AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AP)—TCU’s biggest supporters last week were the Air Force Falcons.
Quarterback Tim Jefferson said he would have preferred if TCU’s BCS-best streak of 25 consecutive regular season wins hadn’t ended in a 50-48 loss at Baylor.
“I was pulling for TCU,” Jefferson said. “I was pulling for them because if they would have won that game, they wouldn’t be angry right now. They’re upset, you can believe that.”
And so are the Falcons.
They beat South Dakota 37-20 Saturday but fumbled four times, committed three turnovers and couldn’t put away the FCS Coyotes after going ahead by 30 points on their first drive after halftime.
“I have a feeling a lot of guys were probably looking ahead,” Jefferson said.
To the angry Horned Frogs, who were coming off an undefeated season that they capped with a Rose Bowl win over Wisconsin.
TCU slipped 11 spots to No. 25 in the rankings after their stunning loss at Waco, Texas, that ended their string of 11 straight wins on the road.
“TCU gave up 50 points and in Gary Patterson’s era, I don’t recall if that’s ever happened before,” Jefferson said. “So, one thing we know is Gary Patterson is going to have that defense locked and loaded. They’re going to be coming after us and it’s going to be a challenge.
“We were already going to have our hands full to begin with, but it’s going to be a dogfight.”
The Horned Frogs haven’t lost back-to-back games since 2007. They’ve won 17 straight Mountain West Conference games and 23 of 24 overall.
“We know they’re going to come in with fire,” Falcons defensive back Anthony Wright said. “They’re going to try to get that loss back and they’re going to take it to us.”
TCU doesn’t have four-year starter Andy Dalton at quarterback anymore, but his successor, Casey Pachall, was responsible for 34 points in his first start, throwing three TD passes, rushing for another score and adding a pair of 2-point conversions, one passing and one running.
“TCU lost their quarterback, Andy Dalton, but they didn’t really lose anything else,” Falcons defensive back Jon Davis said. “After seeing a little bit of the game yesterday, they still have capable guys on the offensive side of the ball.”
The Frogs have several new faces on defense, though.
“We’ve been tackling. We scrimmaged four times. The key is you have to be able to do it in a ballgame,” Patterson said. “I’ve always said that older and more mature players do a better job with takeaways and tackling because the game slows down. Younger players, or guys who haven’t played as much, don’t do that. We have to gain experience and do it a lot faster than what we did.
“We got better defensively as the night went on. I think a couple guys got a little shell-shocked because the game went a lot faster than what they thought it would. We were a lot better football team starting Sunday and coming in here for Tuesday practice than we were last week.”
Pachall threw for 251 yards on 25 completions in 39 attempts at Baylor and added 83 yards on nine keepers.
“Casey has been here for three years. He’s been here for three springs, three summers and he’s going on his third fall,” Patterson said. “Andy Dalton beat Baylor in his first start, 27-0. Then we went to Texas and scored 13 points. The next week we threw a couple interceptions at Air Force. The key to this thing is keeping it in perspective.
“Understand that what we do is still about winning ballgames and doing the things we need to do. Casey’s situation is no different than that. He needs to keep improving. He needs to understand what his role is and how he needs to do things.”
Since 1999, Air Force in 11-1 in league openers, and Jefferson can set a school record with his 23rd win as a starter Sunday.
Follow AP Sports Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton at twitter.com/arniestapleton