The football team will begin the season against a conference opponent, the New Mexico Lobos, for the first time since 2003 when they beat Tulane 38-35 as members of Conference USA.
Head coach Gary Patterson knows starting the season on the road against a conference opponent isn’t easy.
“Starting off the season with a conference game against a team like New Mexico will be quite a challenge,” Patterson said. “Playing against a conference opponent on the road is always tough. We understand that it is going to be a very good crowd and a loud crowd.”
Patterson said the intensity that will be present in the conference is similar to the intensity the team experienced by playing Big XII opponents the last three years.
“It’s not just about the winning and losing; it’s also about the emotions, the sense of pride and the recruiting ties,” Patterson said. “We have opened our last couple of seasons against Oklahoma and Baylor, and now New Mexico. With all the recruiting eyes that are on those games, you want to make sure you play well.”
Patterson said he took somewhat unconventional methods to prepare his players for playing on the road.
“We put our kids in tough situations,” Patterson said. “We started playing the Lobo fight song and the crowd noise at practice. You have to prepare yourself and help your kids so they know what they are going to see. You have to put them in a situation where they can be successful (come game time).”
Aside from the crowd factor, Patterson thinks special teams play will be a major factor in tomorrow’s game.
“Both squads have young kickers and punters, which can make a game pretty amusing at times,” Patterson said. “It all depends on how they get out there and handle it. Both teams also have new return men. All of these things can make for interesting games.”
The Horned Frogs’ running back situation could also make the game interesting.
“Ryan Christian will start the game Saturday,” Patterson said. “Joseph Turner isn’t exactly where we want him to be, but he will play. It’s one of those work-in-progress situations. Aaron (Brown) always plays a part in things. It will be an interesting deal to see who gets off to a good start and who will step up.”
Patterson added that the Lobos’ defense has improved from last year, when TCU put up 37 points.
“New Mexico is a lot like us in that they are very good at stopping the run,” Patterson said. “They are bigger up front than they have been in the last couple of years, so we have to be ready to go at them.”
Patterson, who was the defensive coordinator and safeties coach at New Mexico before coming to TCU, said this is going to be a tough game for both teams.
“It will be a fight,” Patterson said. “Why would you want it any different?”