AMES, Iowa — Democrats and Republicans. Khakis and a cut-off. Michigan and punting. Some things that just don’t work well together. Add the Texas Christian defense in the early going, on the road, to that mix.
“We have to quit playing tentative when we go on the road. We might be the worst first quarter defense in college football right now,” said TCU head coach Gary Patterson. “After that, they seem to wake up.”
The game may have started at dusk, but by the time the second quarter rolled around, the night sky had engulfed Jack Trice Stadium. The day and night difference was equivalent to the TCU defensive performance in the first quarter versus the rest of the contest.
After one quarter, it had the makings of an old Western shootout. Iowa State led TCU, 21-14, each team recorded nine first downs, and the Cyclones outgained the Horned Frogs, 262-209.
Then TCU stepped on the gas and never looked back, racking up 621 total yards of offense.
“I liked the way the defense fought back, threw a shutout in the second half. And that might be the formula of what I have to do. I can’t just play base defense,” Patterson said.
Along with being shutout, Iowa State only managed 199 total offensive yards in the second through fourth quarters. Meanwhile, the TCU offense continued their rhythmic, high-tempo pace to run away with a 45-21 victory. It was the Horned Frogs 15th-straight win, a school record.
“We played how we’re supposed to,” said TCU junior defensive end Josh Carraway, who recorded a fumble recovery and six total tackles, including a sack. “In the second half, people were doing their jobs.”
On the first ISU drive of the second quarter, TCU junior safety Denzel Johnson was ejected for targeting. As unnecessary a personal foul as it was, it may have provided just enough of a spark to get the Horned Frogs defense going.
Trevone Boykin and the TCU offense, meanwhile, never needed a jolt. They looked smooth as silk from the get-go. After the Cyclones scored on the opening drive, which was aided by a gutsy fake punt call by head coach Paul Rhoads that went for 21 yards, the Horned Frogs responded just 46 seconds later.
KaVontae Turpin provided a 60-yard kickoff return to set up the TCU offense, which needed only three plays, including two Boykin to Josh Doctson connections, before finding the end zone.
“Trying to put the best offense out there every drive,” Doctson said. “Our job is to score, whether or not the defense gets a stop. Whatever it takes.”
Boykin looked crisp all game long, throwing tight spirals and fitting the ball in small windows. He finished 27-of-32 for 436 yards and four touchdowns, outstanding numbers against a team he should light up. Let’s not forget Boykin as a ground threat where he added 74 yards on 13 carries and a touchdown. Heisman performance?
“He’s been playing this way, really, all year,” said Patterson.
On the outside, TCU pitted matchup nightmares in Doctson and Kolby Listenbee for the Cyclones secondary, especially safeties Darian Cotton and Kamari Cotton-Moya. Doctson left early in the first half after getting the wind knocked out of him and also received a shot for pain in his hip, but returned to torch the Iowa State defense to the tune of 10 receptions for 190 yards and two touchdowns.
After sustaining an injury earlier in the year against SMU and missing the previous three games, Listenbee returned to complement Doctson and provide a deep-play threat. He snagged six passes for 101 yards and a touchdown.
“Up to this point, nothing has been easy, nothing has been handed to us,” said Boykin. “We’ve got people’s best swing.”
All they’ve done is swing back and push their record to 7-0. The next challenge comes after a bye week, a time which Patterson said will be used to get healthy. His players said differently, however, that there are no days off with Coach P and that they will prepare as if they have a game this week.
What Patterson called “the most important four games” on the schedule all resulted in wins, but that doesn’t mean it gets easier. It’s a dog-eat-dog world in the Big 12 and that won’t change when the West Virginia Mountaineers visit Fort Worth for a Thursday night contest on October 29.
Zach Sepanik is a Masters graduate of Oklahoma's Gaylord College of Journalism & Mass Communications ('15). He co-founded GamedayU, an on-site pregame show that travels to every OU football game. Sepanik joined the Pick Six Previews staff in February 2014, covers the Big 12, and travels to marquee games throughout the season.
Follow him at @ZachSepanik on Twitter.