If TCU drops in the rankings and loses the highest preseason poll spot in school history, coach Gary Patterson won’t think it’s a big deal.
“Oh, no. I’m glad I’m 1-0,” he said after a narrow 23-17 win at Minnesota on Thursday night. “I only want to be ranked high at the end of the season. I don’t care about this early stuff.”
The No. 2-ranked Horned Frogs played without two defensive starters, lost a third after the first series and committed two turnovers. The offense couldn’t put the game away, forcing the defense back on the field to protect a six-point lead against three desperation snaps with 27 seconds left.
Yet TCU started fast, led 10-0 and never trailed on the road in a sold-out stadium with a record crowd against a team coming off an 8-5 season.
“Lot of people wanted this to be an upset. Lot of people thought that because we were young, we couldn’t play in this ballgame,” Patterson said. “Going to somebody else’s place — everything that needed to happen, there wasn’t really anything on our side. So for us to come out with a win, I’ll take it as a positive.”
Quarterback Trevone Boykin did, too.
“Like I said, this is not the same team from last year, and we have new guys on our side of the ball,” Boykin said. “We’re still figuring out what guys can do. But the main goal is to get to 1-0. I’m disappointed because we can always be better. With a win, I’m always satisfied.”
Boykin was a 62 percent passer (26-of-42) against the Gophers and their well-regarded secondary, had a pass intercepted and one nearly intercepted, threw a touchdown pass and ran for a touchdown. He misfired on three potential touchdown passes, Patterson said.
“You got to make those plays. Period. You got to make those plays in big ballgames,” Patterson said. “But the good part about it is, we learned from that. But they have some good DBs, to be honest with you. They did some things schematically that bothered us. They’ll be one of the better defenses we play this year.”
Still, the Horned Frogs put up 449 yards of offense, 25 first downs and ran 86 plays.
“You have to know that we knew we overthrew some open receivers,” Patterson said. “You know we’re going to score more points.”
Patterson also gave his team credit for playing strong defense despite missing two starters.
Defensive end James McFarland and defensive tackle Davion Pierson did not play because of injury.
Linebacker Sammy Douglas left the game after the first drive. Patterson declined to specify their injuries, but implied that they are not long-term.
Defensive end Terrell Lathan and safety Derrick Kindred each forced turnovers. Tevin Lawson caused a fumble when he and Mike Tuaua came close to a sack for a safety. Minnesota was held to 4 for 15 on third down.
“Felt like we did some things with a young defense,” Patterson said. “And I thought played decent against a team that’s always good on special teams. They’re good on special teams. To be able to hold our own in a ballgame like this, I mean I felt good about that.”
Receiver Josh Doctson, who had a game-high eight catches, one for a touchdown, plus an onside recovery, said it was a typical first game.
“There’s going to be a lot of kinks, a lot of just kind of missed assignments,” he said. “You don’t want it, but we had them [Thursday night]. Blessed to have a win. Hats off to Minnesota, they are an extremely good defense.”
Boykin kept his connection with Doctson, who Patterson said had only gotten back into practice in the last six days before the game because of an injury. But the quarterback was not as sharp going to Kolby Listenbee and Emanuel Porter.
Slot receiver Desmon White, however, caught five passes in place of Deanté Gray, who is still recovering from knee surgery. And freshman KaVontae Turpin got four touches — two catches and two carries.
“I’ve been going through camp with all these guys. I’m not going to sit here and make excuses,” Boykin said. “We just have to be better on our side of the ball, and now we have a platform to build from. It was just the first game, and we have to get better.”
Boykin said he’d be surprised if TCU drops, considering it was a victory on the road against a respected opponent.
But like Patterson, Boykin also kept the big picture in mind.
“No game is going to be easy. We’re going to get everybody’s best swing,” he said. “At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter what happened as long as we control our own destiny. We’re 1-0 and move on to the next week and get better.”