TCU

TCU’s defense steadily improving with better communication

For TCU coach Gary Patterson, it’s not always numbers and stats that tell him about his defense.

Sometimes he can tell just by talking. If he’s doing more of it — and he has been lately — that’s a good sign.

It means the players are getting it.

“I can have more conversations,” Patterson said. “I was actually tweaking some stuff even Saturday morning before the Tech ballgame, because Tech does so much. You’re going through the ‘and’ and ‘but’ formations, making sure you’re talking about ‘if they go into this or that.’ Probably five or six weeks ago, I wouldn’t do that because you’re just going to confuse them.”

There’s no mistaking TCU’s defensive performance last week against the nation’s top offense. In regulation, the Horned Frogs limited Texas Tech to less than half its average yards and less than a third of its average points.

Patterson’s whispers were received.

“It’s night and day different,” defensive end Josh Carraway said, asked to describe the difference in the defense from Week 1 to now. “It’s the confidence in the secondary and confidence in new guys like Mat Boesen and Niko Small. Their growth has been incredible. The coaches are calling fronts and coverages they know they’re comfortable with.”

The Frogs will need to get plenty comfortable in time for Saturday’s game at Baylor. Waiting in Waco will be an offense averaging almost 50 points and 600 yards at McLane Stadium. In the Horned Frogs’ only visit, two years ago, they gave up 61 points and 782 yards.

But that’s life in the Big 12. And that’s life for Patterson, trying to figure out what his defenses can do.

“Guys have grown up. Guys have gotten more reps,” Patterson said. “It’s really just confidence. I think playing together, getting back to it, getting to where we communicate and talk to each other.”

Lots of things have helped.

The return of cornerback Julius Lewis has provided an aggressive tackler. Fellow cornerback Ranthony Texada appears fully recovered from a knee injury. The rapid rise of Boesen, a defensive end, has provided an extra rusher to spell Carraway, last year’s sack leader, while he recovered from an ankle injury. And safety Denzel Johnson, who missed significant time in fall camp with a foot injury, “is starting to play really well,” Patterson said.

Plus, the sacks continue to come. TCU is tied for the Big 12 lead with 31.

“We’ve been able to generate a pass rush, which with the way people get the ball off quick in this league, is hard to do,” Patterson said.

The numbers and stats tell a story of only modest improvement. After the Oklahoma game, TCU ranked 77th in total defense and tied for 92nd in scoring defense. Today, the Frogs rank 66th and 86th.

But improvement is improvement. What’s next? Making it translate into victories.

“We could hold them to 10 yards each week, but if we don’t win, it doesn’t matter,” Carraway said.

Carlos Mendez: 817-390-7760, @calexmendez

TCU at No. 17 Baylor

2:30 p.m. Saturday, KDFW/4

Head to head

Category

TCU (4-4, 2-3)

Baylor (6-1, 3-1)

Scoring offense

34.4

42.3

Total offense

487.8

559.9

Passing offense

321.2

260.6

Rushing offense

166.6

299.3

3rd down conv.

43.3%

46.6%

Scoring defense

30.1

19.7

Total defense

406.5

352.9

Passing defense

259.5

179.5

Rushing defense

147.0

173.4

3rd down conv. defense

45.3%

46.6%

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