November is here, and TCU is an unexpected 4-4.
“Week 9. It’s going fast,” coach Gary Patterson said Tuesday as he began his weekly press conference.
Where has the time gone?
Better question — where have the breaks gone?
“We need to find a way to win a close one,” Patterson said. “You’ve got to find a way. You can say, ‘Well, you missed a field goal.’ But there’s other plays that you can do and how you can do things.”
So that’s the challenge that faces TCU as the calendar turns to November, beginning with Saturday’s game at Baylor. In a season that includes two overtime losses by a field goal and another in regulation by six points, the Horned Frogs are tasked with finding a way to win in time to qualify for a bowl game for the 17th time in 19 seasons.
We’re about three plays in each game from being 7-1 or 8-0. We know we still haven’t played our best game as a team, and there’s still time to do that.
TCU defensive end Josh Carraway
It may (or may not) mean changing quarterbacks. It may (or may not) mean changing kickers.
But something somewhere has to click.
“I feel like we’re really close,” defensive end Josh Carraway said. “We’re about three plays in each game from being 7-1 or 8-0. We know we still haven’t played our best game as a team, and there’s still time to do that. At this point, we’re just trying to get to six wins and get to the best bowl game we can.”
TCU didn’t experience back-to-back losses either of the past two seasons. Since a 24-3 stretch that included a season-opening win this year, the Frogs are a sobering 3-4. It’s been weeks since they were ranked. And after two years in the College Football Playoff mix, they’re far from the conversation now.
“Everybody has their opinion,” receiver Desmon White said. “We know what we can do. We know what we’re capable of doing. We’ve just got to go out there and get it done. We’re playing really hard. We just got to find that one little notch.”
TCU has played Baylor more than any other opponent. The Horned Frogs evened the all-time series at 52-52-7 last season with a 28-21 victory in double overtime.
What can change?
Health helps. Running back Kyle Hicks and Carraway are “probable,” Patterson said, for Saturday at Baylor. Hicks injured his ankle on the first series against Texas Tech, and Carraway missed the game with an ankle injury. Receiver/returner KaVontae Turpin will get a larger role in the game plan as he gets closer to 100 percent recovered from a knee injury.
Personnel moves are happening. Two weeks ago, cornerback Julius Lewis moved back into the starting lineup, burning a potential medical redshirt. Backup defensive end Mat Boesen has emerged to become a reliable option for more snaps. Receiver John Diarse has moved from an inside receiver position to an outside spot.
I’ve learned from the football gods, there’s no such thing as I’m owed breaks. You create your own breaks.
TCU coach Gary Patterson
But perhaps experience will help as much as anything.
Carraway described the difference in the defense from Week 1 to now as “night and day,” and Patterson has long talked about the role experience plays in “finding a way to win.”
“Kids find ways to win. Coaches find ways to win,” he said. “You’ve got to learn how to finish. I think older teams, more veteran teams, do.”
9-2Record for the Horned Frogs in games decided by a touchdown or less the past two seasons. This year, the Frogs are 1-3 in those games.
Patterson signaled that he doesn’t expect a change in Kenny Hill’s status as the starting quaterback. At kicker, he said the team will use “who the best guy is.” Brandon Hatfield missed three kicks last week. Patterson said Jonathan Song, who was expected to be the kicker this season, is getting closer to full health.
Maybe the Frogs are due a break.
“I’ve learned from the football gods, there’s no such thing as I’m owed breaks,” Patterson said. “You create your own breaks. … To me, things always happen for a reason, and you control it. You have two roads. We’ll see how we’ll, as a team, attack these last four ballgames. Because they’re all tough ballgames. For a lot of reasons, besides just that they’re good football teams.”
TCU at No. 13 Baylor
2:30 p.m. Saturday, KDFW/4