From The Sports Network
By Gregg Xenakes, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: With one of the toughest games on their schedule already out of the way, the fourth-ranked TCU Horned Frogs now focus their attention on the Golden Eagles of Tennessee Tech in a non-conference showdown at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth.
TCU, which lost to Boise State in the postseason to close out the 2009 campaign, opened up 2010 with a fight against nationally-ranked Oregon State and took care of the Beavers with a 30-21 final at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington last Saturday.
"For us, you've heard me say it, it was a like a blind date," commented TCU head coach Gary Patterson after the hard-fought victory. "You don't know what you're going to get...What a great game to play in. I tell ya, if there's a stadium better to play in than this one, as far as the crowd, and all the things that go along with it, I want to know what it is. Because this was awesome."
As for the Golden Eagles, they too were locked up with a nationally-ranked squad in the first week of the season, but in their case the outcome was much different as they fell hard to Arkansas by a final of 44-3 in Fayetteville. Granted, Tech did score the first points of the game, but from the second quarter on the Razorbacks ripped apart the visitors as expected.
"We're leaving a better team than when we came here," remarked Tech head coach Watson Brown. "When you come and play a team that good, in a hostile atmosphere you can't do anything but get better."
In 2009 the Golden Eagles kicked off with a 51-10 thrashing of Pikeville College, so clearly the team bit off more than it could chew by scheduling back-to-back games against nationally-ranked programs to begin 2010. The only true test the team encountered last year was when Kansas State ripped them apart in a 49-7 final in Manhattan.
This game marks the first-ever meeting between these two schools on the gridiron.
A 27-yard field goal by Matthew Barker in the first quarter of Saturday's game may have given the Golden Eagles some reason to believe they could compete against Arkansas, but that was before the Hogs really dialed up their offense and scored 44 unanswered points between the second and third quarters before calling off the dogs. Tre Lamb converted 6-of-13 passes as the quarterback for Tech, leading to 99 yards, but he was also sacked twice and that took the team's overall rushing total down to a mere 79 yards on 43 attempts. Cass Barnes, who converted his one pass attempt for nine yards, topped the team with 31 rushing yards on eight carries.
Sure, the Tech defense may have been feeling good through the first 15 minutes of action, but that was before the Razorbacks broke through and completely demolished the Eagles with 196 yards and three touchdowns on the ground and another 323 yards and three scores through the air. Sandwiched in between a couple of interceptions made by Richmond Tooley and Dustin Dillehay, the defense allowed five straight touchdowns by the Hogs.
Dillehay played a huge role for the Tennessee Tech defense a year ago when he ranked first on the unit with 78 tackles and was also tied for the team lead with three interceptions, which he returned for a combined 70 yards. Tooley was also a player to be reckoned with in 2009 with his three picks and team- leading 12 passes defended and nine breakups, but most of those numbers came against teams that are far from the caliber of TCU and the rest of the schools at the FBS level.
Last season, Dontay Gay led the Golden Eagles in rushing with 556 yards and scored six times on an even 100 carries, yet the team moved away from him for some reason in the opener this time around and he was credited with a mere 15 yards on seven carries.
"We fought hard the whole game," said quarterback Andy Dalton of TCU's victory over Oregon State in the opener. "We knew all we had to do was win by one. We came out and played really hard. We never got too down and we never got too high. We kept fighting. We do whatever it takes to win."
Dalton, who is now first on the all-time wins list as a starting quarterback for the Horned Frogs with 30, was certainly not going to let his teammates down as he converted 17-of-27 passes for 175 yards and a touchdown, but was also picked off two times and sacked once, which played into the team needing to hang on. With less than a minute to play in the third quarter, Dalton used his feet to get into the end zone on a four-yard bolt to the left side of the end zone. The TD run was the second of the game for Dalton, who is one of the more complete players in the Mountain West Conference again this season.
Running back Ed Wesley also played a significant role in the win as he registered 134 yards and a score on 17 carries, nearly doubling the output of OSU which tallied just 73 yards on the ground.
Finding a replacement for Jerry Hughes, one of the most dominating defenders in the MWC the last couple of years, won't be easy but Wayne Daniels may have already assumed that place on the TCU defense after coming up with two sacks, three total tackles for loss and a forced fumble in the opener.
"We have a lot more to prove," said Daniels after the victory. "We can be a little bit better than we were tonight. We just have to keep working and getting better."
Coach Patterson isn't about to let the Horned Frogs relax and feel good about their win in the opener because the team ran the table in 2009 and ended up getting beaten by a determined Boise State squad in the postseason. The defense will be asked to make big things happen for TCU, just as it did last year when it ranked first among all 120 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision with a mere 239.7 ypg allowed. The group may not have been the best at stopping plays in the backfield last season, placing 31st in sacks (2.46 per game) and 50th in TFLs (5.92), but rarely did opponents gain huge yardage because there was always someone there to greet them.
Dalton may not bet the most productive passer in the MWC, but at least he can hit his marks when called upon. Better still, Dalton's ability to gain yards on his own means opponents have to plan for such action and rarely do they make the right decisions on coverage with a group that placed fifth in the nation last season with almost 240 ypg on the ground. There may be a few new faces coming out of the backfield on offense for the Frogs, but they are all cut from the same cloth and will cause opponents like Tennessee Tech to be stretched to their limits.
The Horned Frogs, who have the second-longest active home win streak in the MWC at 14 in a row, have to be careful of a letdown in this meeting. However, a lot would have to go right for Tennessee Tech in order for the visitors to be in the same neighborhood on the scoreboard once the final gun sounds.