In his 16 years at TCU, including the past 13 as head coach, coach Gary Patterson has had only one losing season.
That came in 2004, when the Horned Frogs went 5-6 and 3-5 in Conference USA, Patterson’s fourth season as head coach.
He referenced the ’04 season moments after the Frogs’ 24-10 loss at Oklahoma State on Saturday as TCU (3-4, 1-3 Big 12) stares at the glaring reality of a potential first losing season in nine years.
“That year, I wouldn’t say there were close ballgames,” said Patterson, who canceled his regular Sunday media availability. “We were better on offense and we didn’t play really well on defense.”
In 2013, of course, it’s the offense that has struggled.
TCU was shut out in the first half Saturday for the third consecutive time on the road, leaving the defense stuck in bad field position most of the time.
The Frogs have nine turnovers in their past two games, including four against OSU, which moved up to No. 19 in The Associated Press Top 25.
“When things aren’t going well, your margin for error is a lot less,” Patterson said. “Either side of the ball you can’t make mistakes. We shouldn’t be putting our head down.”
TCU needs to win three of its final five games to become bowl eligible for the ninth consecutive season.
It’s not going to be easy, beginning at 6:30 p.m. Saturday with a rejuvenated Texas team coming off a bye week.
The Longhorns (4-2, 3-0) come to Fort Worth for the first time since 1994, when both teams played in the Southwest Conference.
After playing Texas, TCU has home games against West Virginia (Nov. 2) and Baylor (Nov. 30) and road games at Iowa State (Nov. 9) and Kansas State (Nov. 16).
WVU, ISU and K-State are a combined 1-12 in the league, but none are gimmes, no matter how well the defense plays.
Shortly after Saturday’s loss to an OSU team that was also coming off a bye week, Patterson lamented the physical pounding the Frogs took.
“We got a little banged up today, and one of the reasons is they were a little bit fresher, to be honest with you,” he said. “Two weeks off and you’ve got the same thing with Texas coming in, because they’ve had two weeks off.
“I said before the game started it was an advantage. I’m not giving an excuse. It’s not the reason why we started slow. That’s not a reason they did this or did that, I’m just talking about the physicalness of the game.”
Running back Waymon James has only seven carries in the last two games, including five for 27 yards against OSU.
Gary Patterson said James wasn’t injured but after he carried a combined 21 times for 105 yards against Texas Tech and SMU, he only rushed 13 times in the next three games combined.
B.J. Catalon has taken the bulk of the carries this season, including 24 for 137 yards the past two games and leads the team with 359 yards rushing.
Quarterback Trevone Boykin leads the team with 86 rushing attempts, almost double James’ 48. Why has James not seen the ball more?
“I don’t know,” Patterson said. “Sometimes it just happens with the rotation.”
• Rising: Receiver LaDarius Brown didn’t have a catch three weeks ago against Oklahoma but has nine in the past two games, including a team-high six against OSU for 48 yards.
• Falling: The offensive line has allowed 15 sacks this season, about on par with the 2012 pace when Frogs quarterbacks were sacked 29 times in 13 games. Three of those 29 sacks were in the first four games with Casey Pachall.
“There are no positives when you lose. It’s like I told them, we don’t play as good a football as we can and you’re close, but close doesn’t count. We need to find a way to go win. We did it a year ago. Learn how to take ballgames when we go on the road.” — TCU coach Gary Patterson