I was enjoying a beer and barbecuing on my deck last year when I first heard TCU would get its chance at Texas the following season. “We’re going to get our (butts) handed to us,” one friend said.
After taking a sip from my Bud Light, I had a different take on the game.
“It’s about time,” I said. “Everyone needs a good gut check every once in a while.”
Fast forward the clock to Sept. 7.
TCU is in win-now mode, hoping a celebrated defense can help lift the team to that next level of greatness head coach Gary Patterson has talked about with such vigor.
The Longhorns are, by most accounts, a year or two away from seriously competing for another national championship, but have something to prove after “overrated” labels have been thrown their way following a single-digit win against Arkansas State.
Saturday is a measuring stick for both teams. Think of this weekend’s test for both teams comparable to the Ducks going against Iceland in “D2: The Mighty Ducks.” Considering how each team started off last week, even Gordon Bombay himself might not know which team he should blow his duck call for.
For the Frogs, questions concerning the statuses of defensive end Tommy Blake and running back Aaron Brown continue to be asked and continue to be answered with “we don’t know” and prognoses of “doubtful to probable” – a line that makes the average person reach for two Tylenol.
It is up to TCU’s staunch 4-2-5 defense – a unit ranked No. 2 in total defense last season that hasn’t allowed a 100-yard rusher since Oct. 1, 2005 – to create scoring opportunities to make quarterback Andy Dalton’s job easier in only his second career start.
Since he was named the starter three weeks ago, Dalton has been the crowned prince of TCU, doing more interviews and probably accepting more and more Facebook friend requests nowadays. With that being said, the Katy native knows nothing less than a victory against a team two years removed from a national championship will put to rest all doubt of whether he is capable of leading a top-20 program.
A victory ascends the prince to the king’s throne and much more.
The Longhorns are aware of how good the Frogs have been and will be on Saturday. There is no doubt head coach Mack Brown, sophomore quarterback Colt McCoy and the rest of Longhorn nation wants to prove last week was a blip, but the boys in burnt orange have to prove their defense can give McCoy and Co. opportunities to make this a shootout.
After watching UT give up nearly 400 yards of total offense and its secondary allowing 275 passing yards, it reminded me of Jesse Spano’s epic “I’m so excited, I’m so scared” breakdown. But unlike Spano, the secondary didn’t need caffeine pills to go down in flames.
You are only as good as your last game, and the secondary knows the need to redeem itself in grand fashion.
So as Fort Worth’s finest ascend upon one of the best towns in America, remember that both teams could be just one miscue away from a Spano breakdown. Whoever avoids it has a great shot of getting the W.
It’s gut-check time.