By Will Martin
Saturday – November 30 – 2:30 PM
Amon Carter Stadium – Ft. Worth
Saturday’s meeting with the Baylor Bears will mark the end to a season. It will also mark a sense of finality for the seniors on this Horned Frog team. Had there not been a blowout in Cowboys country a week ago there would have been a sense of urgnecy to play spoiler on this final day in November. As it is that scenario will not play. For the first time under Gary Patterson’s watch there will be no bowl bids coming to Ft. Worth in December either.
No doubt a bitter pill for many a Frog fan to swallow in season of close calls and near misses.
One week removed from a tough 33-31 defeat to the Wildcats in Manhattan here’s what we do know:
This game with the Baylor Bears is a sellout with a 2:30 start time on ESPN2. Joe Tessitore and Matt Millen will provide the play-by-play while Kaylee Hartung will handle the sideline duties. The game is a sellout.
TCU’s senior class, comprised of just 16 players with only 10 on scholarship, will be recognized in a pre-game ceremony. The 2013 seniors have a 35-15 record while taking part in two conference championships and winning the 2011 Rose Bowl. The seniors are 3-1 against top-five ranked opponents, 2-1 in bowl games and 17-6 at Amon G. Carter Stadium.
This will mark the 109th meeting between both teams. The first meeting was a scoreless affair back in 1899. On the heels of their 49-21 victory over the Bears last year TCU leads the overall series 51-50-7. With those 108 games in hand TCU has faced Baylor more than any other school. Who can forget that memorable meeting in 2011 when TCU faltered in Waco 50-48 in the final year of Mountain West play for the Horned Frogs.
Coach Patterson addressed the media about this upcoming matchup in today’s pressed Tuesday.
“First off, Happy Thanksgiving. (Baylor) Coach (Art) Briles and his staff have done a magnificent job and are having a great season. We’re not where we want to be. Outside of the Texas game, we’ve been a score away in the last five or six minutes of each game from having a different outcome.”
Can you talk about how much the players have changed over the course of the season?
“We’ve missed two starting defensive ends since the start of the season in Devonte Fields and Matt Anderson. We’ve lost David Johnson, a starting defensive tackle, and Joel Hasley, a starting linebacker. There’s also two starting offensive linemen (Tayo Fabuluje and Michael Thompson) missing and (tight end) Griffin Gilbert. Waymon James hasn’t played much of the year. For everything that went on, I felt like the kids kept fighting.
The last two weeks we could have handled it a lot different. Looking at two weeks ago at Iowa State and a week ago at Kansas State, they played their tails off. As a head coach, you couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Describe how well Baylor has played on defense and special teams?
“They play really well on defense. They are at the top of the league in almost everything. (Baylor defensive coordinator) Coach (Phil) Bennett is doing a great job. They also play well on special teams. They’ve had some big returns and are causing people problems in all areas. Except for the hiccup last week, that’s why they keep beating people and by big margins.”
This being Casey Pachall’s final game can you talk about the maturity level he has exhibited?
“I was walking up the steps at Kansas State and heard a guy call him a few names, and he just looked and smiled and kept walking. After he broke his arm, he came to my office that Monday and said he wanted to travel with the team and work on scout team.
You can’t measure the positive aspect of that. I’ll give (Oklahoma head coach) Bob Stoops a lot of credit. During pre-game this year, he asked me about him and then went to our side and shook his hand.”
How would compare the last couple of TCU years to those of the BCS era?
“If you look at the Rose Bowl group, the senior class went 36-3 in their final three years. We had 27 seniors. We had seven basically playing last season and about six this year. You put them together and you’re not even half that. Baylor has 18 or 19 seniors, and you can see that leadership on the field. Teams go through those phases, and the idea is to not have to rebuild over too many years. I knew there was going to be a transition period, and there has been. You’re playing with 55 kids and you’re within 10 points of winning four or five more ballgames.”
Your thoughts on this year’s class of seniors?
“There’s a lot of character here. It makes you want to stay up late to game plan and give them the best opportunity to win as many games as they can. You see the tears in their eyes after the Kansas State game. It was the same as when Utah beat us in 2008 for the right to play in the Sugar Bowl.
I told them I was sorry because it was my job to help them win one of those games. You can’t blame them for the effort, especially in a hostile environment. Everybody tells you how hard it is to play at Iowa State, or Kansas State, or Oklahoma State, but this team could have tied it up with Oklahoma State trailing 17-10 in the fourth quarter.’
What’s the best way to contain Baylor’s high powered offense?
“If you look at the last game against Baylor, we were able to hold the ball and move it. They only had 55 plays. They run the ball really well, so you have to be able to stop it. Oklahoma State was able to, and it turned into a throwing game. You make a wrong step and a 15-yard pass turns into a 75-yarder.”
What has it meant to have a Jason Verrett play for you?
“His story is well documented. He’s a Walter Camp All-American and will graduate in December. His intelligence and football IQ is unbelievable, and scouts love that.”
If you were to describe this season in a big picture format, how would you?
“It’s been an interesting year. We’ve learned a lot. we are getting the kinks out of the new stadium and it’s a great time to be a Horned Frog and live in Fort Worth. The cool thing about seeing Baylor do it is that it’s not the traditional power. It raises the level for everybody. Every university has the chance to win a conference title.
It’s like with the SEC and how they are trying to improve their perception for the whole league. If we hadn’t played LSU and we win in overtime versus West Virginia, we are already bowl eligible. I think we found out that when we play at a high level like that first game of the season, you have a chance to go compete with those guys and you can get physical. There’s a formula for success out there.”
For TCU (Big 12 2-6, 4-7) the bigger question is going to be how you try to contain the prowess of a Bryce Perry (26 TD passes and a 335 yard per game average) and Antwan Goodley (58 catches, 12 touchdowns and 1,183 yards). On the ground the Bears team have a rushing tandem that averaged over 60 points a game prior to Oklahoma State in Lache Seatrunk (888 yards, 11 TD’s) and Shock Linwood (841 yards, 8 TD’s).
Baylor (Big 12 6-1, 9-1) lost any chances at a BCS berth with their loss in Stillwater last week. With Texas an opponent in December this has the feel of a possible trap game for the Baylor Bears.
In addition to honoring the seniors of TCU there a few other distinctions to ponder:
Over 40 percent of Horned Frogs who have seen action this season are sophomores.
TCU is looking to become the first Big 12 team since 1996 (Nebraska) to lead the conference in both sacks and interceptions. The Horned Frogs are tied with Baylor for the Big 12 lead with 29 sacks, while their 18 picks are one behind Oklahoma State (19).
TCU is the only team in the nation to rank in the top five in interceptions (tied for 4th, 18) and tackles for loss (5th, 90) and the top 10 in turnovers gained (tied for 7th, 27).
Casey Pachall is tied with Slingin’ Sammy Baugh (1934-36) for fourth in career touchdown passes (40) at TCU.
Trevone Boykin is the only player in the nation this season with a 100-yard rushing game, 100-yard receiving game and 200-yard passing game.
Even with nothing to play for except for pride this is a game that TCU can bear down defensively and keep Baylor from getting the ball with long sustained drives and some superb defensive play. A complete game will be required. Look for TCU to finish with a bang in Ft. Worth on Saturday to get the holiday season rolling.
TCU 37 Baylor 31.