The Texas Tech Red Raiders and TCU Horned Frogs showdown in Lubbock this Thursday for the first time since 2004. TCU comes into the game 1-1 (0-0) and ranked 24th in the latest AP poll, Texas Tech stands at 2-0 (0-0), and both teams look to win their first conference game of 2013.
The ‘Frogs aren’t known for offense, and this season’s team is no exception. Through two games so far this year, TCU averages 32.5 points per game 330 yards per game; not exactly great numbers for a Big 12 team. Granted, one of those two games was against perennial defensive power LSU, but the other was Southeastern Louisiana, so the two games should at least offset.
Starting senior quarterback Casey Pachall injured his left arm during the ‘Frogs 38-17 win over SEL and had surgery later Saturday to repair a fracture, which could keep him out for possibly eight weeks. As a result, sophomore athlete Trevone Boykin takes over at quarterback for TCU for the foreseeable future.
Boykin started nine games last season after Pachall left the team for rehab to deal with drug and alcohol problems. As a starter, Boykin amassed 2,257 passing yards, 17 touchdowns and 10 interceptions at the quarterback position, but his throwing ability isn’t what makes him dangerous. While the rushing totals aren’t eye popping, there’s no denying his speed, athleticism and ability to extend plays. Boykin showed his versatility on Saturday by leading the team in receptions (3), passing (133 yards, 2 TDs) and yards per carry average (7). He’s a much tougher matchup for this defense than Pachall and could cause some major problems on Thursday night.
“He’s a guy that jumps out at you when you watch him play,” said head coach Kliff Kingsbury. “What he does with his feet and with his arm shows you what kind of athlete he is.”
At the running back position, TCU has some options. through two games, sophomore B.J. Catalon and senior Waymon James combined for 183 rushing yards and four touchdowns on just 33 carries. Catalon is the home run hitter, especially in the return game. He runs with tremendous speed and currently averages a healthy 5.8 yards per carry. Now that Pachall is done for a while and Boykin’s running the already average passing game, look for Catalon and James to get plenty of carries this week.
Unlike most Big 12 teams, the ‘Frogs make a name for themselves on defense. In 2008, TCU led the nation in total defense by giving up just 217.8 yards per game. In recent years, the ‘Frog D lost some salt, and last year’s inaugural Big 12 team gave up 371.2 yards per game in conference play. Despite the setback, TCU still led the league in defense and coach Gary Patterson knows how to recruit fast, physical players like Devonte Fields and Jason Verrett – both All-Big 12 selections.
Verrett in particular is as talented a defensive back as you’ll find anywhere, last year accounting for 63 tackles and six interceptions as a starter. ESPN named him an All-American this season and after two games he looks the part with 14 tackles, four pass breakups and a sack. Verrett’s a dangerous guy, and Baker Mayfield needs to keep the ball as far away from him as possible.
Fields, fresh off a two-game suspension cut short by imminent defeat on Saturday, came out of nowhere as a freshman in 2012. In his first year of college football, Fields started all 13 games, accounted for 53 tackles, 10 sacks, 18.5 tackles for loss, and won AP Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors. At 6-4/240, he’s a future NFL talent with more upside than any defensive end in the conference.
TCU isn’t a powerhouse program, but they aren’t scrubs either. They can go toe-to-toe with most teams on either side of the ball and they proved it in week one by hanging tough with LSU for three quarters. Last year’s barn burner in Fort Worth was a fluke for both Tech’s offense and TCU’s defense; both teams finished 2012 scoring/giving up a lot less. This year’s matchup promises a defensive battle, at least to start the game.