The high hopes of the TCU Horned Frogs, now ranked 25th in the latest AP Poll, were all but dashed in the first week of the season, but the team has to bounce back quickly as it begins Mountain West Conference play this weekend against the Air Force Falcons in Colorado.
The Horned Frogs, who lost a couple of crucial pieces from some very successful teams the last few seasons, were expected to still be a contender to bust the BCS, but someone forgot to tell that to the Baylor Bears who snapped TCU's 25-game regular-season win streak with a massive 50-48 decision in Waco on Friday night. For a team to reach the half-century mark against the TCU defense is quite a feat considering the Frogs have led the nation in defense in each of the last three seasons and limited foes in 2010 to a mere 12.0 ppg, tops in the Football Bowl Subdivision. As a result of the setback, the Horned Frogs were nearly ushered out of the top-25, just holding on to the last spot for now.
The defeat snapped not only an 11-game road win streak for the Horned Frogs, an MWC record, but it also halted the team's overall win streak of 13 in a row which was second-longest in the nation between Auburn.
As for the Falcons, they too began their season last week, but unlike TCU they managed to secure a victory, a 37-20 win over South Dakota at home to be exact. With the triumph Air Force is riding a five-game win streak, tied for the longest such run under head coach Troy Calhoun.
The academy is set to open the new season with three straight home dates, with Tennessee State waiting in the wings on September 24 following a bye week. The first road game of 2011 doesn't take place until the first of October when the Falcons visit Navy in Annapolis for the first installment of the annual Commander-in-Chiefs series.
As far as the all-time series is concerned, TCU owns a 7-2-1 edge over the Falcons, with the Frogs winning three straight including a 38-7 romp last year in Fort Worth.
Baylor came out swinging against the Horned Frogs in the opener, scoring 34 points in the first half. For a defense that has been at the top of the charts for several years now, falling behind so far and so quick was nothing that head coach Gary Patterson was ready for and neither were his players.
"One of the things I was probably most disappointed in was we probably had 20 missed tackles on defense and if don't tackle well and you get the ball thrown over your head you're not going to play well."
The secondary was torched for a whopping 414 yards and six touchdowns, numbers that haven't been seen by TCU in quite some time. But not only did the secondary fail to lock up with receivers well enough, the front line and the linebackers were also exploited as they permitted 150 yards and a score on the ground as well.
Offensively, the Frogs knew this was going to be a challenge after quarterback Andy Dalton left for the NFL, yet Casey Pachall didn't shy away from the spotlight, instead hitting on 25-of-39 passes for 251 yards and four TDs in his first start. However, with the clock winding down in the fourth quarter and the Frogs needing to move the ball in short order, it was then that the new signal-caller was picked off and the threat of a comeback bid quashed.
"Definitely coming out of the gate we were very happy with Casey and how our offensive line held up and we need to keep improving both those areas," asserted coach Patterson.
Living up to the legacy of Dalton will be no easy trick for Pachall, but the bigger concern is how All-MWC linebacker Tank Carder will get his unit back on point. Carder finished with seven stops for the Horned Frogs, while Kevin White tallied eight tackles, two of which came behind the line of scrimmage. TCU finished with three TFLs, about half of what the group averaged a year ago when it was one of the most feared defenses in all the land.
Quarterback Tim Jefferson completed 4-of-9 passes for 96 yards and a touchdown, but he was also intercepted twice and sacked one time while operating the Air Force offense. To make up for those miscues Jefferson carried the ball 15 times for 69 yards and a pair of TDs, the team generating a lofty 391 yards and four scores on the ground.
Mikel Hunter not only produced 82 yards rushing and a score on just two carries, he also caught the lone TD pass from Jefferson as well. Jefferson became the eighth player in school history to pass for 3,000 yards, a feat that's rather significant given how much the Falcons dominate when keeping the ball on the ground.
From a defensive standpoint, the Falcons were a bit more shaky and gave the opposition far too many opportunities to keep the game close. In fact, the unit was on the field for close to 35 minutes as South Dakota converted 8- of-16 on third down plays. Alex Means did his best to slow down the visitors with a couple of sacks, as did Zach Payne, while Anthony Wright logged the 11th interception of his career, one of three picks on the day for the group.
As well as the Falcons played in their opener, coach Calhoun knows that one game does not a season make.
"We have an enormous amount of work to do. That's not a surprise...We've got to get where we're experienced. We've got to play that way. We've got a game under our belt, but yet we need more games within our intestines."