T-C-U at B-Y-U 10-24-09

October 24, 2009


(10) T-C-U (6-0) at (16) B-Y-U (6-1)

Saturday, October 24th, 7:30 p.m. (et)

GAME NOTES: Sporting one of the longest win streaks in college football right now, the 10th-ranked TCU Horned Frogs try to establish their dominance in the Mountain West Conference this weekend as they drop in on the 16th-ranked BYU Cougars in Provo.

TCU, which has won eight straight games dating back to last season and is one of only seven programs in the Football Bowl Subdivision that has yet to lose this year, heads into the weekend ranked eighth in the first BCS rankings. The team has had a couple of scares here and there, but for the most part the Frogs have always been in control and that was the case last weekend as the team posted a resounding 44-6 win at home versus Colorado State. The two field goals surrendered represented the fewest points allowed this season by TCU, a team that had one of the top scoring defenses in the nation in 2008.

As for the Cougars, who themselves are ranked 16th in the BCS at the moment, they logged the 500th win in program history with their 38-28 triumph over San Diego State on the road last week. The victory was the fourth in a row for BYU, a team that is now bowl eligible at 6-1 and has just a 54-28 setback to Florida State as the lone blemish on the season thus far.

After this weekend, the only true threat to the Cougars before the postseason arrives comes in the final week of the regular season as they set up shop against Utah.

Last season, the Horned Frogs caged the Cougars with a 32-7 decision in Fort Worth and yet TCU still trails in the all-time series by a count of 5-3. One of the more memorable games between the two programs came back in 2005 when the Frogs trailed by 18 points late in the third quarter, 34-16, but ended up battling back for a thrilling 51-50 overtime triumph, representing the largest come-from-behind win for TCU head coach Gary Patterson in his nine years with the school.

The TCU offense started slowly last Saturday, allowing CSU a couple of field goals, before the Frogs ripped off 44 unanswered points and literally ran away with the victory. The Horned Frogs handed the ball to anyone and everyone who stepped into the backfield as 14 different players were credited with at least one rushing attempt, generating a hefty 275 yards and three touchdowns. What made the ground attack so balanced was that no single player had more than 47 yards.

Quarterback Andy Dalton had the luxury of handing the ball off time and time again, but he still played his part in the offense with 15-of-23 passing for 211 yards and two touchdowns.

Aside from the first quarter when the Rams posted their only points, the TCU defense was stifling, limiting the visitors to just 10 first downs and a measly 2-of-13 on third down plays.

“We always seem to start slow,” noted coach Patterson after the meeting with Colorado State. “I wish we would start a little faster but, in the end, it turned out all right with 44 unanswered points.”

Defense continues to be the name of the game for the Frogs, ranking fourth in the nation with just 238 ypg allowed. The squad is doing the job equally as well against both the run and the pass, something that very few teams in the country can say these days. Right now TCU is giving up just 81.2 ypg on the ground (eighth in the country) and 156.8 ypg through the air (ninth).

Even though the TCU offense might take a back seat to how well the team performs on the other side of the ball, there’s no doubt that Dalton is making himself into a candidate for player of the year honors in the MWC. In addition to gaining 233 yards on the ground, third-most on the team, Dalton has also thrown for 203.8 ypg and eight touchdowns on 65.5 percent accuracy.

“We feel we’ve been playing pretty well,” Dalton has said of his team’s efforts through the first six games of the season “We still haven’t played our best game. Hopefully, we will be able to look at some of the things we did tonight, fix our mistakes and go from there.”

Last week, Max Hall put it altogether for the Cougars as he converted 27-of-39 passes for 346 yards and three touchdowns and also recorded 47 yards and a score on 14 rushing attempts, an aspect of his game that to this point has gone untapped. For his efforts Hall was named the MWC Offensive Player of the Week. Finding nine different receivers and not throwing an interception for the second straight game probably factored into the decision to give him the award as well.

“Max is a competitor,” said BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall after the outing. “He has played extremely well the last two games in leading our team to two conference road victories.”

In addition to Hall’s efforts, Harvey Unga also made himself someone that the SDSU defense had to pay attention to as he tallied 81 yards and a touchdown on the ground and caught two passes for another 37 yards. With his effort Unga become just the ninth player in BYU history to have at least 1,000 yards both rushing and receiving in his career.

Where the Cougars fell a bit short was on the defensive side of the ball where they allowed a weak squad like the Aztecs to generate 28 points and actually remaining in contention for far too long. While BYU did limit the Aztecs to a mere 20 yards on the ground, the pass defense still permitted 298 yards and had three touchdowns scored against them. Jan Jorgensen tallied the lone sack for the Cougars and Scott Johnson the only forced turnover with an interception of Ryan Lindley.

Except for the first two games of the season when the Cougars gave up a combined 16 points to Oklahoma and Tulane on the road, the defense has taken a number of shots in 2009 and is nowhere near where the Horned Frogs stand in that arena. With TCU focusing on running the ball a lot, it will be important for the Cougars to figure out how they can get pressure at the line of scrimmage.

The problem with fighting hard in the trenches is that BYU hasn’t done well fighting up field and is averaging just 4.14 tackles for loss per game, a number that has the group seventh in the conference and tied for 107th in the nation. Sacks are also a rare commodity for the unit as they average just 1.7 per outing, ranking eighth in the league and 70th nationally.

While BYU finds sacks hard to come by, TCU’s Jerry Hughes almost single- handedly matches the entire group with his 1.33 sacks per game, a number that has him ranked first in the conference and tied for fourth in the nation. Hughes is credited with 1.58 TFLs per game and that means both Unga and Hall have to be on their toes this weekend. Hall doesn’t take a lot of hits, but TCU is keenly aware that the signal-caller ranks first in the MWC and fourth in the nation in pass efficiency with a rating of 163.74, so you can be sure the Horned Frogs are going to send pressure as much as possible.

This is the make-or-break game for these two teams, at least as far as conference play goes. The winner will have the inside track on possibly playing in a BCS game, which means the pressure will be enormous. BYU has the advantage of being at home, but as the Cougars showed last week against SDSU, they are a vulnerable bunch and TCU is not the sort of squad to allow such things to go untested.

“As for home-field advantage, I think it has been documented over the past couple of years we certainly can be beaten at home as Florida State proved,” coach Mendenhall recognizes. “But I still think it’s a great advantage. I believe winning 19-of-20 or 18-of-19, something like that, it is just fun to be supported by our own fans.”


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