TCU has to hope things go a lot better than last year following this early season departure of Casey Pachall.
With the senior quarterback gone for the foreseeable future, the 24th-ranked Horned Frogs must rely on experienced but mostly unsuccessful sophomore Trevone Boykin for the start of Big 12 play Thursday night against Texas Tech in Lubbock.
Boykin’s counterpart has had much less playing time, but walk-on freshman Baker Mayfield has performed much like current coach Kliff Kingsbury did as a star quarterback for the Red Raiders more than a decade ago. Mayfield has thrown for 780 yards - third-most in the FBS - and a conference-high seven touchdowns with no interceptions and a 71.1 completion percentage.
However, this will easily be Mayfield’s toughest test following wins over mid-major foe SMU and FCS program Stephen F. Austin.
Then again, TCU (1-1) didn’t look all that great Saturday against an FCS opponent, leading by three at halftime before beating Southeastern Louisiana 38-17.
“We didn’t play to our level of ability,” Boykin said. “… We have to do way better next week against Texas Tech.”
Pachall led two touchdown drives - Boykin caught three passes on them - before injuring his non-throwing arm on a running play in the second quarter. He underwent surgery later in the day for a fractured bone, leaving him out indefinitely and unable to play for multiple games.
Pachall threw 25 touchdown passes in 2011 and had 10 last season as the Horned Frogs opened 4-0 and reached No. 15 in the AP poll. He was arrested the following week for suspicion of DUI, resulting in a team suspension, and would miss the rest of the season after leaving school for substance abuse treatment.
TCU went 3-6 without him. Boykin started those games and finished as the third-lowest rated passer in the Big 12.
He split snaps with Pachall in a season-opening 37-27 loss to then-No. 12 LSU before coming on in relief Saturday, when Boykin completed 9 of 13 passes for 133 yards and two scores.
“When he’s in there I feel as comfortable as I do with Casey, and everybody on the team feels the same way,” running back B.J. Catalon said. “(Boykin) can make plays with his feet and throw the ball.”
Boykin ran for 35 yards on five attempts Saturday. In nine starts last year, however, he averaged 32.8 yards on 12.7 carries per game. He finished the season with 10 fumbles, losing three, and 10 interceptions while throwing for 15 TDs.
“He just makes some plays with his legs that Casey hasn’t, but Casey makes some plays with his arm that Trevone doesn’t do,” coach Gary Patterson said. “But it’s two weeks in a row he came in and did some good things.”
Mayfield also is a two-dimensional quarterback, unlike the many gunslingers Texas Tech (2-0) has employed, as he’s rushed for 114 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries.
It remains unclear when presumed starter Michael Brewer will return from a back issue, though Mayfield may be locking up the permanent job.
“Anytime you have a true freshman in a new system who didn’t get here too long ago come in and move the ball like he’s moved it, that’s exciting,” Kingsbury said. “Hopefully, he’ll just keep getting better.”
Mayfield faces a TCU defense which could be much tougher if reigning Big 12 defensive player of the year Devonte Fields plays the whole game. A sophomore defensive end who had 10 sacks last year, Fields received a two-game suspension for an unspecified violation of team or university policy, and he still has half a game left on it after being allowed to play the final two quarters Saturday.
The Horned Frogs allowed three points in that span after giving up 51 through their first six quarters.
“It was real good just to see him out there and the pressure that we’re going to be able to get with him in there,” senior cornerback Jason Verrett said. “I’m happy that he’s back.”
Texas Tech has a 29-23-3 lead over its former Southwest Conference rival. The teams had a memorable first meeting as Big 12 foes last year, with the Red Raiders winning 56-53 in triple overtime. Boykin threw for a career-best 332 yards and four TDs.