FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas travels to face 15th-ranked TCU on Saturday evening in both teams’ second games of the season.
To help preview the game, TCU beat writer Carlos Mendez of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram joined SEC Country’s Arkansas podcast this week.
What follows is a cutdown version of that conversation.
Q: What’s the level of concern among TCU people right now after they struggled against South Dakota State in the opener?
A: Well, it’s Gary Patterson’s pride and joy, the defense. That’s what they’re nursing right now because I think everybody’s pride got a little bit smacked by those 41 points. That’s a lot of points, and the funny thing for TCU is that’s the same amount of points they’ve given up now in back-to-back games. Remember, Oregon put 41 on them in the Alamo Bowl.
It’s been a while since Gary Patterson’s defense has been a true Gary Patterson defense. Last year, they had so many injuries that it was hard to have those dominant kind of games, but they really thought they might get back to something closer to that this year.
Has the move toward a more up-tempo, spread offense had an adverse effect on the TCU defense the last few years?
Maybe. Maybe. I know that’s one of the things Patterson considered when he was thinking about the switch to the offense. His defense would now start practicing against the Air Raid, which would mean facing a lot more plays. Just needing a lot more bodies, more people who could run and go downfield. … Maybe that had something to do with it, but in the Big 12, you’re just facing more plays. You’re facing better athletes than you used to. You know, you’re facing all these coaches who specialize in putting up points. I think that’s had an effect.
Has TCU been able to really diagnose what happened in the game, and is it quickly fixable?
Patterson laid out a case to us at his media luncheon and even after the game. He said South Dakota State really game-planned them pretty good. They had a lot of the SMU-style game plan, a lot of motion, throwing to the tight end. And they had a real NFL-quality-type player in Jake Wieneke, that 6-4 receiver. He really made some plays.
No. 2 is that three of (TCU’s) best guys really didn’t practice a lot in fall camp. He’s talking about a linebacker, his leading tackler, Travin Howard. He’s talking about his cornerback, Ranthony Texada, and a safety, his best safety, Denzel Johnson. They all had things that kept them out of fall camp. In fact, Travin Howard had an emergency appendectomy the first day of camp, so he missed two weeks.
What are the overall expectations for this team?
I think the expectations are to be in the conversation come November, come those first (playoff) rankings. To go into December, into the last week of the season, with a chance to be one of those four. … I think that’s a reasonable goal for Patterson and for the program. You spent two years ago being in the conversation the whole way. Last year, you started 8-0 and were part of that mix. I think you want to stay in that mix every year that you’re able.
This year, with such an experienced defense and the talent you’ve assembled, a lot of playmakers at receiver, a couple nice running backs, and now you’ve got a quarterback that you think can be good … I think that’s your goal. I think you can reasonably expect to be a team that is no loss or one loss several weeks into the season, into November.