When it's working, TCU's offense has the old-school look of a grind-it-out, ball-control run team. When it's a winning formula, as it was against Texas, it's a thing of beauty. When it isn't, fans cry foul, call for the heads of offensive coordinators, blame the offensive line and question whether the talent is even there.
Never mind, by the way, that TCU's offensive strategy has been altered by the loss of quarterback Casey Pachall and running backs Ed Wesley and Waymon James.
The game plan against Texas was similar to previous games this season, including wins at Baylor and West Virginia. Both times the Horned Frogs rushed more than 40 times for over 200 yards.
But those numbers don't always translate into wins for the Frogs. They lost games to Iowa State and Texas Tech when they rushed more than 40 times for over 180 yards.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Star-Telegram
The difference against Texas was the defense holding down the Longhorns, thanks in large part to four takeaways. TCU never trailed and seldom was forced away from the running game. By the time the fourth quarter arrived, TCU was in full lead-protection mode. After two short passes early in the quarter, the Frogs finished the game with nine rush plays.
"I don't think we simplified [the offense] or played it safe," TCU coach Gary Patterson said. "We took what Texas gave us. We ran the football and found a way to win."
TCU's 217 yards on 48 rushes against Texas wasn't so much a conservative tactic as it was a matter of staying with what was working. Through three quarters, the Frogs were averaging 5.7 yards per carry. A field goal early in the fourth quarter gave TCU (7-4, 4-4 in the Big 12) a 20-6 lead.
TCU likely will employ the same type of strategy against No. 11 Oklahoma in its regular-season finale at 11 a.m. Saturday at Amon G. Carter Stadium. The Sooners (9-2, 7-1) are seventh in the league in rush defense, allowing 186.7 yards per game.
The clear difference for TCU's offense against Texas, which is last in the Big 12 in rush defense (201.5 yards per game), was a lack of turnovers. Trevone Boykin threw an interception on the Frogs' opening possession of the second half, but that was it. In losses against Iowa State, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and Kansas State, the Frogs committed 13 turnovers.
Boykin led the Frogs with 77 yards rushing and completed seven of his nine passes for 82 yards. B.J. Catalon and Matthew Tucker each added 66 and 57 yards rushing, respectively -- not exactly flashy numbers for any of them, but with only one turnover, it was exactly what TCU wanted.
"We won the takeaway battle, and when we win the takeaway battle, we haven't been beaten too many times," Patterson said.
Young and hungry
Throughout TCU's up-and-down season, one thing has remained constant: Young players have been asked to grow up ahead of schedule.
The experience should prove invaluable in the coming years.
"We'll see how they develop," Gary Patterson said. "We've played with them and we're 7-4, trying to get to 8-4."
TCU has played 16 true freshmen, tied with Texas for most in the nation. The Frogs have played 28 combined true and redshirt freshmen, tied with North Carolina and LSU for most nationally.
"It just depends on if they decide, as a group, if they want to be better," Patterson said. "If they do, then we'll have a chance to improve. ...They quit being freshmen after about Game 6, and now it's all about winning and getting better every week."
Stefan Stevenson, 817-390-7760
Rising: TCU leads the Big 12 with 20 interceptions, including 16 from its secondary. No defensive player in the Big 12, and perhaps the country, has improved more than cornerback Jason Verrett, who is tied for fifth nationally with six interceptions and leads the Big 12 in interceptions and passes defended.
Falling: Against Texas, TCU had its most penalty yards (six for 70 yards) since its loss at Oklahoma State (10 for 80). Three true freshmen committed five of the penalties (DE Devonte Fields: 2 for 20; LB/S Jordan Moore: 1 for 15; and OL Aviante Collins 2 for 25).
0Receptions for TCU receiver Josh Boyce, who didn't catch a pass for the first time in his last 30 games. It's only the second time in his career (37 games) he hasn't had a catch. He had no catches against Wyoming on Oct. 9, 2010.
"I've been waiting for this game the longest, and the linemen, they were ready. They were blocking hard, so that's all that matters. We were running through the holes, and when we do that, they're happy and we're happy. I started getting healthy last week, and that helped me a lot." -- Running back Matthew Tucker, who scored both touchdowns against Texas to give him 32 career rushing touchdowns, third all time at TCU.