At kickoff, TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin will see what he likes — a packed stadium, full of noise, generating energy.
“I like going into another stadium where everybody’s against you and you come out with a win,” he said.
In the fourth quarter, TCU coach Gary Patterson just hopes he sees what he likes — Boykin moving the ball, getting the No. 2-ranked Horned Frogs in position to seal or take the win.
“To follow up on the kind of record we had a year ago, we’ll have to play better on offense in the fourth quarter,” Patterson said. “You want to win in Stillwater or in Norman or Manhattan or Ames or Lubbock? You’re going to have to win ballgames by possibly a touchdown or less. And it might be I have the football last and I’ve got to go 80 yards and score a touchdown or a field goal to win.”
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Patterson’s list no doubt includes Minneapolis, where the Horned Frogs open the season Thursday night against unranked Minnesota. The Golden Gophers are close to a sellout of 52,525 at TCF Bank Stadium for the ESPN telecast, hoping to nab a victory over a top-10 team at home for the first time in 38 years (a 16-0 win over No. 2 Michigan at Memorial Stadium on Oct. 22, 1977).
You can picture the scene.
“I feel like it’s going to be louder than what we really expect,” Boykin said. “The way we’ve been practicing, with the music cranked up real loud, you have to communicate a little bit more.”
By any means necessary, Patterson believes the Horned Frogs will have to move the ball in the fourth quarter.
He has a vivid memory of last season when the offense couldn’t stay on the field in the fourth quarter at Baylor. But in later weeks, the ability to run when it couldn’t pass helped TCU win in a struggle at West Virginia, he said.
Thursday night, Patterson wants to know: If the offense finds itself struggling against Minnesota, can it find a way again?
Minnesota is 2-3 all time vs. a No. 2 team, including 0-3 at home.
“We’ve talked about this since January,” Patterson said. “That because we were going to be younger on defense, offensively we had to mature, and we had to handle it when people turned up the heat, when we’re playing at their house, when they’ve got more emotion, got the crowd behind them. You’ve got to be able to turn up the heat.”
It goes without saying Patterson would like for the Horned Frogs to avoid needing a crunch-time drive entirely.
“Offensively, it would make it a lot easier if we can get out, we can score points,” he said. “Then you’re not trying to win a ballgame 17-14 with a younger defense.”
The Horned Frogs set 14 school records for offense last season, posting the nation’s fifth-best total for yards per game (533.0) and second-best for points per game (46.5). Boykin led the Big 12 in total offense.
20Games played by TCU as a top-5 team under coach Gary Patterson. The Horned Frogs are 19-1 in those games.
Minnesota, which trailed 30-0 after the third quarter in last year’s loss in Fort Worth last year, knows what to expect now.
“They didn’t know anything about us a year ago,” Patterson said. “They’ve got a lot more on us. But this offense is all about execution; it’s not about fooling. There will be some wrinkles they haven’t seen, just like there will be some wrinkles we haven’t seen from them.”
No matter the wrinkles, no matter the adversity, Patterson wants persistence from the offense.
“You’ve got to be able to be good at what you’re good at,” he said. “You’ve got to be able to throw that certain route, even though they know it’s coming and they got it covered.”
Boykin has done that. He’s been in those kind of fourth quarters. He is ready to take in the scene Thursday night.
“Everyone gets nervous, but once that first play is out of the way and you get in the rhythm of the game, it’s really nothing that you should be nervous about, because this is what we practice for,” he said. “I’m not nervous at all.”
It’s what he likes.
What to watch for
Starting fast. This is the idea every week. But early in the season, protecting an inexperienced defense with six new starters is a high priority for the TCU offense.
Young hands. The Horned Frogs are due to start a freshman linebacker, use a freshman punt returner and play as many as three freshman receivers. How do they and others react in their first college games?
Bouncing balls. It is the fear of every coach — first-game jitters that lead to unusual mistakes: a misplayed punt, a kickoff that goes unfielded. What kind of errors await? And when?