FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — TCU coach Gary Patterson is doing his best to keep everyone from looking ahead to a much-anticipated game in Week 3.
The message has at least gotten through to his players before the 16th-ranked Horned Frogs play their season opener Saturday against SWAC team Southern University.
“Our sole purpose is to come out this week with a good mindset, and come ready to play against Southern,” said senior defensive end Ben Banogu, the preseason Big 12 defensive player of the year. “That’s who we’ve been game planning for, and that’s the team we’ve been looking to play. We’ll take one week at a time. This week is Southern.”
After that, the Frogs still have a Friday night game at nearby former Southwest Conference rival SMU before playing No. 5 Ohio State.
TCU has won 16 consecutive home openers, and Patterson wants to extend that against a Southern team that was 7-4 last year.
“We’ve taken them very seriously, kind of like South Dakota State two years ago, of understanding the kind of team that you’re going to have to go play,” said Patterson, who is going into his 18th full season as head coach. “And they’re going to have some athletes on their team.”
Still, the Frogs are a Big 12 team with speedy receivers and strong backs around new starting quarterback Shawn Robinson , who won his only start last season when TCU finished 11-3 and played in the Big 12 championship game. They also have a stellar defense.
While the Frogs were tied 24-all at halftime in the 2016 opener before beating FCS playoff team South Dakota State 59-41, they are starting at home against a SWAC team for the third time in seven seasons. The previous two, Jackson State and Grambling State, didn’t score a point.
Even with two games before then, Patterson was asked this week his reaction to Ohio State coach Urban Meyer being suspended three games by his university. The Buckeyes will still be without Meyer when they play TCU on Sept. 15 at the home of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys.
“I haven’t really even thought about Ohio State,” Patterson said. “I’ve got Southern and then I have SMU.”
While the Frogs were getting ready this week to start another season, four of their senior offensive linemen from last year were in NFL camps. But after the loss of all that talent and experience, Patterson called the offensive line the biggest surprise of preseason practice.
“They’ve been playing a lot better,” Patterson said. “The starting five, we’ve been really happy with them. … I think we’ve come a long way from where we were in the spring.”
Robinson led TCU to a win at Texas Tech last November, when he became the first true freshman to start at quarterback in Patterson’s time as head coach. Robinson was filling in that day for banged-up Kenny Hill, now back on campus finishing his degree and working as a student coach. Robinson was tabbed as the starter two weeks before the opener after an extended competition in the spring and first part of preseason practice with Michael Collins, a former Penn transfer who is also a sophomore.
The Horned Frogs last lost a home opener in 2001, Patterson’s first home game as head coach. That was a 27-24 overtime loss to FCS team Northwestern State — the same school that lost 59-7 at Texas A&M on Thursday night. TCU has since won 11 consecutive games against FCS opponents, including 56-0 over SWAC team Grambling State in 2012 and 63-0 over Jackson State in last year’s opener.
HOME (STATE) FOR A WHILE
Ten of TCU’s regular season games are in the state of Texas. The Frogs don’t play outside the Lone Star State until their Oct. 27 game at Kansas, their eighth game of the season. Two weeks after that, they go to West Virginia.
TCU players will wear stickers on their helmets honoring Davey O’Brien on the day the school will commemorate the 80th anniversary of O’Brien winning the 1938 Heisman Trophy. That was also the season the Frogs won their only AP national championship.
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