In TCU coach Gary Patterson’s mind, there aren’t different levels of losses. A loss is a loss, regardless of who the opponent is or the point differential.
“There’s no such thing as not a bad loss,” Patterson said earlier this week. “It doesn’t matter if it’s one point. It doesn’t matter if it’s 100 points. It doesn’t matter who it’s to – a loss is a loss.”
But Patterson acknowledged a loss to a program such as Kansas is a little different than, say, Ohio State. The Jayhawks hadn’t won a Big 12 game since November 2016, a stretch of 14 games, and they had never beaten the Frogs in conference play.
“One of the things a loss to Kansas does to you is there’s no hiding behind it,” Patterson said. “You lose a close game to Ohio State, you can say this, that or the other. But, at some point in time, how do you change all of this?”
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All of this would include a three-game losing streak that TCU desperately wants to end against Kansas State on Saturday. Five things to watch going into it –
1. Collins’ encore. Michael Collins impressed in his Big 12 starting debut. He threw for 351 yards on 23-of-33 passing with one touchdown and one interception.
Collins also had 33 rushing yards on 10 carries, including two TDs. Patterson said he would’ve liked Collins to run it in a couple different situations, but that will come with more experience.
The question is how Collins follows up that performance against KU. He is in a favorable position to succeed as K-State has the worst defense in the Big 12, allowing an average of 443 yards per game.
2. Running matters. TCU RB Darius Anderson had a forgettable game against KU with a costly fumble near the end of the game. That overshadowed what had been a solid day for Anderson, who finished with 95 rushing yards on 20 carries.
The 20 carries were a season-high for Anderson, and it begs the question whether he’ll become more of a workhorse down the stretch. As stated, this would be the week to do it against the Wildcats’ worst-ranked defense.
K-State is allowing 191.6 yards on the ground to opponents this season. TCU, meanwhile, is averaging 165.1 rushing yards a game.
3. Banged up D. Patterson said earlier this week that he doesn’t expect free safety Niko Small or linebacker/ pass rusher Ty Summers to play against K-State, and both could be done for the season.
Those are big losses for a defense that is already dealing with a number of injuries. But it’ll give younger players a chance to see more action.
Patterson has raved about freshman safety Trevon Moehrig-Woodard, saying he could be the next great free safety to come through the program. And freshman linebacker Ben Wilson could see more time on the defensive side instead of mostly special teams.
The injuries have hurt the defense, but it still has playmakers starting with defensive end Ben Banogu, who has four sacks in the last three games.
4. Young WRs. Patterson made it clear the team isn’t going to sit out John Stephens Jr. or Tevailance Hunt just so they can be eligible for a redshirt season.
Stephens is a big receiver with a huge catch radius, coming down with an impressive 47-yard catch two weeks ago against Oklahoma. Hunt flashed potential with a 21-yard reception last week at Kansas.
And, of course, the leading receivers were underclassmen as well. Sophomore Jalen Reagor had a standout game with 177 receiving yards on eight catches and one TD, while freshman Taye Barber finished with 75 yards on five catches.
5. Turnover talk. It’s no secret that the turnover battle is one of the biggest determinants between who wins and loses. And TCU has lost the turnover battle more times than not this season, including against Kansas.
Without two turnovers, the Frogs likely beat the Jayhawks. In Big 12 play, TCU is now minus-11 in turnover ratio, forcing just one fumble and one interception while giving it away 13 times.
That can’t happen against a K-State team that has been successful in the takeaway department. The Wildcats have seven interceptions and one fumble through five Big 12 games.