FORT WORTH, Texas — TCU head coach Gary Patterson wasn’t exactly all smiles after his 17th-ranked Horned Frogs took down Virginia 27-7 Saturday at Amon G. Carter Stadium.
“Right now we’re 3-0 and I get to be happy for one more week,” said Patterson, whose team has the nation’s longest winning streak at 11.
If the Frogs continue to play defense like they did against the Cavaliers (2-2), Patterson may have a few more weeks of happiness awaiting him.
TCU fell just 4 minutes, 22 seconds shy of its second shutout of the season as it took advantage of four Virginia turnovers. TCU has allowed just one touchdown and 13 points in its first three games. TCU had problems on offense moving the ball and had untimely turnovers (two inside the Virginia 10-yard line) but the defense stood tall throughout the hot afternoon.
Virginia was limited to just 137 yards in the first half as the Frogs led 14-0. The Virginia touchdown late denied TCU a chance at consecutive shutouts to open the season at home for the first time since 1958.
It’s the kind of defensive performance the Frogs expect from themselves.
“The game plan is to hold them to zero points,” said linebacker Kenny Cain, who had a huge game with two interceptions and a fumble recovery. “We’ll settle for a field goal. I’m kind of upset they got a touchdown. That’s the first touchdown we’ve allowed in three games. We try to suffocate. We really don’t like to give up yards.”
It was the offense that got things going for TCU early. Quarterback Casey Pachall found Brandon Carter free over the middle of the field and Carter snared a high pass with one hand and scampered 68 yards for a touchdown to put the Frogs up 7-0 less than seven minutes into the game.
A fumble recovery by Cain early in the second quarter gave the Frogs the ball at the Virginia 42 and it took just seven plays for the Frogs to score again, this time with Pachall connected with Josh Boyce for a 6-yard touchdown. It was the 18th touchdown reception by Boyce, a school record.
That turned out to be all of the offense highlights for TCU until late though. Pachall was intercepted at the Virginia 3 on the next possession and Frogs had another scoring drive snuffed out in the fourth quarter when receiver Skye Dawson fumbled at the Virginia 2 and the ball went through the end zone, giving Virginia a touchback.
Pachall threw for 305 yards and added a late touchdown pass in the game’s final two minutes. But he knows the offense was lacking Saturday. That made the defensive effort stand out that much more.
“There’s always room for improvement, whether we blow them out 80-0 every game or we win by two points,” Pachall said. “There’s always going to be room for improvement with everything because we haven’t been perfect yet and we’ve had a lot of flaws that we needed to get fixed and we’re still improving, still working on the kinks.”
Patterson said the game wasn’t pretty but the final numbers weren’t bad.
TCU, which played 15 freshmen, rolled up 438 yards of offense and had 18 first downs. They did that struggling to get anything going on the ground. The Frogs played without primary running back Waymon James, who is out for the season.
Matthew Tucker ran for 52 yards but needed 15 carries to get there. Quarterback Trevone Boykin added 54, but 51 of those came on one run. He fumbled at the end of that play but the Frogs were fortunate to recover.
Carter had two one-handed grabs on his way to a 128-yard performance. But Patterson was quick to note that he was also called for an unsportsmanlike conduct after spiking the ball after he missed a catch.
Virginia finished with 353 yards but the Frogs stood tall when needed as they held the Cavaliers to 3 of 16 on third-down tries.
Were there blemishes for the Frogs Saturday? Yes. Was Patterson not happy with how everything went? Yes.
Does he like where his team is right now?
“If you told me were going to play 15 true freshmen and probably 12 more redshirt freshmen and some sophomores and we already played a Big 12 team and an ACC team already and we’re 3-0, we’ll take it,” Patterson said. “Somehow you’ve got to try to get bowl eligible somehow. The only way you can get to four wins is to get to three.”