In No. 4 TCU’s commanding 43-0 victory against Kansas at Amon G. Carter Stadium on Saturday, the Horned Frogs transformed the Jayhawks’ play-by-play sheet into something more akin to a North Dakota temperature report during the heart of winter.
Minus-5, minus-7, minus-6, minus-4, minus-9, minus-3.
Coach Gary Patterson’s defense turned in a Big 12 record-setting performance in giving former TCU offensive coordinator Doug Meacham a stunningly ugly welcome back to Fort Worth.
The Frogs’ defense, which hasn’t allowed a touchdown in the past two games, looked championship-caliber in coming about as close to pitching a shutout in every sense of the term.
TCU held Kansas to a conference-record-low 21 yards of total offense in 49 plays and sent the Jayhawks’ running game into retreat, holding it to minus-25 yards, the third-fewest allowed in FBS this season.
That’s not defense, that’s football oppression and it’s also, believe it or not, a bit deceiving.
As the fourth quarter began, the Frogs had held Kansas to 4 yards and a very John “Bluto” Blutarsky Animal House-approved minus-0.1 average-yards per play.
The Jayhawks put together a 17-yard drive on their last possession.
“One of the things that happened in the last couple of ball games is people played a three-man rush against them, and we had worked on it,” Patterson said. “But I felt like one of our strengths was going to be our front.”
The 21 yards of total offense is the fewest allowed by an FBS defense this season and the fewest against an FBS opponent since at least 1996. The minus-25 rushing yards represented the seventh-fewest all-time in school history. It was also the fewest since the record of minus-53 against Tulane Nov. 9, 2002.
In pummeling Hardin-Simmons in 1932, two years before Dutch Meyer took over as coach, the Frogs held the Cowboys to minus-32 yards. In 1955, TCU held Texas Tech to 5 yards.
Patterson downplayed any advantage the Frogs had facing Meacham who, with Sonny Cumbie, was co-offensive coordinator at TCU from 2014-16.
Howard, though, acknowledged the defense at least knew what Meacham was “thinking because we played him pretty much every day” for three years in practice.
Under Meacham and Cumbie, who remains as TCU’s offensive coordinator, business was booming in that first year with Trevone Boykin at quarterback. TCU’s offense averaged 46.5 points and 533 yards per game. The next season, in 2015, TCU was again among the nation’s offensive leaders, averaging 562.8 yards and 42.1 points per game.
In 2016, the Frogs took a step back offensively. But this past season, penalties and inconsistency plagued the Horned Frogs as they struggled to a 6-6 record.
Meacham left after last season, one where penalties and inconsistency plagued the unit.
Knowing each other works both ways, Patterson said. Kansas and Meacham knew TCU’s defense as well. The difference in the game was one team executed, and the other didn’t.
Patterson said he changed up some coverages because of Meacham’s familiarity, and suffice to say, TCU’s defense didn’t encounter any surprises.
The Jayhawks’ longest play from scrimmage was their third of the game, a 13-yard pass and catch from QB Peyton Bender to Ben Johnson. Next was 9 yards in a play involving the same guys on a drive that started with 8:46 left in the first half.
Kansas’ numbers “surged” with plays of 8, 5, and 4 yards on its final drive.
“We pretty much knew how they would go into the game and we executed,” said safety Ridwan Issahaku, who added that the team didn’t have any extra motivation facing a former coach.
The Frogs registered 11 tackles-for-loss, led by defensive tackle Chris Bradley and Issahaku, who each had two.
Howard, who had five tackles, was one of three Horned Frogs – Bradley and Mat Boesen the others – who registered sacks of Bender. Defensive tackle Ross Blacklock and end Ben Banogu shared another.
“Being defensive-minded, that’s what you want,” Howard said. “You don’t want the offense to get any yards.”
That’s suffocation, the defense’s mantra.
The Big 12’s former record was 44 yards, set twice, in Oklahoma’s victory over Idaho State in 2009 and Kansas State’s victory over Kansas in 1998.
In the Patterson era at TCU, the record low was 60 yards against Northern Illinois in the Poinsettia Bowl.
“We preach ‘suffocate,’ ” said Issahaku. “We work to keep teams to 25 yards and so forth. When you see a guy break out we say ‘suffocate.’ ”