats, who are riding a three-game winning streak. KSU defeated Texas Tech 49-26 Saturday, running the ball 45 times for 291 yards. If TCU cannot sustain drives and KSU continues to run the ball like that, the TCU defense will have to be on the field a lot.
That has been a familiar theme for the Frogs in 2013. Patterson said that TCU has played 732 plays on defense, which ranks 15th in the country. To be on the field for that long gives opposing offenses more chances to score and make big plays, which is why Patterson is proud that his team still ranks No. 21 in the country in total defense.
“So to be 21st playing that many plays, that many minutes, speaks volumes for what this group’s done this year…When you’re playing 55 plays instead of averaging 73 to 75 plays, it’s just a different animal,” he said.
That many plays can wear a defense down, but defensive tackle Chucky Hunter said the Frogs refuse to give up.
“This team is the best team I’ve ever been on,” Hunter said. “Even [with] the losses we’ve gone through….this team’s just amazing because we could have easily just put our heads down and just been like, ‘It’s over. We’re not going to a bowl game.’ But we’re fighting. So I respect this team for fighting.”
The Frogs will be fighting to keep their bowl chances alive Saturday. They have to win both of their final games to become bowl-eligible, and Patterson says he does not care how his team does it. The defensive-minded coach would love to see his defense shut down KSU and then Baylor Nov. 30, but at this point, he says he would not mind winning in a shootout either.
“I’m coming to realize too [that] I don’t mind trying to hold people to 30 when we can score 45,” he said, grinning. “So maybe somewhere down the road here we’ll try that philosophy out.”