In the fourth quarter last week, TCU coach Gary Patterson saw what he wanted to see.
He has been happy with all the points the Horned Frogs have been scoring. He just wanted to see them push somebody back when they had to, such as in the closing minutes at West Virginia last week, when the Frogs had to pound their way into field-goal range for the winning points.
“Every game is going to be different. At least we proved we can go do that,” Patterson said.
“That” could prove valuable at 6:30 p.m. Saturday when the No. 6 Frogs try to get past No. 7 Kansas State in the biggest game of the year — for both teams.
Kansas State is not the type of team that will open the door for the opponent.
TCU, second in the country in scoring at 48.0 points per game and third in total offense, may well have to grind out every bit of success it finds.
Patterson would love to see it.
“For me, I think, to win a national championship some day — you can score all the points you want to, but at some point in time, you have to be able to push people around. On both sides of the ball,” he said.
“To end a game, to get out of a game, or to win a game. For us [at West Virginia], it was to have an opportunity to win. Because we weren’t going to beat them throwing it on that day.”
Patterson said the words. National championship.
Both teams have a shot as they meet in the first Top 10 vs. Top 10 matchup at Amon G. Carter Stadium since 1935, when TCU and SMU were atop the Williamson Poll.
The winner has a chance to move into the top four of the College Football Playoff rankings.
Maybe TCU would already be there if not for its one loss at Baylor, when Patterson did not see what he saw in West Virginia.
“We proved we could run the football, which is what we didn’t do in the Baylor game,” he said.
“We proved we could line up and run the zone inside and outside, do the things we needed to do to go win the football game. If we could have done that three weeks earlier, maybe we’d be undefeated.”
Patterson demands that extra dimension out of the offense.
At West Virginia, tailbacks B.J. Catalon and Aaron Green showed the physicality it takes to close out or win a game on the ground.
It made an impression not only on Patterson, but the players.
“B.J., he played his heart out,” receiver Kolby Listenbee said. “B.J., Aaron, all of them.”
Catalon, however, will miss Saturday’s game because of an undisclosed injury.
The Horned Frogs have leaned on the pass and the big play. The offense behind quarterback Trevone Boykin has produced 16 plays of 40 yards or more. It has put together 17 scoring drives of three plays or less.
But the year is getting later. The weather is getting colder. The margin for error is getting less.
Patterson, in his season of an offensive makeover, can’t help but feel the tug of a trusty, physical, pounding running game.
At West Virginia, it was like seeing an old friend.
“All the running backs, the offensive line — we had not run the ball like that all year,” he said. “We were able to do it. We proved midway through the third quarter, fourth quarter, we could run the football.”
And may have to again. Soon.
Head to head
|Category||TCU (7-1, 4-1)||Kansas State (7-1, 5-0)|
|3rd down %||41.5||49.5|
|Def. 3rd down %||27.9||38.9|
1Boykin rebound. He has been responsible for almost 400 yards a game by himself. Last week, it was half that. The offense can’t move without his play-making and passing.
2Third down. The Wildcats are the best in the Big 12 at converting, almost half the time. The Frogs are the best in the Big 12 at stopping it, almost three-quarters of the time.
3Coach vs. coach. Two of the most respected coaches in the country both bring good teams into the matchup. Both have to win. It could be a clinic for football technicians.