FORT WORTH, Texas (AP)—Forget that TCU is getting ready to face a lower-division team in Portland State. Coach Gary Patterson wants the same thing from his 20th-ranked Horned Frogs no matter who they are playing.
More than three quarters here and there.
“We’ve got to get where we play a complete game as a group,” Patterson said. “The teams that can do that are usually smart and mature, and I’m not sure that we’re either to a total yet.”
TCU (2-1) is home Saturday to play Portland State (2-0), a Big Sky Conference team that has already matched its victory total from last season while piling up big rushing totals with its pistol offense.
In their home opener last weekend, the Frogs’ much-maligned defense gave up 17 points and 189 yards in the first quarter before holding Louisiana-Monroe scoreless with only 125 yards the final three quarters. TCU won 38-17 without scoring an offensive touchdown the last 25 minutes of the game.
“We haven’t played our best game yet,” linebacker Kris Gardner said. “We don’t want any 17 points given up in the first quarter. That’s not TCU defense.”
Asked for his grade of the defense, Patterson responded, “Probably somewhere between a C-minus and a D, for our standards.”
After leading the nation in total defense the past three seasons, the Frogs are 103rd out of 120 FBS teams, allowing an average of 431 total yards and 29 points.
“We’ve gotten better over the last two weeks,” Patterson said. “The key to the story is you judge everything at the end of the season, how you do it and how you go about things. So for us, you’ve got to keep growing up.”
And find a way to win three more games, and get to the midpoint of the season, before finally getting a break.
The Frogs are a decided favorite against Portland State, even though the Vikings are the best FCS rushing team with 348 yards a game. Senior running back Cory McCaffrey has already run for 291 yards and seven touchdowns.
“Where we’re at right now, we’re always the underdog,” said Nigel Burton, the 35-year-old Vikings coach in his second season. “I don’t think that affects our team. You prepare the same, focus on us and our execution and not worry about who’s across the line. And if we compete well and use proper technique and play hard, good things will happen.”
Portland State is 2-26 against FBS teams, the last victory coming in 2006 against New Mexico. But the Vikings are from the same league as Sacramento State, which opened this season with a 29-28 overtime victory at Pac-12 team Oregon State.
The Vikings haven’t won a conference title since 1992, and were only 9-24 in three seasons under former NFL and Super Bowl-winning coach Jerry Glanville before Burton took over.
After a 52-0 opening victory over Southern Oregon, Portland State never trailed in its Big Sky opener against Northern Arizona but had to block a field-goal attempt on the final play of last week’s game to win 31-29.
“I think our team has shown a good amount of resiliency,” Burton said. “There were things that happened in the last game that I think a year ago they may have folded or didn’t believe that they could have still pulled that game off against a very good opponent.”
For TCU, it’s another opponent with a different style of offense, and comes a week before playing SMU and coach June Jones’ prolific passing game.
TCU then posted a 35-19 win at Air Force and its vaunted option offense with three first-time starters on defense.
Now the Frogs get Louisiana-Monroe, which looks easy touchdowns on big plays.
“I’m not sure I’ve had a four-game stretch where people’s formations and everything they do on the board, goes the whole complete board and then (some),” Patterson said. “To a Portland State team that’s already scored 83 points, and they’re all over the place. … I’ll be glad to get to a place where they just throw the football and run the draw.”