FORT WORTH — TCU would like to forget the first-half hole it dug during a 38-20 loss at Oklahoma on Nov. 11.
The Horned Frogs were never able to recover from a 24-point halftime deficit, despite shutting out the Sooners in the second half. The 38 first-half points surrendered were the most this season for TCU.
With a rematch looming between the Horned Frogs and Sooners in the Big 12 Championship Game, TCU has plenty of valuable lessons to learn from this time around — namely, not letting the game slip away early.
“We’ve got to tackle, be able to pressure, move the football and score points,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said. “I don’t think it’s hard to figure out the game plan.”
No hitting snooze button on defense
TCU shut out Oklahoma during the second half of the first meeting, but it didn’t matter much after its ugly start. Patterson remarked after the loss that his players seemed to be in “awe” of the top-10 environment and out of focus.
TCU linebacker Sammy Douglas agreed that the Horned Frogs weren’t playing with their typical attention to detail.
“Just being in a big atmosphere and having a big game … not everybody was on one page and being accountable for everyone else,” Douglas said. “We need to be a defense — be as one, have everyone else’s back and not try to do things individually.”
It was different narrative — a normal one for TCU — in the second half. Only 7 points were scored between the two teams. The Horned Frogs haven’t surrendered a second-half touchdown since defeating West Virginia, 31-24, on Oct. 7.
That’s been quite a transformation for TCU after letting several close games get away last season. TCU found itself in narrow contests against Kansas State and Oklahoma State at halftime in 2016 before losing both games by double-digit margins.
Patterson attributed TCU’s second-half turnaround this season to improved depth.
“In the second half [last year] we just didn’t have any people left,” Patterson said. “Now this year because of the depth … the next guy has stepped up and the next guys have made plays and allowed us to be able to win. That wouldn’t have happened a year ago. Older teams play better.”
In 2017, four of TCU’s double-digit wins — against Arkansas, SMU, Texas Tech and Baylor — featured a one-score game at the half.
“I think we just settle down,” Patterson said. “You change up a couple calls but you got to get them on the same page. I think one thing that’s happened to us is that we’ve been able to rotate a lot of players, so in the second half, we’re not worn out.”
Ironically, TCU’s losses to Oklahoma in 2015 and 2016 both featured double-digit halftime deficits for the Horned Frogs before they clawed back to within three points or less.
Stop a rising Sooners star
The Horned Frogs took a brief 7-3 first-quarter lead over the Sooners this season, but a touchdown by Oklahoma running back Rodney Anderson on the ensuing drive gave the Sooners the lead for good.
Patterson cited his team’s inability to neutralize Anderson as a major reason for the lopsided loss. The sophomore recorded a season-high 290 all purpose-yards and 4 touchdowns in the triumph.
“We’ve got to tackle better because we did not tackle Rodney Anderson at all in the first half. If we tackle the same way [on Saturday] it won’t matter what defensive call we have,” Patterson said.
Anderson has rushed for 867 yards and has caught passes for 283 yards. He has had at least 10 carries in every game since Oklahoma defeated Texas, 29-24, on Oct. 14.
“He’s a great player,” Douglas said of Anderson. “You have to respect our opponents.”
Of course, Anderson, won’t be the only player on Oklahoma’s offense that will keep TCU busy.
Quarterback Baker Mayfield has thrown for 4,097 yards this season, averaging a whopping 346 per game with a 71.4 completion percentage. The Heisman Trophy frontrunner has gone 50 for 77 with 734 yards, 7 touchdowns and no interceptions in his three previous meetings with the Horned Frogs while playing for Oklahoma.
But in his first meeting against them, Mayfield struggled. As a freshman at Texas Tech, he completed 21 of 40 passes for 216 yards, a touchdown and a career-worst 3 interceptions. His 91.11 quarterback rating was Mayfield’s worst in 46 college games.
“We’ve got to come as a unit and see what happens,” Douglas said. “Our mindset is to be as one, get everyone else’s back and not trying to do one thing individually.”
The Horned Frogs’ health is improving after Patterson announced that linebacker Travin Howard — the team’s leading tackler — will be back after missing the previous two games due to injury. TCU was also without defensive end Mat Boesen for the majority of the first Oklahoma game after the senior was ejected for kicking an Oklahoma player.
TCU and Oklahoma will kick off at 11:30 a.m. CT on Dec. 2 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The Horned Frogs will have an extra day of rest after beating Baylor last Friday. Oklahoma defeated West Virginia the following day.
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