October 22, 2011

TCU focuses on winning MWC championship

Sharpening their focus on a conference title, the Horned Frogs host New Mexico today.

TCU coach Gary Patterson took away his players' cellphones the night before the Horned Frogs played SMU in an effort to keep them focused on the task at hand.

After the Frogs lost in overtime the next day Patterson lamented that the cellphone ban hadn't worked.

If you try something and it doesn't work you go on to the next tool, he seemed to imply.

"We have to grow up," he then said, trying to sum up a frustrating loss that few saw coming. "It's plain and simple."

The next week at San Diego State, TCU (4-2, 2-0 in Mountain West) played its best defensive game of the season, holding the Aztecs to 296 yards. The much-maligned secondary held quarterback Ryan Lindley to 201 yards passing and intercepted him three times.

Patterson is banking on that trend continuing as the season's second half begins at 1 p.m. today against lowly New Mexico (0-6, 0-1) at Amon G. Carter Stadium.

TCU's locker room today will have more of a road feel to it, as Patterson tries another tactic to get his team focused at home in spite of homecoming festivities adding more distractions than usual. The traveling squad of players will have the locker room to themselves longer before the rest of the team joins them.

"We didn't play as well as we'd like to the last time we played at home," Patterson said earlier this week. "So how do you win the conference and be the best football team you can be?"

With two nonconference losses, the Frogs are focusing on claiming their third consecutive Mountain West title.

That starts with the Lobos and involves winning at Wyoming and taking care of business at home in the last two games of the regular season against Colorado State and UNLV.

There's also a potentially tough challenge against BYU at Cowboys Stadium next Friday, but there's one game remaining on the schedule that could change the complexion of the season: Nov. 12 at Boise State.

Patterson and his players aren't looking past the Lobos, Cougars or Cowboys, but it is safe to say they are treating these games like important steps to that showdown.

"We have to be playing our best football by the time we meet Boise," Patterson said. "We're still a long way from where we want to be, but you don't climb to the top unless you start at the bottom. At least we're not where we were when we started this season."

Recent history shows that Patterson's teams have turned it up a notch in the second half. Since 2005, the Frogs have lost only three times in the second half of the regular season, with two of those coming in a three-week span in 2007.

"Good teams get stronger the last half of the season," he said. "That's what we've done here in the past. We've got six games to win."

It's not that Patterson and his players are looking past teams to the Boise State game. To the contrary. They know if they can take care of business, continue to improve, especially on defense, then they have a legitimate shot at upsetting the No. 5 Broncos on Nov. 12 and claiming another MWC championship in their final year in the league. That is what is motivating them.

"The SMU loss was real hard to take," safety Johnny Fobbs said. "We had to get back to our goals to complete the pyramid. A lot of us have improved [over the bye week and since the season opener at Baylor], so it's going to be big for us the next six games and we have all the intentions to win."

Gaining confidence has been huge for the defense, and has allowed coaches to incorporate more complex schemes into action.

"The more experience they have, the more we have an opportunity to advance the game plan and try to smother people, instead of just trying to slow them down," Patterson said. "We're getting closer in the last three or four weeks where we can try to do that."

The Lobos' record is beside the point, Fobbs said. It's about improving each week.

"You can't take them lightly because they will embarrass you," Fobbs said of the Lobos' receiving corps. "I've seen them make plays against Arkansas, Texas Tech. It doesn't matter what their record is. It's our next important game. We're not looking down the road. We're looking at New Mexico. They have the win we want."

Second-half success

Since 2005, TCU has lost three regular-season games in the second half of the season. Two of those came three weeks apart in 2007, when the Frogs lost to Utah 27-20 and 27-22 at BYU. Here's a look:


2nd half record




Won Houston Bowl



Won Poinsettia Bowl



Won Texas Bowl



Won Poinsettia Bowl



Lost Fiesta Bowl



Won Rose Bowl

Stefan Stevenson


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