If the weather report is any indication, TCU might have a tough time throwing the ball against Air Force in a cold, wet game Saturday night. Fortunately for the Frogs, relying on the running game should be a safe bet.
TCU has won its last 26 games when rushing for more yards than passing, and has won 33 straight when they rush for more than 167 yards.
Senior tailback Ryan Christian won’t play at Air Force, but the Frogs’ run game should be fine, said head coach Gary Patterson.
“We feel like we have four or five guys who are very capable,” Patterson said Tuesday. “If we run Joseph Turner 20 to 30 times a game, he probably won’t stay healthy. To be able to have him carry 10 to 15 times and work in Matthew Tucker as the other big back, along with Ed Wesley, Ryan Christian, Jercell Fort and Chris Smith is a good mix.”
Online weather forecasts continue to move to colder temperatures and predict lows in the mid-20s Saturday night, along with a chance of showers and snow.
If past statistics are any indication, quarterback Andy Dalton won’t mind the weather either. The top two rushing games of Dalton’s career have come in the rain – last year’s 91-yard effort in a win at Stanford and an 86-yard game in the Frogs’ Sept. 26 win at Clemson.
Air Force is a strong defensive team overall, ranking only behind TCU in total defense in the Mountain West Conference. However, the Falcons’ strength is their pass defense, which ranks fifth in the NCAA. So far this year, the Air Force run defense has been slightly more porous, ranking 46th in the nation.
Patterson acknowledged the strong play of the Falcons’ defense in his press conference Tuesday.
“Air Force is leading the nation in takeaways, so this will be the second week in a row that we will face a team ranked high in that category,” Patterson said. “They have played really well defensively and are among the top three in the league in almost all statistical categories.”
The Falcons are number one in the country in turnover margin, and have scored five defensive touchdowns in their first five games.
The Frogs have plowed to an average of 220 rushing yards per game through four contests, while Air Force has allowed an average of 120 yards on the ground.
However on the opposite side of the ball, Air Force is a powerhouse on the ground.
The Falcons rank second nationally in rushing behind their triple-option attack, but could be slowed slightly with quarterback Tim Jefferson under center. Jefferson re-injured his right ankle in last week’s overtime loss to Navy. He returned to the game, but couldn’t get Air Force into the end zone. The Falcons haven’t scored an offensive touchdown since the third quarter of their Sept. 19 win over New Mexico.
Patterson said the Horned Frogs’ young defense could be a liability against the unconventional offense.
“The problem is, they run the triple option very well, but they line up in a 100,000 different formations,” Patterson said. “They run a lot of plays very well, including reverses and any kind of option pass or drop-back pass you can name … They will also run a no-huddle, so you have to be able to think on your feet. You’ve got to tackle well, play leverage well and keep your eyes in the right place.”
The defense has been preparing for the Air Force offense since last spring, Patterson said.
Cornerback Alex Ibiloye said the squad is prepared.
“Since the summer, we’ve been doing a little Air Force in everything we do,” Ibiloye said. “Air Force has been doing this for a long time, so you got to prepare at an earlier stage so we can know what we’re getting ourselves in to.”
Wide receiver Jimmy Young had a five reception, 100-yard game against the Falcons last year, but said he isn’t concerned with producing a repeat performance.
“I’m just looking forward to winning against Air Force, I’m not really concerned with the stats,” Young said.