TCU-Air Force Preview
TCU's regular-season winning streak is gone and so is its chance for a second straight undefeated season. Air Force quarterback Tim Jefferson wishes that wasn't the case.
In a matchup of the teams expected to battle for the conference title, the 25th-ranked Horned Frogs and Air Force will meet for the final time in Mountain West play Saturday at Falcon Stadium.
While a 21-19 Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin on New Year's Day capped a 13-0 season and lifted TCU into the No. 2 spot in the final poll, those results won't help coach Gary Patterson's team in 2011.
The Horned Frogs had their nation-best 25-game regular-season winning streak snapped last Friday at Baylor, falling 50-48. TCU hasn't dropped two straight since Sept. 8-13, 2007.
"I told them not to feel sorry for themselves. Our guys aren't looking up for sympathy," Patterson said. "We're not one of those kinds of programs. We're not a program that gets moral victories. That's not what TCU does."
The Falcons are not about to overlook the two-time defending conference champs, who have won 17 straight in Mountain West play.
"I was pulling for TCU (against Baylor)," Jefferson said after rushing for 69 yards and two touchdowns in last Saturday's 37-20 victory over South Dakota. "I was pulling for them because if they would have won that game, they wouldn't be angry right now. They're upset, you can believe that."
The Horned Frogs are missing six starters from a defense that led the FBS in average yards (228.5) and points (12.0) allowed last season. TCU surrendered 564 yards last Friday - the most since giving up 614 in a 51-50 overtime victory at BYU on Sept. 24, 2005.
"I'm used to winning and stopping people," Patterson said.
The Horned Frogs, who held Air Force - second in the FBS in 2010 with 306.5 rushing yards per game - to 184 in a 38-7 victory in Fort Worth on Oct. 23, could have their hands full with Jefferson and the Falcons' triple-option offense.
Air Force piled up 391 yards on the ground with four TDs against the Coyotes, with Asher Clark running for a team-best 97. Mikel Hunter also provided a boost with an 80-yard reverse for a touchdown 16 seconds into the game - Air Force's longest score in 13 seasons - but the Falcons know they'll have to finish stronger after allowing 13 unanswered fourth-quarter points.
"We can't have that kind of stuff against TCU or they're going to put a lot more points up on the board than what South Dakota did," senior defensive back Jon Davis said.
Casey Pachall has plenty of work in front of him to come close to Andy Dalton's accomplishments at TCU, but the sophomore quarterback could help the Horned Frogs put up plenty of points this season after completing 25 of 39 passes for 251 yards and four TDs last week in his first career start.
Pachall, who also carried nine times for 23 yards and a score, threw TD passes to tight end Logan Brock (41 yards and two scores), Josh Boyce (nine receptions, 96 yards) and David Porter to help TCU rally from 24 down in the fourth quarter and take a 48-47 lead.
"He ... executed and played like he started 25 or 30 games," Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said. "I think he has an absolute beyond NFL-caliber arm, very good mobility."
The Falcons' defense will also have to key on the trio of Waymon James, Matthew Tucker and Ed Wesley, who ran for 143 yards on 24 carries.
Wesley, a junior, rushed for a career-best 209 yards and two TDs in the Oct. 23 win.
TCU is 5-1 against the Falcons since joining the Mountain West in 2005, with the lone defeat coming in overtime at Air Force on Sept. 13, 2007.