TCU coach Gary Patterson doesn’t typically rattle off a lot of statistics when talking with the media. He’s aware of them, but he’s not big on using numbers to illustrate his points.
During his Tuesday media luncheon, however, Patterson offered up, unsolicited, how Oklahoma is doing in the second and third quarter. The 11th-ranked Sooners (4-0, 1-0 in the Big 12) have outscored opponents 81-13, including a 47-0 advantage in the second quarter. In the first half, OU has outscored teams 74-21.
You don’t have to be a furloughed NASA scientist to know TCU (2-2, 0-1) has struggled getting off to fast starts. The Horned Frogs’ offense has scored just 27 first-half points. The Frogs struggled with slow starts a year ago, too.
After overpowering Grambling State in the 2012 opener with 42 first-half points, including 28 by the offense, only twice did TCU’s offense score 20 points or more in the first half. The Frogs were held to 14 or fewer points in the first half in 10 games a year ago, but thanks to their defense, only trailed in five of them at the break. A year ago Oklahoma jumped to 14-7 halftime lead and was able to hold off TCU in the final seconds 24-17.
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Can the Frogs afford to fall far behind Saturday night at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in front of 85,000 Sooner fans?
“I don’t think so,” TCU defensive end Jon Koontz said. “I think it’s going to be key for us to come out and jump on them early, especially in their house. I don’t think starting slow is something we can afford, not just this week but the rest of the season.”
That burden falls on the offense. Patterson hopes the second-half scoring outburst against SMU a week ago alleviated some of the pressure that had started to mount. Thirty-one of TCU’s 41 second-half points were in the final quarter.
“That fourth quarter went a long way to getting a little bit of that monkey off our back,” Patterson said. “We hadn’t had a lot of good things happen to us really since last year. That was one of those games where finally we got some breaks. We created some of those breaks but finally the ball hopped up to us on the onside kick instead of hopping over us.”
But Patterson also wants his offense to start making its own breaks, too, specifically the receiving corps, which has too often allowed defensive backs to wrestle away jump balls. He suggested that some of the younger players on offense lack a sense of urgency “to what we’re getting into.”
Multiple players, including quarterback Trevone Boykin, dismiss the notion that 11 a.m. start times for both TCU home games have contributed to the slow starts. And that’s probably true, because the offense has one field goal combined in the first halves of two night games this season.
“It has to be very important,” Boykin said. “The way we started last week, if we play around like that in the first half [against Oklahoma] we might not be around to even try to come back in the game in the second half. A fast start is very important. We have certain plays to beat their defense, and it’s my job to get us in those plays.”
He was able to do that in the second half against SMU. For the Frogs to have a chance in Norman, it’ll have to carry over to the first half against the Sooners.
“We did have some positive things happen for us. We did relax a little bit and the confidence kind of came back quickly,” Koontz said. “The confidence we should have been playing with all season, it all kind of started to come back when things started going our way and we were able to roll with that throughout the second half.”
Sans the statistics, Patterson boiled down the chance to rebound in Big 12 play as an opportunity to find an offensive identity for TCU.
“It’s going to be a battle,” he said. “They understand it’s only their second league game. They’re an awfully good football team. They’ve started taking over, so you’ve got to be able to match them in the second quarter and then you’ve got to be able to match them coming out of the tunnel. You don’t like playing from behind when you go on the road.”
TCU at No. 11 Oklahoma
6 p.m. Saturday, Oklahoma Memorial Stadium
Records: TCU 2-2, 0-1 in the Big 12; OU 4-0, 1-0
TV: KDFW/Ch. 4; Radio: WBAP/820 AM, 96.7 FM; KTCU/88.7 FM; KFLC/1270 (Sp.), KGGM/1630 AM
Three things to watch
1Slowing the Sooners: Quarterback Blake Bell is playing like most expected he’d play before he lost his starting job to freshman Trevor Knight in August. Bell is not just the Belldozer anymore. He’s shown off a great arm and has several talented receivers to use, including Jalen Saunders and Sterling Shepard. OU also has a talented backfield with Brennan Clay, Damian Williams and Roy Finch all capable of doing damage.
2Fast start for Frogs: TCU’s offense hopes the second-half fireworks against SMU is the start of a new trend. The Frogs better hope so, because falling behind at Oklahoma, where the Sooners have lost only five times in coach Bob Stoops’ 15-year tenure, is a recipe for losing. Oklahoma, with an improved defense, won’t be the easiest of Big 12 foes to break out against, but if TCU is to win, the offense will need to play its best game since 2011.
3Clean up time: TCU did a good job of cleaning up its penalty problems against SMU, but other areas of sloppiness have popped up through four games. Breakdowns such as a blocked punt, muffed kickoffs and punts, and missed field goals have all colluded to keep the Frogs from starting faster and finding confidence early. To win in Norman, TCU must play its cleanest game of the season.
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