With Casey Pachall at quarterback and Joel Halsey anchoring a stout defense, TCU’s first season as a member of the Big 12 has been successful so far.
Looking to extend the nation’s longest winning streak to 11 games, No. 17 TCU welcomes Virginia to Fort Worth on Saturday.
TCU was one of several schools in recent years to shift conferences. In 2011, the Horned Frogs left the Mountain West for an invitation from the Big East, but they never played a game in that league and instead joined the Big 12, which offered the opportunity to forge more regional rivalries.
The Horned Frogs (2-0) won their conference debut last week, a sloppy 20-6 victory over Kansas. Pachall overcame making three fumbles deep in Jayhawks territory by going 24 of 30 for 335 yards and two touchdowns to Brandon Carter, who had eight catches for a career-best 141 yards.
“We just have to get our minds right,” Pachall said. “We know how well we can perform and that wasn’t our normal way of performing.”
A second-team selection as a sophomore in the MWC last year, Pachall has completed 33 of 39 passes (84.2 percent) with five touchdowns and no interceptions this season.
TCU’s defense’s has also performed quite well, giving up just 450 total yards and two field goals in 2012. Halsey was named the Big 12’s defensive player of the week Monday after the linebacker made a career-high 12 tackles with two sacks against Kansas.
Virginia (2-1) comes off its worst defensive effort since 1999 after falling 56-20 to Georgia Tech last Saturday. Waiting for that beleaguered unit is Pachall, the nation’s leader in pass efficiency (242.4).
“We know (Pachall is) a talented guy, but we’ve got to go out there and just show we’re ready,” Virginia safety Anthony Harris said.
Virginia, though, won’t have to deal with TCU leading rusher Waymon James, who will miss the rest of the season because of a knee injury. He ran 17 times for 168 yards and a score after leading the Horned Frogs with 875 yards last year.
The Cavaliers have dropped 17 of their last 20 regular-season road games against Top 25 teams, but they defeated then-No. 23 Florida State 14-13 in Tallahassee last Nov. 19. Virginia hasn’t had consecutive road wins against ranked teams since beating Virginia Tech on Nov. 28, 1998, and BYU on Sept. 25, 1999.
TCU, meanwhile, has won 27 of its last 28 at Amon G. Carter Stadium.
The Cavaliers have one of the weaker offenses in the ACC, having totaled 37 points in their last two games after scoring 43 in a season-opening win over Richmond.
Michael Rocco was 15 of 25 for 143 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions versus the Yellow Jackets. With the game well out of reach, backup Phillip Sims – a transfer from Alabama – came on in the fourth quarter and was 6 of 8 for 56 yards with two scores.
Despite Sims’ success, Cavaliers coach Mike London said Rocco would start.
“There’s no quarterback controversy with us,” London said. “It is what it is. Michael is our starting quarterback. … We’ll continue in this fashion. It’s important that Michael plays well.”
Rocco is sixth in the ACC with 712 passing yards but has thrown only four touchdowns with three picks. In limited action over three games, Sims is 13 of 17 for 111 yards with two TDs and no interceptions.
Saturday’s game will be the third between TCU and Virginia. The Cavaliers won in the 1994 Independence Bowl before TCU opened its 2009 season with a 30-14 win in Charlottesville.