Gil LeBreton

TCU defenders learned their lessons in Waco

TCU players like defensive back Kevin White, unable to stop Baylor wide receiver Antwan Goodley from pulling in a touchdown pass in the Oct. 11 scoring fest, knows about redemptions and lessons learned.
TCU players like defensive back Kevin White, unable to stop Baylor wide receiver Antwan Goodley from pulling in a touchdown pass in the Oct. 11 scoring fest, knows about redemptions and lessons learned. Star-Telegram

It’s an easy scouting report. And also the laziest one.

It’s the self-appointed armchair scout, the guy who’s seen only fleeting ESPN snippets of the TCU-Baylor game — the guy who saw the final score and instantly concluded that a 61-58 result did not qualify as real football.

Maybe, subconsciously, that kind of thinking also figured into the Ohio State thing. The playoff robbery thing. Because, after all, the Big Ten only plays manly football, not 61-58 games.

Whatever. In college football, even in these days when a single school can have its own TV network, perception still tends to morph into reality.

Thus, the “reality” at this Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl is that compared to its mighty Southeastern Conference opponent, TCU’s defense is a house of cards waiting to tumble.

“I don’t pay attention to what everybody else says,” TCU senior safety Sam Carter said Sunday. “Numbers don’t lie. Baylor was on fire that day.

“But one game doesn’t define a team. Things happen for a reason, and we learned from it.”

The Baylor game. It turned out to be TCU’s most defining 60 minutes of the season in more ways than one.

“That game happened early in the year,” Carter assessed. “We’re past that now.”

Cornerback Kevin White agreed with his senior teammate. And White should know as much as anyone in the TCU secondary about redemptions.

His turnaround with the Horned Frogs began in his redshirt sophomore season, after he was scorched three times for touchdowns in a 56-53 overtime loss to Texas Tech.

“I was just a young player,” White recalled. “I remember it was homecoming, a big game, and I gave up three touchdowns and we lost in triple overtime.

“For me, that was my wake-up moment. Just like Jason Verrett had [in 2011] in Baylor. I found out that day that this was a different level and I had to prove myself all over again.

“Coach Patterson told me how just like Jason [a first-round draft choice last year of the San Diego Chargers] went through it, I had to realize I had potential and had to go out and prove it, too.”

There is a learning curve, it seems, with every underclassman who attempts to step into Gary Patterson’s defense.

“I think this defense is probably one of hardest defenses to play in the country,” Carter said. “Anybody who knows me knows I probably watch the most film on a team. I watch other defenses, just to see what they’re doing.

“And what I’ve found out is that I don’t think a lot of people can play this defense, because it expects so much out of you, and definitely at the safety position. You’ve got to be able to recognize, line people up, make calls. And if you’re not ready for that, not prepared, not into it, it just won’t work.”

The learning curve for young TCU defensive backs, it seems, often includes having touchdown passes rain upon your head on some Saturday afternoon.

That lesson came this season at Baylor.

Take these amended statistics with a grain of salt, but they deal in reality, not perception:

The Frogs’ defense surrendered 782 total yards, 510 through the air, in the game at Waco. If you remove that one game from the TCU season totals, the Frogs would have ranked seventh in the nation against the rush and 12th in total offense with an average yield of 321.1 yards per game.

Coincidentally, that would have been just ahead of their Peach Bowl SEC opponent, Ole Miss, who allowed 321.2.

Rebels offensive coordinator Dan Werner said it right Sunday when he noted, “You watch them on film, and they’re an SEC-type defense.”

SEC watchers may also forget that this year’s Alabama-Auburn final score was 55-44. Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide defense was torched for 456 passing yards and 630 total in that game.

Good grief. What kind of defense allows 630 yards in a game?

I’m being sarcastic, of course. In these rapid-pace days of college football, stuff happens. Touchdown passes can fall from the skies, whether it’s Waco or Tuscaloosa.

Good teams learn from it. That’s the real scouting report.

Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697

Twitter: @gilebreton

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