Everyone agrees that TCU has a mature football team. Coach Gary Patterson has been saying it since spring and repeated it at the start of the season.
But why, exactly?
Certainly, the Horned Frogs have more seniors than a year ago, as Patterson points out, but age is no guarantee of maturity.
“Battle stories,” receiver John Diarse said after the Horned Frogs’ 26-6 victory at Kansas State on Saturday, which put them alone in first place in the Big 12 as one of the last unbeaten FBS teams in the country.
“There are so many battle stories that guys can talk about and relate to new guys like me, freshmen coming in, helping us understand.”
Now, Diarse is one of the oldest players on the team. He’s a graduate transfer from LSU who arrived last year, and he’s close to finishing his master’s at TCU.
He’s no newbie.
But he said players such as junior safety Ridwan “Ray” Issahaku can pass on the lessons of outstanding seasons like 2014. And players such as fifth-year senior running back Kyle Hicks can talk about losing seasons like 2013.
“It’s guys like Ray who have been here for a while and been through the ups and downs of a 4-8 season to last year to the Alamo Bowl, the Peach Bowl,” Diarse said. “We have the team we need. We’ve got everybody that we need to do what we’re trying to do. So just keeping everybody on that same page has been a lot easier, just from guys having experience, guys having battle stories and just understanding the bigger picture.”
It looks like the Frogs, now one of the top-ranked teams in the country, have that bigger picture in focus.
Some other observations from Saturday’s 26-6 victory at K-State:
1. That may have been the most blitzing Patterson has done in years. The TCU head coach relentlessly sent extra players after K-State’s green quarterback. It resulted in one of the Frogs’ two sacks, but also prevented Alex Delton from getting comfortable enough to overcome his inexperience. Most of the time, even a clean pocket didn’t last long as an unaccounted rusher would come flying through. Flushed out and hurrying his throws, Delton completed only 11 of 29 passes for 146 yards. And despite not leading by more than 14 points until the fourth quarter, K-State’s inability to threaten offensively meant the game was always in hand for TCU, from lightning-delayed start to finish.
2. It didn’t take long for Kyle Hicks to become the lead back again, did it? In just his second game since returning to the field, he got a team-high 16 carries on Saturday. Darius Anderson and his streak of 100-yard road games? Two carries. Sewo Olonilua? Five — and three of those were out of his trusty wildcat. The coaching staff trusts Hicks’ experience and ability. Patterson said he was their best player a year ago. Their opinion obviously hasn’t changed.
3. It’s the season’s midpoint, and Kenny Hill’s completion percentage shows no signs of wavering. He was victimized by a couple of drops at K-State, notably KaVontae Turpin’s sure touchdown in the middle of the field, but it was still a game over 70 percent for Hill, who now stands at 69.8 percent for the season. That’s third-best in the Big 12, sixth-best in the country and on a healthy pace to wipe out the school record (66.5 by Casey Pachall in 2011).
4. It hasn’t gotten much attention, but the placekicking by Jonathan Song might be something TCU can rely on in key moments. The sophomore from Fort Worth put up another perfect day on field goals Saturday, hitting from 22 and a career-high 39 at K-State. And they were no-doubters. That put him at 6-for-6 for the year, all in Big 12 games, and 5-for-5 on the road in Big 12 games. That’s impressive.
5. Did you notice TCU pitched a shutout in the red zone? K-State got inside the 20 twice and came away with no points. An offensive pass interference penalty in the end zone and Mat Boesen’s strip sack, recovered by Montrel Wilson, ended a KSU drive that reached the 11 in the second quarter in a 10-0 game. Nick Orr and Issahaku teamed to stop a fourth-and-1 at the 8 in the third quarter in a 20-6 game. For the year, TCU opponents are 10-for-16 scoring points in red-zone possessions and 5-for-16 scoring touchdowns. Winning formula.
TCU vs. Kansas
7 p.m. Saturday, KDFW/4