Another slow start in Stillwater not in TCU’s game plan

TCU’s offense added another hurdle for the defense Saturday. Not only did it struggle to put early points on the board, but five turnovers consistently put the Horned Frogs’ defense in tough spots.

Through six games, the offense for TCU (3-3, 1-2 Big 12) has scored 37 points in the first half, not counting B.J. Catalon’s kickoff return for a score against LSU. In three Big 12 games, the problem is more pronounced as the Frogs have a combined 10 first-half points — all scored Saturday in TCU’s 27-17 win against last-place Kansas.

A slow start at No. 21 Oklahoma State (4-1, 1-1) at 11 a.m. Saturday is not the recipe for a win. A year ago at OSU, the TCU offense punted on six of its first seven possessions but led 14-0 late in the first quarter, thanks to Elisha Olabode’s touchdown on an 11-yard interception return. OSU won handily 36-14 as three TCU turnovers doomed scoring chances in the second half.

Second halves have been much more productive for the Frogs in 2013; they’ve outscored opponents 123 to 55.

“Pretty much sums [it] up,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said Sunday while glancing at his team’s stat sheet. “We have to start faster, and we need, to play and we can’t turn the ball over. It’s what this says to me.”

He was happy with the offensive play-calling against Kansas and laid most of the struggles at the feet of the players not executing and the five turnovers (three fumbles and two interceptions).

“You’ve got guys open, you’ve got to hit him,” he said. “They put six in the box to try to take away the run, and we’ve got to be able to beat some people with things in the throwing game.”

He’d like to see his running backs understand that risking a fumble fighting for another yard is not worth it. Trevone Boykin attempted a season-low 22 passes while the Frogs rushed 41 times, second only to the 44 rushes at Texas Tech this season.

“Some of it is we need to quit pressing. Instead of trying to get 8 yards if you’re only going to get 5, get down so we don’t turn the ball over,” he said. “There’s a bunch of good people in that [offensive] room that are trying to have great years. They need to get a little bit more confidence back for us to build on and to get back to playing the way we can play.”

Fielding punts

Gary Patterson thinks Kansas punted short on purpose in the third quarter when Brandon Carter was unable to make the catch and the Jayhawks recovered. Patterson said Carter wasn’t all to blame for the fumble.

“We have to do a better job with those guys falling back that they see where the ball is, and if it’s coming short that they get out of the way, and Brandon has to do a better job of making the call to tell guys,” he said. “The worst thing that can happen is a fumble, not just blocking a guy.”

Carter has fumbled several kicks this season, and Cam Echols-Luper handled the punt return duties for much of the first half before he was sidelined with an asthma issue. Patterson said both will continue to be used on returns.

“I still think Brandon has plenty of potential to do it,” he said. “A couple were his fault, a couple were others’ fault. We just need to get the ball caught. That’s the No. 1 rule of punt return. You can’t turn the ball over. Our whole thing is to get one first down for the offense. Get them 10 yards closer.”

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