By STEPHEN HAWKINS AP Sports Writer
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Taye Barber and his TCU teammates have been together on campus for more than three months, and now jump right into Big 12 play after having their only non-conference game wiped out because of the pandemic.
“Everybody has been itching to get back on the field,” said Barber, a junior receiver. “Everybody has the motivation to play football again.”
Iowa State (0-1) certainly feels the same way, though it has only been two weeks between games for the Cyclones, and not 10 months like for TCU. The Cyclones were in the Top 25 before a 31-14 home loss to Louisiana Lafayette, one of the three Sun Belt Conference teams with road wins over the Big 12 in season openers.
Saturday’s game will be the delayed opener of Gary Patterson’s 20th season as head coach of the Horned Frogs.
“One advantage a TCU team has is Gary Patterson has been there for 20 years and there is real continuity to the defensive staff, and great continuity on the offense staff,” Iowa State coach Matt Campbell said. “The other piece of it is who is their personnel. … That’s probably the biggest unknown, the who, as much or more so as the what.”
TCU’s scheduled game Sept. 11 against SMU was postponed after a cluster of Horned Frogs players and staff tested positive for the novel coronavirus more than a week before that.
Asked this week what he liked most about his team, Patterson said he’d know a lot more about the young group once it played a game.
“We’ve worked hard. I think we have a good young chemistry group,” Patterson said. “One of the things you have when you have small senior classes you don’t have overall leadership. We have a lot of freshmen, redshirt freshmen and sophomores, and when that happens it’s always different.”
Emari Demercado is the only of the five running backs listed on TCU’s depth chart who isn’t a freshman, and the junior with 289 career rushing yards is expected to start. Zach Evans, the first five-star recruit ever to sign with TCU, is among the freshmen, but was listed below the other three on the depth chart.
“It’s a young group that I think it’s going to grow, that’s going to become really good by the end of the season,” Patterson said. “The story is they’re talented, the other side of the story is they’re all young.”
TRANSFER OVER RETURNER
Iowa native Max Duggan started TCU’s final 10 games at quarterback as a freshman last season, but missed significant practice time after a previously undetected lifelong heart condition was revealed during enhanced testing protocols this summer.
Patterson said Matt Downing, who redshirted last season at TCU after limited snaps in four games as a walk-on freshman at Georgia in 2018, will start. Duggan, who threw for 2,077 yards with 15 touchdowns and ran for 555 yards and six more TDs, is also available to play.
“I don’t know how much that would change them one way or another in terms of schematic and what they would do,” Campbell said. “(Duggan) is a young man who has gotten better and better and better as the season went on. We all know he’s going to have a really bright future in this conference.”
Brock Purdy is 14-9 as Iowa State’s quarterback, but against Lafayette was only 16-of-35 passing for 145 yards, the junior’s second-fewest yards in a game as a starter. In a 49-24 win over TCU last year, he threw for 247 yards and two touchdowns, and ran for 102 yards and two more scores.
UNDONE BY BIG PLAYS
While the Ragin’ Cajuns had only 272 total yards against Iowa State, they had touchdowns on a 95-yard kickoff return, a 78-yard pass and an 83-yard punt return. The Cyclones hadn’t allowed a punt return for a touchdown since 2013.
IN THE CROWD
The normal capacity of Amon G. Carter Stadium is around 48,000, but will be limited to about 12,000 for the opener. That will include some donors who for the first time will be able to watch a game from new suites and club seating. Construction delays kept that luxury area from opening as planned last season.