Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

College Sports

September 21, 2012

TCU in same category with Virginia 3 years later

FORT WORTH, Texas —  Games against ACC teams like Virginia used to provide an opportunity for TCU to prove itself against the big boys.

And the Horned Frogs usually did just that.

When the Frogs opened the season three years ago winning at Virginia, then won two weeks later at Clemson, they were on their way to an undefeated regular season and busting into the BCS from a non-automatic qualifying conference.

Now with the Cavaliers heading to Fort Worth for the first time Saturday, 17th-ranked TCU is a Big 12 Conference newcomer. And the Frogs (2-0) have won an FBS-best 10 games in a row after winning their first league game last week.

“We just have to play the same, be the same people,” running back Matthew Tucker said. “Play hard and physical.”

In a league that boasts four of the nation’s top 15 teams — all on their schedule in consecutive weeks at the end of the regular season — the Horned Frogs know things are going to get much different later than they used to after these early-season tests.

“We’re trying to get through nonconference schedule,” coach Gary Patterson said. “It just keeps getting tougher.”

After Virginia (2-1), the Frogs have a three-week stretch in which they go on the road to play SMU and Baylor, the only teams they lost to last year, with their first Big 12 home conference game sandwiched in between those.

“TCU, when you really look at them, they’re a great team, and all the stuff that they’ve done in the past few years, and their reputation is that they fight,” said tight end Zach Swanson, one of only two Cavaliers from Texas. “They’ve been underdogs, with the BCS things, and I admire them because they’re a hard working team. I like their coaching staff and I like the way their players play the game.”

Virginia is playing in the Lone Star State for only the third time, the first since a 1995 loss at Texas — 18 years after another game against the Longhorns.

TCU is coming off a 20-6 win at Kansas, when the Frogs overcame four fumbles — three inside the 20, two of those inside the 10.

The Cavaliers lost 56-20 at Georgia Tech, which with its triple-option running game rolled up 461 yards rushing, 276 by halftime.

“A lot of players on the team have a fire under them now because we were tested and a lot of players, they think that they didn’t play good,” Virginia defensive end Ausar Walcott said. “A lot of players have taken ownership of the team by telling each other and telling themselves that it’s on us. It not on the coaches. The coaches had nothing to do with the way we played physically and things like that.”

That loss came a week after Virginia also won a game with four turnovers, three in the red zone and all four inside its 30 — just like TCU at Kansas.

Virginia’s mistake-filled victory was 17-16 over Penn State, which was held to minus-14 yards after getting the turnovers. Penn State also missed four field goal attempts, including a 20-yarder, and an extra point.

TCU, which hasn’t given up a touchdown this season, has won 27 of its last 28 home games. The Frogs have won the last 17 home games by an average margin of 36 points, including 56-0 over FCS team Grambling State in their home opener two weeks ago.

The Horned Frogs offense took a hit this week with the loss of leading rusher Waymon James to a season-ending left knee injury apparently sustained late in the Kansas game. But Tucker has 27 career touchdowns, and like James ran for more than 700 yards last season.

Casey Pachall, the junior and second-year starter who replaced Andy Dalton, leads the nation in passing efficiency. He has completed 33 of 39 passes for 536 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions.

“We just want to show everybody that we can compete at a high level,” said safety Anthony Harris, Virginia’s leading tackler. “I think it’ll be a good opportunity to bounce back from this week.”

 

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