Texas Longhorns at TCU Horned Frogs: Complete Game Preview
The Texas Longhorns look to continue an undefeated streak in conference play, but that task will not be easy when the Longhorns head to Fort Worth to take on the TCU Horned Frogs. Don't let TCU's record fool you, the Horned Frogs will put up a solid fight against the Longhorns.
Texas will once again rely on backup quarterback Case McCoy to lead the charge against TCU. After McCoy's performance in the Cotton Bowl against Oklahoma, the concern surrounding McCoy's talent is much lower than it previously was. The concern Mack Brown has for Saturday's game does not have to do with who is starting at quarterback. Rather, if Texas' confidence from beating Oklahoma will hurt the Longhorns chances against the Horned Frogs.
"I was happy we did not play last weekend," Mack Brown said Monday. "I thought they (the team) were really full of themselves."
Can Texas put its cockiness aside to continue its undefeated Big 12 run? Let's take a look.
When: Saturday, October 26, 7:30 p.m. ET
Where: Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, Texas
TV: Fox Sports 1
Austin radio: KVET 98.1/1300
Fort Worth radio: WBAP 96.7/820; KTCU 88.7; Univision 1270 (Spanish)
SiriusXM satellite radio: XM 117; Sirius 202; Internet 969; Spanish 970
Spread: TCU (-1.5), per VegasInsider.com
Last meeting: November 22, 2012 Darrell K. Royal Texas Memorial Stadium
Last outcome: TCU 20, No. 18 Texas 13
Texas Longhorns Keys to Victory
Run the Ball
Texas' talent at running back rivals some of the best backfields in the country. Since 2012, Texas is 11-2 when the offense runs the ball more than 50 percent of the time compared to a 2-4 record when the offense calls less than 50 percent running plays.
In other words: Run, Texas! Run!
TCU's defense leads the Big 12 in rushing defense, but until an opponent can stop the Longhorns run, Texas needs to focus its game plan around the ground game.
Contain the Horned Frogs Running Game
The Horned Frogs offense has been wildly inconsistent under sophomore quarterback Trevone Boykin. But TCU's ability to run the football is one of its biggest, and quite possibly its only, offensive weapon.
Running back B.J. Catalon has been the most consistent offensive player for the Horned Frogs, averaging 5.2 yards per carry and rushing for five touchdowns. Catalon also poses a threat on kick returns, averaging 26.9 yards per return and had a 100-yard kick return for a touchdown against LSU. Texas' kickoff return defense is allowing its opponents to average 28 yards per return, ranking the unit No. 120 out of 123 NCAA kickoff return defenses.
Even though Boykin has been inconsistent, his running ability was a key component in the Horned Frogs 20-13 win over the Longhorns last season. Texas has showed signs of progress against the run since Greg Robinson took control of the defense. But replacing the defensive coordinator does not change the fact the Texas defensive players surrendered 550 yards rushing to BYU. One could only assume Texas' opponents will continue to test the Longhorns run defense.
TCU Horned Frogs Key to Victory
Stop the Run
If Texas plans to mimic its game plan around the offense's performance against Oklahoma, TCU's run defense will need to stop the Longhorns ground attack. Running backs Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown both rushed for more than 100 yards against the Sooners and will look to replicate that performance against the Horned Frogs.
The good news for TCU is it leads the Big 12 in rushing defense, allowing its opponents to average 115.3 yards on the ground. If the Horned Frogs can contain the Longhorns run game and force Case McCoy to throw the ball, TCU could come out on top of Texas.
Contain the Texas Defensive Line and Avoid Penalties
One of the main reasons TCU's offense has been so inconsistent is because it has been getting eaten alive by its opponents' defenses. The Horned Frogs offense has allowed 15 sacks, which places TCU eighth in the Big 12 in sacks allowed.
In addition to the lack of protection for Boykin, TCU's offense is responsible for 32 of the Horned Frogs 49 penalties this season. In the loss to Texas Tech, the Horned Frogs offense was penalized nine times for 65 yards compared to the team total of 13 penalties for 115 yards. If TCU's offense does not avoid penalties, it will not be successful in its five remaining Big 12 games.
Texas Players to Watch
Running back/wide receiver Daje Johnson
Running back/wide receiver Daje Johnson has proven to be a difference maker for Texas. Johnson's 75-yard punt return for a touchdown against the Sooners was one of the biggest shifts of momentum for the Longhorns. Johnson is averaging 87.8 total yards per game this season and has scored in every game where he was targeted more than five times.
Running back Johnathan Gray
Johnathan Gray has gradually progressed into one of the most impactful players on the Texas offense. Gray is averaging 93.7 rushing yards per game and has put up more than 100 yards in wins over Kansas State and Oklahoma. Gray will once again be put to the test Saturday when he faces TCU's solid defense.
TCU Players to Watch
Linebacker Paul Dawson
Paul Dawson has only started two games this season, but starts obviously do not matter for the junior linebacker. Dawson combined for 24 tackles in his first two starts of 2013, and he will have the opportunity to add to those numbers against a run-heavy Texas offense.
Running back B.J. Catalon
Sophomore running back B.J. Catalon leads the Horned Frogs in all purpose yards (118.7) and will likely be called upon to carry the load against the Longhorns. Texas' run defense ranks last in the Big 12, allowing 228 yards per game on the ground. Catalon will undoubtedly test the progress of the Longhorns inconsistent run defense Saturday.
What They're Saying
Texas head coach Mack Brown
"[TCU] may be the best run defense in our league. It's going to be a running offense against a run-stopping defense. Their numbers are phenomenal. They held SMU to 16 yards rushing. They held Kansas to 46 yards rushing. They held Oklahoma State, who can run the ball well, to 95 yards rushing.
"This matchup is a great time for us because we talked about who we wanted to be and we were that team against Oklahoma. Now we have to see if we can do it again. They know we're going to run it and they're going to try to stop it. Last year they did, we had 86 yards rushing and they had 277 yards rushing.
"They have a great defense. I think Gary Patterson does it as well as anyone else in the country and it has been that way every year. Their question marks have been on offense, but have never been on defense."
TCU head coach Gary Patterson, via Gofrogs.cstv.com
We have our hands full with a very talented Texas team. Coach (Mack) Brown is always complimentary of us, but the bottom line is they've been playing really well, getting their confidence back and doing the things they need to do. We have to find a way to win. We've got to do a better job on offense in the first half. Obviously, we need to start faster to win ball games and then you have to finish.
Texas cornerback Carrington Byndom on TCU's offensive struggles, via Texassports.com
I think they're just inconsistent at times. That can really hurt you. With their defense playing so good, they've been in a lot of ball games but just haven't been able to produce on offense. I think they're steadily trying to find ways to turn that around. At times they look good, at times they don't. We just have to make sure and prepare for their best. We know we're going to get it. I know they're definitely going to bring it this week.
TCU safety Elisha Olabode on Texas' talent
"They're an all around good team. Good receivers, great running backs, a great o-line and good quarterback play. They're not the same Texas team people thought they were. They're fast. They're physical. They're starting to get their swag back."
Texas defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat on motivation gained from TCU beating Texas last year, via Texassports.com
That definitely fuels our fire. It was on Thanksgiving, at our house. We're very motivated to go out there and get a win. It's the next conference opponent. This is their second year in our conference. We're excited to go up there. They got that new stadium, so none of us have played up there yet.
TCU safety Sam Carter on what makes Texas' offense dangerous
"Everything. They receivers are great. The running backs are running hard. Case (McCoy) is playing with the most confidence than probably any other quarterback in the Big 12 right now."
Prediction: Burnt Orange Upset
As of Tuesday, Texas will enter Fort Worth as an underdog, but the Longhorns seem to embrace that role. When asked why 4-2 Texas is not favored to beat 3-4 TCU, quarterback Case McCoy joked, "Probably because I'm the quarterback."
Favorites aside, if Texas can mimic the performance it put up against Oklahoma, expect to see a Burnt Orange upset over the Horned Frogs.
Prediction: Texas 24, TCU 20
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.
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