After one week — and it is only one week — TCU has the nation’s second-ranked defense.
That’s because the Horned Frogs gave up only 65 yards to Jackson State last week in a 63-0 victory.
Jackson State is not on the same level as TCU, and tougher tests are on the way, starting on Saturday at Arkansas.
But holding any team under 100 yards does not happen by accident, nor does it happen every year. The last time TCU allowed so few yards was 2009, when Northern Illinois finished with 60 yards against the Horned Frogs in the Poinsettia Bowl.
Does that kind of stat line, no matter who it came against, signal something about a defense?
“To be honest with you, I didn’t even look at the yardage,” coach Gary Patterson said Tuesday at his weekly press conference. “I didn’t know about it until the next morning. Mine was more, see how we played, the amount of guys we played, and don’t get hurt, and win.”
TCU has produced the nation’s top defense, as measured in yards allowed by the NCAA, five times.
In the Big 12, it has become tougher for the Frogs to make a run at another national crown in defense. Since 2010, when TCU last led the nation in defense, the top defenses have belonged to Alabama in 2011, Alabama again in 2012, Louisville, Clemson, Boston College and a tie between Alabama and Michigan last year.
On average, those teams faced 62.7 plays per game.
In five years in the Big 12, starting in 2012, TCU has faced an average of 73.5 plays per game.
But Saturday night against Jackson State, the Frogs had to defend only 56 snaps.
Yes, Jackson State was a lesser opponent. But the snap count makes a difference.
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“That’s one of the things we wanted to make sure we did, is we wanted to shorten the game,” Patterson said.
TCU scored twice in two plays, once in three plays and once in five plays. Another touchdown came via linebacker Arico Evans’ fumble return, so that actually meant the defense went right back out for another series in the third quarter.
Still, it meant less than 60 plays on defense for TCU, which forced eight three-and-outs.
“Do I think we’re better than we were a year ago? I think we have a chance to be a lot better than a year ago,” Patterson said. “How much better? We’ll see.”
The Frogs still want to play fast. But Patterson has never forgotten the correlation between plays faced and yards allowed.
“If they’re scoring, I don’t care how fast they go,” he said of the offense. “If they’re not scoring, then we need to slow down. It’s kind of like, you don’t care how much you spend as long as you’re making it. If you’re not making it, then you need to quit spending it. And I’d prefer just not spend it, in either direction.”
TCU at Arkansas
2:30 p.m. Saturday, KTVT/11