The TCU Horned Frogs travel to SMU tonight to try and keep possession of the Iron Skillet for the fourth year of the row.
The last time the Horned Frogs lost to SMU was in 2005 when the score was 21-10. For the first time, no one from the 2005 squad will travel to Dallas tonight to take on the Mustangs.
SMU (2-1) is coming off a 35-21 win over Washington State, snapping a 17-game losing streak to teams in automatic-qualifier BCS conferences. The Mustangs have been efficient in the red zone this year, scoring on 12 of their 13 trips inside the 20-yard line. The only time they haven’t scored was a kneel to run out the clock in a 28-7 win over the University of Alabama-Birmingham.
SMU sophomore quarterback Kyle Padron and the Mustang offense will be facing a Horned Frogs defense that ranks fourth in the nation in total defense.
The Frogs shut down the SMU offense last season. The Mustangs allowed four sacks and finished with -16 rushing yards in a 39-14 loss. Now-senior defensive end Wayne Daniels, who is currently tied for third in the nation in sacks , paired with Jerry Hughes for one of those sacks.
SMU head coach June Jones, known for his passing attack, is using the running game more to build on last year’s 8-5 season, the Mustangs’ first winning season since 1997. This year, Patterson said SMU is running the ball more effectively.
“When June [Jones] came there, they had a freshman offensive line,” Patterson said. “They’ve all grown up.”
The Mustangs’ rushing attack is led by sophomore running back Zach Line, who has 276 yards and three touchdowns in three games this season.
“When you have a big offensive line that has been in the system and a big running back that breaks tackles, you’re going to play well,” Patterson said.
At 6’1″ and 235 pounds, Line adds a dimension that was missing in the Mustang offense last year. In 2009, SMU finished 103rd in rushing.
TCU senior quarterback Andy Dalton was almost perfect against Baylor on Saturday, breaking a TCU and Mountain West Conference single-game record in completing 91 percent of his passes. He was also named the MWC player of the week and finished 21-23 for 267 yards and two touchdowns in a 45-10 win over the Bears.
Dalton has connected with senior wide receiver Jeremy Kerley 13 times this season, tied for the team lead. Patterson said he wanted to create more opportunities for Kerley, who is also sixth in the nation in yards on punt returns.
“Kerley’s one of those guys who gives you a lot of problems in certain situations, and we’ve got to keep doing it [to other teams],” Patterson said.
Another dimension for the Frogs this season has been the success of sophomore tailback Ed Wesley. Wesley’s 384 yards this season is 10th in the nation.
The Frogs are 7-1 against the Mustangs under Patterson. The team hopes to continue that success in its last game before Mountain West Conference play begins.
“We played well against BYU and Utah on short weeks,” Patterson said. “Even though we didn’t win the Utah game, we out-gained them 2-to-1 on the road. We try to get our legs and our shoulders back.”
While the two teams may be old rivals, Patterson said he is glad the Mustangs are improving.
“The bottom line is that the better we all get in state, the better it is for all of us,” Patterson said. “If it’s tougher on TCU, it’s tougher on TCU. That’s part of the game.”
Kickoff will be at 7 p.m. at what is expected to be a sold-out Gerald J. Ford Stadium in Dallas. The game will be aired on ESPN.
Battle for the Iron Skillet
TCU vs. SMU
Time: 7 p.m.
Where: Gerald J. Ford Stadium