College Sports

Patterson’s once-vaunted defense needs some tweaking

Gary Patterson, according to the season-long storyline, is a changed football coach.

After his TCU Horned Frogs scored 58 points Saturday, he reminded the assembled media that he changed offenses after last season to score more points and give his team a better chance to win.

The change has been good, as it was supposed to be.

The thinking was that Patterson is a defensive wizard, according to the storyline of his career, and if the Frogs score 58 points, they are supposed to win every time.

Well, maybe it’s 99 of 100 times.

The Frogs scored 58 points, including seven from the special teams and seven more from the defense, but they left McLane Stadium with a potentially season-wrecking 61-58 loss.

Baylor ravaged the Frogs’ defense for 782 yards. Seven hundred. Eighty-two.

Patterson said afterward that the blame for losing a game TCU led by 21 with 11:38 left falls to him. He couldn’t be more right, and he needs to do something about it.

The freak-of-nature Baylor offense isn’t easy to stop, especially when defensive players have been on the field for 109 plays. The Bears did whatever they wanted over the final 11 minutes.

TCU had to go for it on fourth-and-3 from the Baylor 45 with 1:17 to go, because the defense couldn’t have stopped the Bears from positioning themselves for the winning field goal at the gun if they had started at their 5.

But the Oklahoma offense (461 yards) wasn’t easy to stop. Several Big 12 offenses, and the offenses of the teams that TCU wants to compete against for national titles, aren’t easy to stop.

So, it’s up to the ball coach to change again.

An overhaul isn’t in order. That’s not the point. But something is amiss when a defense coughs up 782 yards, and he knows what the problem is.

Changing, though, might be pipe dream.

“We’re playing the same way we do,” Patterson said of the Frogs going forward. “Guys that are playing have got to go make plays. Simple as that. You’re not going to win very many ballgames when you let people throw it over your head.”

Patterson’s defenses have been great, especially against the UNLVs and San Diego States of the football world. He has made his living on coaching up defenses, and it’s tough to argue with the results.

Patterson and his 4-2-5 defenses have had a hand in everything that has happened at TCU since he took over for the Mobile Alabama Bowl in 2000, from jumping to the big time to the remodeling of Amon G. Carter Stadium.

But 782 yards shouldn’t happen against the Denver Broncos.

Patterson said that he played young cornerbacks who worried him, and rightfully so. He tried to protect them through various pass coverages, he said, but the players didn’t execute.

A coach’s No. 1 objective is to put his players in a position to succeed, and that’s where Patterson needs to be better.

If he has worries about his young cornerbacks, he needs to do better than relying on them to win one-on-one battles against Baylor receivers he called “draft choices” instead of waiting for them to get better.

If he doesn’t have All-America players like Jason Verrett, which is the nature of the beast in college football, he can’t leave his team exposed like he did against Baylor.

That philosophy will lead to more losses. Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy probably can’t wait to travel to Fort Worth next weekend. The young corners won’t be good enough by then.

“Until you stop the verticals, you’re going to see the verticals,” Patterson said.

The game came down to “five or six plays,” Patterson said. Five were vertical routes that Bryce Petty and his Baylor “draft choices” turned into touchdowns, and the other was a botched snap at the end of the first half that led to three Bears points at the gun.

There were some clock issues that Patterson was going to investigate on the bus ride home. There were also some flags that didn’t fly when TCU receivers were blanketed by Baylor defensive backs that Patterson was going to dig into.

He was going to watch the game film before announcing his findings and the autopsy results of the defense.

Maybe something will click. Maybe he will figure out a way to have a great defense against a great offense without leaving his young, worrisome cornerbacks locked in man coverage.

Patterson made a big adjustment after last season, catching up with 21st-century football and changing to a high-scoring spread offense that is supposed to win games.

That offense did its part Saturday.

The defense? Nope.

Patterson took the blame, as he should have. He knows what’s wrong, now it’s up to him to change it.

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