TCU became a program known around the nation on the back of a dominating defense and a willingness to play anybody, anywhere.
The Frogs are back to their roots. On the strength of an incredible defensive performance, TCU went into Arkansas and out-muscled the Razorbacks to a 28-7 victory.
"I've been saying all offseason we had to get back to being physical," TCU coach Gary Patterson said. "We practiced awfully physical during our scrimmages and two-a-days. Obviously, Arkansas is historically a really good running game, but our kids were physical."
Arkansas averaged 164 rushing yards and 428 total yards a game a year ago. TCU held Arkansas to just 129 rushing yards and 267 total yards Saturday. The Razorbacks' lone score came on a play-action, 49-yard pass in the first quarter, but mustered just 133 yards the rest of the game.
"We played eight or nine guys on the defensive line. It was important for us to be able to do that because we knew we needed to make plays in the fourth quarter," Patterson said. "We rotated three corners, a couple safeties, three or four linebackers. The less series' other teams get the more chances we have to be successful."
Arkansas was just four-of-14 on third-down attempts and didn't score either chance in the red zone thanks to a pair of missed field goals. The Frogs were led defensively by Ben Banogu, who had seven tackles, a sack and forced a fumble on Arkansas' first possession.
"I told my team I had studied how their tackle had been pass blocking and that I was going to go get the ball and they just needed to fall on it," Banogu said. "I didn't think it would happen that early, but it was good to set the tone."
While TCU didn't recover that fumble, it brought up a fourth-down punt that gave TCU the ball at the Arkansas 45-yard line. Kenny Hill completed four passes to get inside the 10-yard line and on second-and-goal he tried to run it in for a touchdown. He came up short and his helmet came off, forcing freshman Shawn Robinson into the game.
Robinson didn't line up at quarterback though. Sewo Olonilua checked into the game in the backfield and after dancing to the music playing in the stadium during the time out, sidestepped into the end zone untouched for the game's first score.
"That wasn't just for Arkansas," Patterson said about Olonilua in the "wild frog" package. "That's something we started working on back in the spring.
Olonilua lined up in the same package at the end of the game and scored from 13 yards out for the game's final touchdown with 2:04 left in the fourth quarter.
"That didn't even make sense," Hill said of Olonilua's second touchdown. "He ran power for 20 yards or whatever it was. That was unreal."
TCU's stable of running backs, Olonilua, Darius Anderson and Kyle Hicks combined for 164 yards and four touchdowns. Hicks got his first action of the season and scored his first touchdown from four yards out in the second quarter. Anderson sealed the win for the Frogs with a 14-yard score with 2:18 to play.
"They are a quarterback's best friend," Hill said of his running backs.
Patterson said his team had to be physical running the ball on offense and not just stopping the run on defense.
"We started that direction getting physical running the ball and we think we have good running backs and an offensive line that can rotate," Patterson said.
Anderson got the bulk of the work with 15 carries for 106 yards. Hicks had 12 carries for 44 yards and Olonilua had just the two carries, but both were for touchdowns.
"It was just a lot of hard work in practice and the rotation. Each back can carry the load," Anderson said. "Coach splits the reps evenly in practice so we all get the ball."
Hill completed 21 of 31 passes for 166 yards, but had an interception. He also ran for 41 yards.
Patterson and his players said they didn't think at all about last season's overtime loss at home to Arkansas, a game in which TCU appeared snakebitten with a fumble in the red zone, a pick-six and a blocked would-be game-winning field goal. The Frogs had a few mistakes in this game with a fumble inside the Arkansas 10-yard line, a dropped touchdown pass and the Hill interception, but none of them came back to hurt TCU.
"Those mistakes are like getting hung up on during a blind date, you can't do anything about it so move on to the next one," Patterson said. "We didn't come here to think about last year, we came here to win."
TCU (2-0) will move on to the next one against SMU (1-0) at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at home.