Oklahoma isn’t used to losing.
The Sooners haven’t lost consecutive regular-season games this century. Quarterback Kyler Murray lost for just the second time in his high school and college career two weeks ago when Texas topped OU in the Red River Showdown. The list goes on.
It’s safe to say TCU has plenty to overcome Saturday in its upset bid against No. 9 Oklahoma. But the Frogs have won games nobody expected them to in the past, and maybe coach Gary Patterson has another in him.
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Here’s what to watch going into Saturday’s game:
The Frogs lost one of their best defenders when strong safety Innis Gaines exited the Texas Tech game with a left leg injury. Patterson revealed Gaines won’t be available for this game, and is likely out the rest of the season.
Oklahoma is not an offense you want to face with young, inexperienced replacements. Murray is having a standout season, and is ready to rebound in a big way following the loss to Texas.
Murray is the Big 12’s most efficient passer with 21 touchdowns and only three interceptions, and he’s completed 71 percent of his passes (96-for-135) for 1,773 yards. The first-round MLB draft pick is also a threat with his legs, running for another 377 yards and five TDs.
Murray will look to take advantage of a secondary that has been hit with injuries.
If TCU wants to stay in this game and within striking distance, it has to control the clock.
As Patterson said, “There’s no secret formula. The easiest way not to let Oklahoma score is [for it] not to be on the field.”
The easiest way to win the time of possession battle is by establishing the running game.
The Frogs have struggled to get Darius Anderson going in Big 12 play, but have to continue to feed him the ball. He’s a home-run threat with the ball in his hands.
Sewo Olonilua has been a reliable backfield option, too.
But TCU has rushed for less than 150 yards the past three games after topping the 200-yard mark in the opening three games. In Big 12 play, the Frogs have 379 rushing yards on 110 carries (3.45 yards per carry).
Patterson mentioned the running game as an area of concern, saying, “Running backs aren’t going to have as good a season and that’s probably more a concern to me than anything. We got to keep being more physical.”
TCU’s biggest area for concern is the turnover margin. That correlates more to wins and losses in football than any other statistic.
It’s a delicate subject for Patterson because he doesn’t want to harp too much on it and have his players thinking too much about it. But he also knows turnovers played a major role in the Frogs’ three losses.
However it’s handled internally doesn’t really matter as long as it gets fixed.
Punch it in
Patterson stated the obvious about this game earlier this week – TCU has to score points. A lot if it wants to knock off OU.
The Sooners are averaging 48 points a game, the most in the Big 12, so the Frogs have to be ready to win a shootout if the game goes that way.
The good news? Oklahoma has the worst red-zone defense in the Big 12, allowing opponents to score on all 21 trips inside the 20. TCU has to capitalize on that, preferably with touchdowns.
The Frogs have had six trips to the red zone in the last two games and produced just two TDs and a field goal. That has to change.
Patterson has seen thousands of kids attend his football camps over the years, including TCU’s co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Sonny Cumbie and OU coach Lincoln Riley.
Patterson joked that must make him “young” on his radio show.
Riley recalled the story on his own radio show earlier this week about Patterson recruiting him as a safety. Riley, who grew up in West Texas and played quarterback at Muleshoe High, ended up walking on at Texas Tech in 2002 as a quarterback and then served as a student assistant under Mike Leach.
Who knows what would’ve happened had Riley gone to TCU as a safety. Patterson has a knack for taking offensive players in high school and turning them into standout defenders.