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After two games, TCU hasn’t eased many concerns on defense

Yes, the celebration penalty hurt. No, the field goal shouldn’t have been blocked. Maybe it would have been better to go for two and take a nine-point lead with two minutes left.

Those factors and more added up in TCU’s two-overtime loss to Arkansas last week.

But coach Gary Patterson shrugged.

The last two minutes and overtime came down to his defense, and his defense didn’t deliver.

We should have played better defense. We should have kept them from going down the field.

TCU coach Gary Patterson on the end of the Arkansas game

“We should have played better defense. We should have kept them from going down the field,” he said.

Instead, for a second consecutive week, the defense wound up with big numbers against it. The Horned Frogs rank 98th out of 128 teams in total defense and are tied for 119th in scoring defense as they head into their first Big 12 game, Saturday’s 11 a.m. home kickoff against Iowa State.

The South Dakota State performance was chalked up to first-game jitters. But the Arkansas game, with changes at linebacker and safety, didn’t go very far in easing concerns.

“I think what our problem’s been defensively has been we had a lot of safeties out in two-a-days,” Patterson said. “We’re not playing as well there as we have been up front.”

TCU ranks 98th out of 128 teams in total defense and is tied with Arkansas State for 119th in the country in scoring defense.

TCU has five sacks in two games. But it’s not forcing three-and-outs or incompletions at the rate it did the past two years.

The Frogs forced 7.8 three-and-outs per game in 2014 and 5.6 in 2015. That led the country two years ago and was third last year. This year, it’s 4.0 per game.

The Frogs allowed a 48.5 completion percentage in 2014 and 49.7 in 2015. This year, it’s 60.0. Since Patterson came to TCU in 1998 as defensive coordinator, TCU has not allowed a percentage higher than the 57.2 in 2011.

And through two games, the Frogs are empty on interceptions. Last year, they had only seven in 13 games.

Defensively, we have to get to where we hunt together. We’re not hunting together.

Gary Patterson

“Defensively, we have to get to where we hunt together,” Patterson said. “We’re not hunting together.”

Another factor — the Frogs haven’t had the benefit of playing defense with a significant lead. Against South Dakota State, TCU didn’t have a two-possession lead until the middle of the third quarter. Against Arkansas, the first lead didn’t come until the 7:15 mark of the fourth quarter, and it was only one point.

After Kenny Hill’s 5-yard touchdown run with 2:05 left, Patterson wanted more cushion because Hill’s celebration penalty would mean a short field for Arkansas. He and the offensive coaches debated a 2-point conversion attempt that would have provided a nine-point lead. Instead, after a timeout, they settled for a one-point PAT and an eight-point lead.

“If we were up two scores, I can call a totally different coverage package if I know they’ve got to go down the field twice,” Patterson said. “It’s a whole different makeup when you think about how you want to call a ballgame.”

Patterson’s play-calling is also affected by some of his veterans taking longer than expected to get up to speed. Safety Denzel Johnson, cornerback Ranthony Texada and linebacker Travin Howard were among the starters who missed time in preseason camp. For Texada, it was another hurdle in working his way back from the knee injury that put him out in Week 3 last year and complicates things at cornerback, a spot already lacking Julius Lewis, who is missing the season because of an injury.

TCU allowed 108 yards and 21 points on 11 plays in the final 1:59 of regulation and two overtimes against Arkansas. Before that, the Horned Frogs had allowed 295 yards and 13 points, not including a pick-six, on 61 plays.

In turn, that has put more pressure on the play of Texada and redshirt freshman Jeff Gladney, who has taken Lewis’ place.

“They have to get better. Simple as that,” Patterson said.

This is as good a time as any. Iowa State comes in next-to-last in the country in scoring, with 23 points combined in its first two games and 115th in total offense, with 598 yards total.

The opportunity is there for TCU to get its defensive bearings, and Patterson doesn’t sound like he wants to waste it. More personnel changes may be in store even against the struggling Cyclones.

“We have a couple of surprises for them,” Patterson said. “It’s not our first rodeo. You don’t stay somewhere 19 years because somebody’s not playing good at a position. You find other answers to that question.”

TCU vs. Iowa State

11 a.m. Saturday, FS1


TCU (1-1)

Iowa State (0-2)

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Scoring defense



Passing defense



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