No. 8 TCU holds down top offenses; next up is Oklahoma
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — TCU coach Gary Patterson doesn’t recall ever having to prepare for an offense averaging more than 600 yards a game.
Well, he is now and it’s for a matchup of Big 12 co-leaders with likely playoff implications.
The No. 8 Horned Frogs (8-1, 5-1 Big 12, No. 6 CFP), with the conference’s top defense, have already this season defeated three of the top 10 FBS offenses while holding them below their season averages for yards and points. The next challenge is a Saturday night showdown at No. 5 Oklahoma , against Heisman Trophy front-running quarterback Baker Mayfield and the nation’s most productive offense.
“You can’t let Oklahoma big-play you, and that’s hard to do because they have a lot of people,” Patterson said. “You’ve got to be able to give them different looks and you’ve got to have a group smart enough to do that and still play within the structure of the defense. Because any time you put the quarterback in play, it makes it harder.”
Mayfield had 274 yards passing with two touchdowns and ran for 55 yards and two more scores in the Sooners’ 52-46 win last year, the most points TCU gave up in 2016.
Oklahoma (8-1, 5-1, No. 5 CFP) is averaging 608 yards a game and coming off a wild 62-52 win last week at No. 12 Oklahoma State. Mayfield had a school-record 598 yards passing and five touchdowns, plus ran for another score.
“Baker’s really done a great job,” Patterson said. “He’s one of those guys, if you’re playing against him you probably don’t like him. ... If you love competitors, you’ve got to admire the things he’s been able to do. He keeps plays alive. He’s tough to tackle.”
Before Oklahoma’s CFP game in the Orange Bowl two seasons ago, Mayfield said TCU was the team that disappointed him the most in recruiting and claimed the school “kind of drug it out” without offering a scholarship while he turned down other offers. His parents later criticized Patterson and TCU in an ESPN The Magazine article for how the quarterback was treated in the recruiting process.
Mayfield this week called Patterson one of the best defensive minds in the game, and said the TCU coach “has had that defense ready to play us every year.”
Patterson has been calling TCU defenses for two decades, 17 seasons as head coach after three as defensive coordinator for Dennis Franchione.
In a league filled with big-play and high-scoring offenses, the Frogs are allowing only 284 total yards and 13.9 points per game. They lead the nation in rushing defense, giving up only 69.7 yards per game and only four total touchdowns on the ground.
“Coach P tells us we’ve played a lot of hard games, we haven’t played a lot of smart games,” safety Niko Small said. “We have to make sure we come together for sure, especially from these last few games that we have down the stretch. ... We just have to make sure that we play smart and hard.”
When TCU opened Big 12 play back in September with a 44-31 win at Oklahoma State, the Cowboys had 499 yards. But that was 80 yards below their norm, and two touchdowns short of their Big 12-best 45.3 points a game average. Oklahoma scores 45.0 points a game.
The Frogs have also gotten past top offensive teams West Virginia and SMU, and their only blemish wasn’t a blowout but a 14-7 loss at Iowa State. After Oklahoma, they go next week to Texas Tech, another top-10 offense.
“Any challenge excites us,” Small said. “Whoever you put in front of us, we’re going to make sure it’s at least a hard game for you.”