TCU grabbed its first win against a Big 12 opponent as a member of the conference last week, but this week the 17th- ranked Horned Frogs will welcome the Virginia Cavaliers of the ACC to Amon G. Carter Stadium for a non-conference clash.
After opening the season 2-0, Virginia was brought down to Earth last weekend as the Cavaliers were routed 56-20 on the road against Georgia Tech. It was a difficult loss for the Cavaliers who are coming off an 8-5 season in which they made a bowl appearance. Part of that success came from a 4-1 mark on the road.
Last week Kansas welcomed TCU into the Big 12 and the Horned Frogs were able to win, pulling out a 20-6 decision despite struggling on offense.
"Everybody said, 'When you go into the Big 12, you have to play your best ball game every day to win games," head coach Gary Patterson said, "I'm not sure if we did that."
The margin of victory was particularly surprising considering the Horned Frogs posted a 56-0 win against Grambling State and were playing a Kansas team that won only two games all of last season. Still the win extended the Horned Frogs' winning streak to 10 games, which is the best such streak in the nation.
Virginia has never faced TCU in Fort Worth with the only two previous meetings coming on the road for the Horned Frogs. Those two contests were split with the Frogs taking a 30-14 win in the 2009 season-opener and the Cavaliers posting a 20-10 win in the 1994 Independence Bowl.
As an offense Virginia has been near the middle of the ACC in production this season. The Cavaliers are sixth in total offense (379 ypg) and seventh in scoring (26.7 ppg). Those numbers took a dip after the performance against Georgia Tech last weekend. Virginia managed only 297 total yards in the game and scored 13 of their 20 points in the fourth quarter when the outcome of the game was all but decided.
Starting quarterback Michael Rocco struggled against the Yellow Jackets, completing only 15-of-25 passes for 143 yards, while being intercepted twice. Backup Phillip Sims directed some series in the second half to moderate success by completing 6-of-8 attempts for 56 yards and two touchdowns.
Kevin Parks turned in the most productive day on offense with 87 all-purpose yards in the game. He led the team in both rushing (53 yards) and receiving (34 yards).
If the offense was bad, the defense was worse in the loss. The Cavaliers gave up 594 total yards in the loss, 461 yards on the ground and seven rushing TDs.
Virginia is now ranked near the bottom of the ACC in scoring defense (30.3, 9th) and total defense (407.7 ypg). The team's struggles were not unique to the matchup with Georgia Tech as the Cavaliers have given up huge chunks of yards all season long, including a conference-worst 868 passing yards.
Anthony Harris led the team with eight total tackles against Georgia Tech but the Cavaliers really struggled to get into the backfield and slow the Yellow Jackets ground attack. Jake Snyder recorded a sack in the game, to go with seven tackles, which was the only tackle for loss recorded by the Cavaliers in the game.
TCU has played only two games this season making their offensive totals seem small but the per-game numbers are strong. The Horned Frogs are averaging 38 points and 509 yards per game so far. However in the Big 12, a conference with some lethal passing offenses, the Horned Frogs are ranked third to last in scoring and seventh in total offense.
Those offensive numbers were largely influenced by the matchup with Kansas. The Horned Frogs still piled up 487 yards of total offense but four turnovers and a 3-for-7 effort in the red zone kept TCU from putting up a more decisive victory. The Horned Frogs also struggled on third down with a 2-for-10 conversion rate.
"We came out a little flat,"quarterback Casey Pachall said. "We were just shooting ourselves in the foot. We felt like they couldn't stop us, but at the same time, we were stopping ourselves."
Pachall himself was not flat in the game, completing 24-of-30 passes for 335 yards and a touchdown. Pachall has now completed 84.6 percent of his pass attempts this season. By completing his first five passes against Kansas, Pachall set a TCU record with 16 consecutive completions dating back to the 2011 Poinsettia Bowl.
Brandon Carter was able to find openings in the Kansas defense all day, catching eight balls for 141 yards and two scores, while Waymon James came just a yard short of 100 yards rushing on 12 carries.
Under Gary Patterson, TCU has been a team known for defense and that hasn't seemed to change with a shift to the Big 12. Against Kansas, despite giving up 380 yards of offense,. the Horned Frogs only gave up two field goals by constantly getting off the field on third down. In the game Kansas converted only 2-of-13 chances on third down and failed to score a touchdown on three red zone trips. Joel Hasley led the team with a career-high 12 tackles, including a pair of sacks.
Through two games TCU is the top team in the Big 12 in scoring defense (3.0 ppg) and second in total defense (225 ypg).