For weeks, TCU has looked up to a sea of unfriendly faces.
That has been life on the road this year — at Minnesota, Texas Tech, Kansas State and Iowa State.
It represents more than half the season so far for the Horned Frogs, and it has not been easy. More than half the year has been spent defending their top-five ranking far from home, as somebody’s Super Bowl.
“It feels like a month since we’ve been home,” coach Gary Patterson said.
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It will be 26 days at kickoff. Pretty close.
We know how it is, going on the road, having to play in front of other crowds. So just to have it here finally is going to be good.
TCU receiver Desmon White
But Thursday night, the waiting ends. The Horned Frogs, rested from a bye and eager to make a push for the Big 12 championship and possibly more, get a chance to play in front of some friendly faces.
This time, they get to ride the wave of energy.
“We know how it is, going on the road, having to play in front of other crowds,” receiver Desmon White said. “So just to have it here finally is going to be good. It’s going to help us a lot.”
The last time the Frogs played a home Thursday night game, they took full advantage. They defeated ninth-ranked BYU on Oct. 16, 2008, to end the Cougars’ 16-game winning streak, the longest in the nation at the time.
So Patterson has reason to hope that the Frogs are on the way to playing their best games of the season. They spent the first seven weeks adjusting to injuries and learning new roles. But now they get a chance to play three of their final five games at home. Finally, it’s a chance to build momentum and not just survive.
In a 10-game home winning streak, TCU has outscored its opponents 511-164. In 10 games on the road in that time, it’s 444-269.
“We’ve gotten everybody’s best game,” Patterson said. “I think we got Kansas State’s best game up to this point. I think we got Iowa State’s best game up to this point. I think we got Texas Tech’s best game up to this point. We came close to getting Minnesota’s best game up to this point.”
TCU has played its best games at home. It won 70-7 against Stephen F. Austin, 56-37 against SMU and 50-7 against Texas. That’s a combined score of 176-51.
Going back to the start of last season, the Frogs have won 10 consecutive games at Amon G. Carter Stadium. The combined score in the winning streak is 511-164. So the average score is something like 51-16.
It’s easy to see why the Frogs are glad to be back.
“We know there’s going to be a lot of energy. I think that’s going to help us,” White said. “But we don’t try to do more than we already have to do. We just have to go out there and execute the play calls. Everything else will take care of itself.”
.835 Winning percentage (71-14) for the Horned Frogs at Amon G. Carter Stadium in 15 seasons under Gary Patterson as head coach. Since the rebuild of the stadium, the Horned Frogs are 15-7 at home.
But energy will only take the Frogs so far. They still have to play well. And West Virginia is not a team that Patterson will take lightly, despite its 3-3 record and three-game losing streak.
“The three losses that they have are to those three teams — Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Baylor — that have one loss combined,” he said.
TCU needed a last-second field goal to beat West Virginia last season.
Two years ago, West Virginia rallied for an overtime win in Fort Worth. The year before, TCU did the same in Morgantown.
TCU’s school-record 15-game winning streak is the second-longest active streak in the nation. It ranks behind Ohio State’s 21-game streak.
Home or not, the Frogs understand clearly another nail-biter game is possible, just like it has been for most of the season.
“You’ve just got to be calm,” senior offensive tackle Hala Vaitai said. “You don’t want to be out there all tight. That kind of messes you up a little bit. They always tell us, ‘Be calm, go out there and have fun.’ ”
Maybe that’s easier at home.
West Virginia at No. 5 TCU
6:30 p.m. Thursday, Fox Sports 1
Amon G. Carter Stadium