SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- One of the biggest adjustments for TCU's Trevone Boykin this season was realizing he was no longer a man among boys.
When the redshirt freshman replaced Casey Pachall as the Horned Frogs' starting quarterback Oct. 6 against Iowa State, the Cyclones quickly taught the former West Mesquite standout that his penchant for pulling big plays out of nothing wasn't going to come as easy at the college level.
"That's what it was," Boykin said this week during media interviews at the JW Marriott Camelback Inn Resort and Spa. "Now, everybody is a man. You have guys out there who are 23 or 24 years old and I'm 19."
Boykin may sometimes look young and inexperienced on the field, but he certainly doesn't sound like a wide-eyed newbie, not after eight starts in which he has gone 3-5 and was integral to huge road wins at Baylor, West Virginia and Texas that propelled the Frogs (7-5) back to the postseason for the eighth consecutive season. TCU plays Michigan State (6-6) at 9:15 tonight in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe.
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Boykin is contemplative in his responses while also flashing a deep-rooted confidence that every quarterback must have to effectively lead an offense.
He earned his teammates' trust in practice the week before his second start, Oct. 13 at Baylor, and then cemented it with his play against the Bears. He had 312 total yards and a hand in five touchdowns.
"He came through when we needed him," receiver Brandon Carter said.
That support from his teammates has allowed Boykin to relax into the role when there wasn't time to relax or take it slow. He had to learn on the job and lean on his teammates in the process.
"It's a team thing," Boykin said. "You should trust the guy next to you, the guy behind you, and trust the guy in front of you. I guess a play lasts an average eight seconds, right? Everybody goes to war for that eight seconds; between the whistles you play hard. Whatever happens you play the next play."
Inconsistency has been an issue for Boykin. He looks poised and measured one week, followed by a game filled with jittery feet and inaccurate throws. He has progressed into a more stable presence in the pocket in the Frogs' past four games after taking to heart what his coaches told him since that first start Oct. 6.
"A sack is not a bad play," he said. "A sack is better than an interception. Or throwing the ball away after getting through my reads. Turning the ball over, period, not just in the red zone, killed us. You can say it's frustrating, but I try not to let it get to us. We try to go out and play and whatever happened in the past, happened in the past."
Most important, Boykin considers his unforeseen opportunity this season as a blessing, not a burden.
"It's a great experience," he said. "Coming in as a young guy I'm just blessed to have this opportunity."
His personal charm, which includes an underrated and rarely seen sense of humor with his teammates, according to running back Matthew Tucker, has made it easy for his teammates to battle hard for him.
"He's amazing," left offensive tackle Tayo Fabuluje said. "It's amazing how you can come in, unexpectedly, in the Big 12 and perform the way he has as a freshman. That's unheard of. He's gone above and beyond expectations for us."
Much as freshman Devonte Fields represents the future of a young and talented TCU defense, Boykin considers himself the poster boy of the offense, if not the whole team.
"I guess you could say I define our whole team because our whole team is young," he said. "We're a young team, and we're coming to compete every week. I feel like we're going to be a way better football team next year."
1. Contain Bell You don't have to be a football genius to know that TCU's defense must slow Michigan State running back Le'Veon Bell, who is third in the nation with 1,648 yards and has 11 touchdowns.
2. Conservative, but potent That's the game plan that has worked best for the TCU offense with Trevone Boykin at quarterback. He needs to stay within his abilities, use his feet as much as his arm, and not try to do too much when a receiver is not open. At the same time, the Frogs must try to use their talented receivers to spread the Spartans' defense.
3. Special teams must be Thanks to two good defenses -- MSU ranks fourth and TCU 18th nationally -- this game could be low-scoring and come down to special teams execution. TCU freshman Jaden Oberkrom has made 19 of 27 field goal attempts, including 8 of 9 between 40 and 49 yards and has a long of 50 yards. Spartans senior Dan Conroy is a three-year starter who has made 22 of 31 field goal attempts, including 3 for 3 from 50 yards.
4. Seniors moment The careers of 18 seniors, including six starters, come to an end tonight. Linebacker Kenny Cain tries to finish his career leading the team in tackles two consecutive seasons; running back Matthew Tucker needs 23 yards to finish in TCU's top 10 for career rushing; and receiver Skye Dawson needs 45 yards to reach 500 yards receiving this season.
5. Frogs are on the road TCU is 5-1 on the road, compared with 2-4 at home. The Horned Frogs will be the visiting team and wearing white tonight, giving them a possible advantage, if only psychologically.