As a unit, the TCU defense has experienced an up-and-down season. The Horned Frogs (6-5, 4-4 in Big 12) have surrendered more than 40 points on three occasions, all of them in front of the home crowd at Amon G. Carter Stadium.
The team has also held two opponents without touchdowns this season, including last week’s 31-9 victory over a Texas team playing with extra emotion to try and save the job of former coach Charlie Strong.
The triumph over Texas, in which the Frogs allowed only two field goals on five Longhorn drives that reached the TCU 30-yard-line or closer in the first half, should boost the confidence of TCU defenders heading into Saturday’s regular-season finale against Kansas State (7-4, 5-3) in Fort Worth (11 a.m., FS1).
The effort in Austin marked the sixth consecutive game in which the Horned Frogs have limited opponents to 34 or fewer points, matching the weekly scoring output of the TCU offense (34.0 avg.).
Asked if the Horned Frogs head into their regular-season finale coming off their best defensive effort of the season, linebacker Travin Howard said: “It’s one of them. Hands down, it’s one of them. We came out and executed. Played hard and stopped the run.”
Howard, the Big 12’s leading tackler (119), said the effort against the Longhorns “was all about toughness,” a trait the team will need to carry over against a K-State team that leads the Big 12 in rushing touchdowns (33). Kansas State quarterback Jesse Ertz is the Wildcats’ leading rusher (775 yards, 9 TDs).
But members of the TCU defense believe they have found their stride since a 34-10 loss at West Virginia on Oct. 22.
“We all realized that, in order for us to win, our defense was going to have to step up and make plays. And I think we finally started figuring out how to work together,” linebacker Ty Summers said of the recent defensive surge. “Obviously, this shows what we’re capable of. It just took some time. If we could have figured this out sooner, obviously we’d be better off. But better late than never.”