STEPHEN HAWKINS, AP Sports Writer
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Southeastern Louisiana coach Ron Roberts is realistic about the tough challenge his FCS team faces at 24th-ranked TCU.
Still, the Lions’ odds might have been better if there hadn’t been so many upsets on the opening weekend. Eight FCS teams beat higher-division FBS teams, with Kansas State and Iowa State of the Big 12 among those going down.
“That kind of really (messed up) our opportunity to sneak up on them,” Roberts chuckled.
It also didn’t help that TCU had to play SEC power LSU, and lost by 10 points in its season opener.
TCU (0-1) plays its home opener Saturday against SLU (1-0) in what was originally supposed to be the 2013 season opener for both teams.
As for sneaking up on the Horned Frogs, Roberts knows better than that.
Coach Gary Patterson is in his 13th season and is TCU’s winningest coach. And long before the Frogs were a two-time BCS buster and a Big 12 member, they lost their first home game in 2001 under Patterson — in overtime to Northwestern State, another FCS squad from Louisiana.
“I always talk about it,” Patterson said. “For me, the biggest thing for us is understand they all count one. … This is one of those games where you want to go play well.”
Here are five things to watch when SLU plays at TCU, a game that first was set for a week earlier before the Horned Frogs and LSU replaced their home-and-home series by playing in the season-opening Cowboys Classic.
NO QB QUANDRY: Even though TCU used both senior Casey Pachall and sophomore Trevone Boykin in the 37-27 loss to LSU, including both quarterbacks being on the field for the first two plays, Patterson said Pachall is the starter. “There’s not a quarterback controversy,” Patterson said. “Casey is the older guy and will keep it unless there’s a definite show that one’s better than the other doing the things we need to do.” The Frogs had only 109 yards on 24 plays after Pachall threw an interception to end the first drive after halftime, and the more dual-threat Boykin then played much of the second half.
RUN, SLU, RUN: In their season-opening 45-7 victory over Southeast Missouri, the Lions ran for 309 yards. It was their highest rushing total since the program was brought back before the 2003 season after an 18-year hiatus. Bryan Bennett, a transfer from Oregon in his SLU debut, ran 12 times for 106 yards and three touchdowns, becoming the first Lions quarterback since 1977 to run for more than 100 yards in a game. The Lions also have a talented trio of sophomore running backs.
FIELDS ON THE FIELD?: TCU sophomore DE Devonte Fields, the reigning Big 12 defensive player of the year, was dressed but didn’t play against LSU while serving the first game of a two-game suspension for an unspecified violation of university or team policy during the offseason. Patterson said this week, when Fields was listed as the starter on the depth chart, that “No matter what, he will serve a two-game suspension.” But could the second game come at a later time, or in a different form — such as a half each in two separate games? Patterson wasn’t saying, but did indicate that there were concerns about Fields getting a chance to get acclimated to playing again before the Big 12 opener at Texas Tech.
QUICK TURNAROUND: Only five days after playing SLU, the Horned Frogs open their Big 12 schedule with a Thursday night game at Texas Tech. It is the first time since 2008 that TCU has such a short turnaround between games. They will get an extended break after that, with their final nonconference game coming 16 days later, Sept. 28 at home against SMU.
TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS: Since that forgettable home debut for Patterson, the Horned Frogs are 58-10 at home — even after losing all four of their Big 12 home games last season. They also have played six non-FBS teams since Northwestern State kicked a 19-yard field goal in overtime and blocked a potential game-tying kick. TCU has won those non-FBS games by an average margin of 47 points, including a 56-0 victory last season over Grambling State, yet another Louisiana team.
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