FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — TCU coach Gary Patterson clearly was exaggerating when he said his 15th-ranked Horned Frogs have to improve on defense or risk giving up 1,000 yards and 1,000 points to Arkansas this weekend.
Still, that sent a message to his players after the struggles against FCS team South Dakota State in a 59-41 season-opening victory that dropped them two spots in the latest Top 25 poll .
“Coach P is really good at challenging us, making us feel like any time we’re underperforming we need to do better,” defensive end James McFarland said Tuesday. “When he says stuff like that, we just feel like, ‘OK, well how can we not allow that to happen.’ … Going forward, I feel pretty confident.”
Patterson, in his 16th season as TCU’s head coach, still oversees the defense and calls the plays on that side of the ball like he did as coordinator for three seasons. He said he didn’t do a very good job getting his players lined up against the Jackrabbits.
Next up for TCU (1-0) is Saturday night’s home game against former Southwest Conference rival Arkansas (1-0). This will be their first meeting since 1991, the Razorbacks’ last season before moving to the SEC.
South Dakota State piled up 461 total yards at TCU and the game was still tied until midway through the third quarter. Oklahoma, Texas Tech and SMU were the only Frogs opponents last season to gain more yards.
The Jackrabbits surprised TCU, one of the Big 12’s best defenses, with what they did on offense.
“We only saw about 10 percent of what we worked on,” Patterson said Tuesday, giving them credit for what they did.
“The thing that was probably was the most disappointing, we just didn’t tackle very well. We acted like we were surprised,” he said. “As I told them on the sidelines, if they went into this ball game thinking they were going to throw a shutout, they were (wrong). The key is you go into a ballgame trying to win and see how it turns out.”
While the tackling was an issue, the Frogs were pretty basic with what they were doing defensively and not putting much on film for the scouting purposes of Arkansas and other upcoming FBS opponents.
Patterson said he probably played Travin Howard too much in the opener after the junior linebacker hadn’t practiced very much. Strong safety Denzel Johnson had also been out for some time and like Howard “didn’t play up to the level they had played up to here.”
Cornerback Ranthony Texada is also getting back to form after playing only three games last season before a knee injury. McFarland, TCU’s leader in sacks in 2014, missed all of last season with a broken toe.
“Just by watching Sunday’s practice, I will tell you if they weren’t listening to me, they’re listening to me now after they got a chance to watch film,” Patterson said. “I expect them to play better than what we did in the first ballgame. … We’re going to have to get better doing the things that we need to do.”