Game Scout: TCU at Oklahoma State

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange


KICKOFF: Saturday, 12 p.m. ET
GAMEDATE: 10/19/13
SITE: Boone Pickens Stadium, Stillwater, Okla.
TV: FOX
SERIES: TCU is 9-12-2 against Oklahoma State. The Horned Frogs raced to a 14-0 lead before surrendering three turnovers and the last 36 points. Among primary skill contributors for the Cowboys, the only returnee this season is WR Josh Stewart, who had six receptions for 120 yards last year. Stewart leads the OSU receivers this year.
AP RANKINGS: TCU unranked, Oklahoma State No. 21

KEYS TO THE GAME
Slow starts can be a disaster in the Big 12.
TCU has not yet been able to get untracked early, scoring just 37 first-half points during a 3-3 start, which includes a 1-2 mark in conference play.
With a road trip to Oklahoma State looming on Oct. 19, the Horned Frogs are well aware of the fire they are playing with when they cannot create a spark of their own.
"We have to start faster," said TCU coach Gary Patterson, "and we need to play and we can't turn the ball over."
TCU overcame five turnovers to pull out a 27-17 victory against Kansas on Oct. 12, using a strong defense to limit the Jayhawks to 198 total yards.
Of course, Kansas fields the worst offense in the Big 12, which makes it possible to survive a poor start. Doing so against more explosive league rivals is much more difficult, a problem the Horned Frogs experienced when they were blanked in the first half at both Texas Tech and Oklahoma.
Some of the problems rest with Trevone Boykin, a sophomore quarterback who was thrust into the starting role for a second straight season after Casey Pachall suffered a broken arm. Boykin has the overall skills to become a dangerous contributor, but thus far he has lacked confidence in his throwing abilities and often been inaccurate. At other times, receivers have dropped balls.
"You've got guys open, you've got to hit him," Patterson lamented. "(Kansas) put six in the box to try to take away the run, and we've got to be able to beat some people with things in the throwing game."
Most opportunities the Horned Frogs have been presented have not been converted. They average just 189.8 yards per game passing and rank last in the pass-happy Big 12. TCU also ranks near the bottom of the conference stats in total offense (331.2 yards per game) and scoring offense (27.8 ppg). An opportunistic defense, which has snagged a league-best 10 interceptions, often provides short fields.
Yet as problems build trying to mount offense, some trepidation tends to set in. TCU, remember, failed to record a first down in the first half of the Oklahoma loss, going three and out on its first seven possessions.
"Some of it is we need to quit pressing. Instead of trying to get eight yards if you're only going to get five, get down so we don't turn the ball over," Patterson said. "There's a bunch of good people in that (offense) that are trying to have great years. They need to get a little bit more confidence back for us to build on and to get back to playing the way we can play."
The first opportunity comes at Oklahoma State, which has not yet produced eye-popping numbers offensively while starting 4-1, including a 1-1 mark in the Big 12. The Cowboys also elevated a backup, J.W. Walsh, into the starting quarterback slot. Walsh, like Boykin, can be dangerous on his feet, but inconsistent passing the football.
One intriguing development will be turnovers. TCU is tied for first in the Big 12 with 15 takeaways, while Oklahoma State is tied for first in the Big 12 with five giveaways. The Cowboys' plus-seven margin leads the league.
An unusual Big 12 scheduling quirk forces TCU to travel to Oklahoma State for a second straight season. The Horned Frogs fell 36-14 in last year's matchup, yet Patterson is most concerned about the Cowboys coming off a bye week.
"You have to get used to it," said Patterson, "but I do believe anybody who has more time is going to have more advantage."
A productive ground game is key to the Cowboys moving as efficiently as possible.
That was taken away in a surprising Sept. 28 loss at West Virginia. Oklahoma State managed just 111 yards rushing on 40 carries. Most alarming was the output of Jeremy Smith. The starting running back gained a mere 1 yard on 15 attempts.
Conceding that his performance was an "embarrassment," Smith vowed to re-establish himself as a tough-nosed runner. Why, early in his career, Smith was the short-yardage back who would spell Kendall Hunter or Joseph Randle in goal-line situations. Smith responded by scoring touchdowns in 10 consecutive games bridging the 2010 and 2011 seasons.
"It's always just a one-cut game," Smith told The Oklahoman. "Sometimes we lose focus of that. We just try to think too much and try to do too much. You can't let that happen."
In an Oct. 5 victory against Kansas State, Smith bounced back for 56 yards on 11 carries. Included was a 16-yard touchdown burst to cap Oklahoma State's game-winning drive.
Still, the Cowboys' production on the ground remains a concern. They gained just 85 yards on 25 attempts against Kansas State, and only totaled 330 yards while capitalizing on five turnovers by the Wildcats.
It could be that Oklahoma State (4-1, 1-1 Big 12) will find it difficult to move the ball again on Oct. 12 when it plays host to TCU (3-3, 1-2). The Horned Frogs rank second in the conference with a 328-yard defensive average while forcing a league-best 15 turnovers. In Big 12 play, TCU is allowing a league-best 19 points per game.
The matchup will mark the second time Oklahoma State has come off a bye. The first time, it fell 30-21 at West Virginia after the Mountaineers were coming off a 37-0 loss to Maryland.
"We might not have been fully prepared mentally," linebacker Caleb Lavey told the Tulsa World. "We had the game plan down, but we should have pushed ourselves a little bit harder. I think that's what we'll do is hold each other accountable a little bit more and try to get each other as prepared as we can for TCU."

PLAYERS TO WATCH
Horned Frogs
--WR David Porter produced the first 100-yard output by a TCU receiver with four catches for 118 yards in the Oct. 12 victory against Kansas. Porter blazed for a 75-yard touchdown. Coupled with a 45-yard catch at Oklahoma, Porter has the longest gains in each of TCU's last two games. Porter is roommates with QB Trevone Boykin, who threw both those long passes.
--LB Paul Dawson made the most of his start. The junior-college transfer recorded 17 tackles in the Kansas win. The last Horned Frog to record that many tackles was Jonathan Anderson in 2011 as a weak safety. Anderson has since moved to linebacker and was the player Dawson, a running back in high school, replaced in the starting lineup.
--S Derrick Kindred has yet to make a start for TCU, though cracking the Horned Frogs' secondary is tough. Kindred still contributes in coverage packages, recording 24 stops to rank sixth on the team. He has four tackles for loss, an interception and two breakups. He also recovered a pooched kickoff in the Oklahoma defeat.

Cowboys
--WR Jhajuan Scales is establishing himself as a potential breakout receiver. He ranks second among the Cowboys with 19 receptions for 250 yards and a touchdown. Scales is one of several newcomers Oklahoma State has introduced to its receiving corps. Others include true freshman Marcell Ateman (11-108) and sophomore Brandon Shepherd (8-115). Fifteen different Cowboys have caught passes, including 11 wideouts.
--WR/PR Josh Stewart remains the Oklahoma State receiving leader after enjoying a 1,000-yard season a year ago. Stewart also poses a threat on special teams, returning a punt 67 yards for a touchdown against Lamar and adding a 41-yard return in that win. Three Oklahoma State teammates, Justin Gilbert, Desmond Roland and Zack Craig, also have kick returns for touchdowns during their careers.
--DE Tyler Johnson, a senior, has benefitted from strong teammates on the interior to take advantage of opportunities off the edge. Johnson has five tackles for loss, including three sacks, among his 22 tackles. He also has forced a fumble. Credit tackles James Castleman and Calvin Barnett for the attention they attract inside.