TCU safety has helped spark defensive resurgence

10/23/2011 10:31 PM

11/09/2013 10:56 AM

It may just be a coincidence, but the TCU defense has played its two best games with Devin Johnson starting at strong safety.

In the junior's first career starts -- at San Diego State and against New Mexico on Saturday -- the TCU defense that had fans puzzled in September is now looking a whole lot more like the Horned Frogs defenses of the past.

The two wins, including Saturday's 69-0 shutout, also caught the attention of some voters across the country.

The Frogs (5-2, 3-0 in the Mountain West) received 33 votes in the USA Today coaches' poll, up from one the previous week, which leaves them on the brink of re-entering the Top 25. The poll makes up one-third of the BCS standings formula.

TCU meets old MWC rival BYU (6-2) at 7 p.m. Friday at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.

Johnson has nine tackles in the past two games, including a team-leading six Saturday. He has 1 1/2 sacks, a pass breakup and three tackles for losses in those games.

"I just come out and do my responsibility," Johnson said. "That's what [coach Gary Patterson] asks of me and that's what I do. I try to do exactly what he asks me to do. Sometimes I make mistakes, but that's everybody."

Johnson's odyssey to strong safety has taken awhile. He was moved from cornerback this spring to weak safety, then to free safety.

Finally Patterson moved him to strong safety. Trent Thomas started the first five games before Johnson received the nod in San Diego.

"It's been a positive for us getting him in the ballgame," Patterson said. "He's been in the right place, he's been physical, he's smart and he can handle coaching, and he can handle adjustments.

"He's made plays in every game and it seems like he's getting more comfortable. We don't need him to do any more than make the plays he's supposed to make."

Quotable

"I got the breath knocked out of me, so when I was running I couldn't even breathe. I just saw a [defender] and went the other way and finally I got tackled and was glad to get my breath back." -- Fullback Luke Shivers on his 43-yard reception in the second quarter Saturday, in which he took a big hit but rumbled for a few more yards before being tackled at the New Mexico 27.

Injury update

Left tackle Michael Thompson will miss the rest of the season after sustaining a leg injury in the third quarter Saturday, Gary Patterson said. The type of injury was not disclosed.

Patterson said after Saturday's game the redshirt freshman's injury occurred away from contact, and indicated it was likely serious.

James Dunbar, who had been academically ineligible through the first six games, was available and replaced Thompson. Starter Jeff Olson, along with the rest of the first-team linemen, sat out most of the second half.

Moving up

QB Matt Brown: The redshirt freshman from Allen High School saw his most extensive playing time at TCU, but it wasn't all during second-half garbage time.

He scored the Frogs' first touchdown on a 5-yard run and was used multiple times on running plays in the first half. He completed 2 of 4 passes for 76 yards, including a 54-yard strike to Cam White.

Brown had a 72-yard touchdown pass to freshman Brandon Carter called back because of a holding penalty. He finished with 52 yards rushing on nine carries.

Moving down

Kickoffs: Ross Evans and Ryan DeNucci each struggled to keep kickoffs inbounds Saturday.

Evans had two sail out of the left corner, and DeNucci, who replaced Evans in the third quarter, did the same thing.

Gary Patterson and special teams coach Dan Sharp were obviously annoyed on the sideline by the kicks, which gave New Mexico the ball at its 40-yard line each time.

Patterson denied that the wind, which was strong at times Saturday, played a factor. Neither kicker was made available for comment.

Up next: TCU vs. BYU, 7 p.m. Friday, Cowboys Stadium, ESPN

Stefan Stevenson

817-390-7760

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