Fort Worth, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - The TCU Horned Frogs, ranked fourth in the latest AP poll, continue to press for national recognition as they close out the 2014 regular season on Saturday versus fellow Big 12 Conference member, the Iowa State Cyclones.
Tied with both sixth-ranked Baylor and ninth-ranked Kansas State (facing off against each other later in the day) at the top of the Big 12 standings with a record of 7-1, the Horned Frogs are aiming to claim the conference crown. Since losing a wild shootout against the Bears in Waco the second week of October, 61-58, TCU has rattled off six straight victories.
The latest win for the Frogs came on Nov. 27 in a lopsided 48-10 final versus Texas. The team has now reached 10 wins in a season for the fifth time in the last seven seasons and ninth time in 13 campaigns under Gary Patterson.
As for the Cyclones, they are the ones who have been blown away by the competition, winning a total of just two games against the likes of Iowa (20-17) and Toledo (37-30). Since the victory versus the Rockets on the same day that TCU fell to Baylor, Iowa State has dropped five straight outings. The latest of those failed attempts came last weekend versus West Virginia, 37-24, at home, dropping ISU to 0-8 in conference play this season.
In terms of the all-time series between these two programs, TCU has won four of the previous five matchups. In Big 12 meetings, they've split a pair of contests, with Iowa State posting a 37-23 victory over the Frogs in 2012, while TCU rebounded with a 21-17 decision in Ames last season.
At home against the enigmatic Mountaineers, Iowa State led 21-7 in the second quarter before everything fell apart and eventually the Cyclones absorbed the double-digit setback. The hosts ran 11 more plays than WVU, but generated only 410 yards of offense, compared to 570 for the Mountaineers.
Quarterback Sam Richardson converted 26-of-50 passes for 275 yards and two touchdowns, but he was also intercepted twice and sacked three times. Tad Ecby and Aaron Wimberly both caught TD passes and the latter also scored once on the ground as he posted a team-best 77 rushing yards.
"They brought some different pressures," said Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads of the WVU defense. "When you are looking at a team that has three down linemen and the ability to bring multiple blitzes from a lot of different places, you identify your protection and set everything. We were good to a point and they adjusted to that, and then we had to adjust at halftime to compensate for that."
Defensively, against a backup quarterback the Cyclones were unable to come up with even a single sack and had just two tackles for loss overall, as well as two fumble recoveries in the setback.
Sacks have been a rarity for the most part this season for the Cyclones, although Cory Morrissey seems to have gotten the hang of it with six such tackles, while the rest of the roster has combined for only eight sacks. Opponents have rung up twice as many sacks (28) over the 11 games played.
Surrendering 511.4 ypg, ranking the program 120th in the nation this week, it should come as little surprise that ISU is 113th in the FBS in points allowed as well at 37.4 ppg.
Trying to balance the scales is Richardson with his 57.9 percent accuracy and 251.7 ypg through the air. He has tossed 18 touchdowns against eight interceptions, with his most productive target being E.J. Bibbs with eight TDs on 45 catches through 10 appearances, but he is still listed as questionable for this weekend due to a knee injury.
In front of an announced crowd of more than 96,000, the Horned Frogs completely dominated Texas as they extended their streak of consecutive games scoring at least 30 points to 13 in a row, the longest run in the nation. All phases of the game got involved in the scoring for TCU, beginning with quarterback Trevone Boykin who threw for two touchdowns and ran for another as the visitors pulled away in the fourth quarter with four TDs.
"With the tradition that they have here (in Texas), it's big for us," Boykin said of the statement win. "We have the chance to prove ourselves, and we try to do that every time we go out there."
During that final period, Josh Carraway returned an interception 33 yards for a TD, the second defensive score by the program on the night after Terrell Lathan brought back a fumble 40 yards for a score as well. Early on in the meeting the TCU offense stalled prematurely, and kicker Jaden Oberkrom came to the rescue with field goals of 42 and 29 yards.
The Frogs forced six turnovers in the contest, with two interceptions coming from Sam Carter, while Marcus Mallet caused some major disruptions with 3.5 TFL and a forced fumble.
"I don't know if it set the tone or not but we knew, get on and off, give our offense more opportunities," Carter said of the forced turnovers. "Those guys can score at any time, so the more times they get the ball, the better they are."
Heading into action this week, the Horned Frogs are ranked second in the nation in turnover margin at plus-1.64 and all of those positive miscues have helped the offense to reach 46.1 ppg, third-best in the FBS. The defense may not carry the same hallmark as previous Patterson groups, in terms of yards allowed (370.7 ypg, 45th) and passing yards permitted (250.6 ypg, 92nd), but having a dominant offense helps to cover up those deficiencies.
However, when it counts the most, the Frogs are there to shut down foes, allowing them to convert on just 29.6 percent of their third-down attempts. TCU is also 11th in the country in allowing first downs, so while there may be yards to earn against the Horned Frogs, the team still minimizes the impact as well as any squad in the country.