STEPHEN HAWKINS, AP Sports Writer
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Something is very familiar for No. 25 TCU, even with all those changes on offense.
The Horned Frogs are dominating on defense like they have so often under Gary Patterson, who was their demanding defensive coordinator before becoming head coach nearly 14 years ago.
“I think it’s the same old coach. He wants to be the best defense in the nation,” senior safety Sam Carter said Tuesday. “We get the same thing every day. … Nothing’s changed. He’s still intense, wants perfection.”
TCU (3-0), back in the rankings this week for the first time since early last season, is second nationally allowing only 219 total yards and seven points per game. Opponents are averaging only 2.1 yards per rush and have completed less than half of their passes against the Frogs.
While Patterson hired new co-offensive coordinators last offseason to install a spread scheme more like what was prevalent in the Big 12, there were no wholesale changes on the defensive side he still oversees. There have been some defensive adjustments for TCU since moving to the offensive-friendly Big 12 two years ago, but this year’s defense is a unit that has matured with experience.
“I like a coach who always challenges you,” senior defensive tackle Chucky Hunter. “Whenever you feel like you been settled or been satisfied, you haven’t satisfied yourself to the very top to be the best you can be.”
Hunter and Carter were among nine returning defensive starters from last season from a team that led the Big 12 in rushing defense (131 yards per game) and ranked second in total defense at 356 yards per game (24th nationally).
“I think we’re getting back in our groove,” Patterson said.
TCU is coming off a 56-0 win at SMU, which followed an opening stretch when the Frogs had a bye week after each of their first two games — including a 30-7 win over Minnesota, which last weekend won at Michigan. They play the first of consecutive top 10 opponents Saturday at home in their Big 12 opener against fourth-ranked Oklahoma (4-0, 1-0 Big 12).
“The biggest thing defensively, when you can run and you can stay healthy, and one of the things having off, we were able to do that,” Patterson said. “Our kids are up to the challenge.”
Over the past 14 seasons, including Patterson’s last as defensive coordinator in 2000 before replacing former boss Dennis Franchione, TCU has finished as the national leader in total defense five times. The only team to lead in that category more since the NCAA started tracking statistics in 1937 is Alabama six times.
TCU is also one of only three teams to lead the nation in total defense three years in a row, from 2008-10.
In their first Big 12 season in 2012, the Frogs led the league allowing only 324 total yards a game, even with only one senior on the depth chart while facing five of the country’s top-13 ranked offenses.
After Oklahoma this weekend, TCU travels to seventh-ranked Baylor (4-0, 1-0) to face the nation’s top offense.
“Same, great defensively,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops immediately said this week when asked for a scouting report on the Frogs. “Very sound, disciplined defense that Gary’s had for such a long time there.”