The season is about to get real. There are no more warm up games left on the schedule, and it's time to see what the Cowboys got. The 12th ranked TCU is up first, and I spoke with one of the guys that knows the Horned Frogs well.
Marshall Webber with SB Nation's Frog O' War was kind enough to answer some questions this week. A huge thank you to him, as he crushed it! Give him a follow on Twitter @marshmau5. Also be sure to check out my responses to his questions here.
Going into the season I don't think many in the conference expected much out of TCU. The Horned Frogs have seemingly come out of nowhere. The game has gone from one the Cowboys should win, to "uh oh" the Pokes may be in trouble. What do you attribute the quick turnaround to?
First and foremost, Trevone Boykin and the offensive coordinators, Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie. We went 4-8 last year, but we played every game (aside from the weird Texas game) really close to the chest. It was a season that could've easily been 7-6. But I'm glad it didn't. The 4-8 season gave a much needed inward look at ourselves. Simply put, the offensive scheme was terrible and it needed it to be changed. Running the veer just doesn't work in the Big 12. So when we added Meacham, then Cumbie, I knew Boykin had the best chance to be our quarterback. Not only does the system work better for him, but his relationship with Sonny Cumbie has been the difference. Coaches came back in the summer and were looking a completely different kid.
Also the offensive line is a lot better. And it doesn't matter if you have Dak Prescott, Peyton Manning, or Shane Falco--you can't be kinetic without a solid offensive line. It also gives Boykin more confidence. Last year, whether it was Boykin or Pachall, it didn't matter. The offensive line didn't really allow them to good, you know? Pachall was either getting sacked or Boykin was frantically running and not protecting the ball.
The bottom line is that you're always going to have a great defense with Patterson. Now that we have all the moving parts for a Big 12 offense, it's completely changed our narrative. The team just has a great vibe. They feel confident, they have all the faith in Boykin and that's made a huge difference. It's amazing how much the narrative can change. Even before Samford, the majority of fans wanted Matt Joeckel. But now, that's an impeachable statement. Fans are inherently volatile, but it helps that no one's arguing the quarterback situation--which has been the case since joining the Big 12.
Trevone Boykin has exploded onto the scene this season, and he seems to be thriving under Doug Meacham's guidance. What can the Cowboys expect to see out of him on Saturday, and is there anything the Pokes can do to slow him down?
Boykin's our leading rusher. So really, this offense is designed around him and it's designed for him to run when needed. He's going to keep you guessing. It'll seem like he's doing one thing, and then he'll just do the opposite. However, as versatile as he is, he's still not perfect on the run. Both with ball protection and passing. He tends to throw high on the run, so trying to get him to commit to a mistake in the air or trying to pop the ball out from his arm is the best way to stop him.
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This is TCU's third year in the Big 12. Have you noticed an impact on the program - growth of the fan base, national recognition, recruiting - for better or for worse from the move?
I started school in 2008. The fanbase really started to get something special going around then. Going to two BCS bowls and winning a Rose Bowl during that four year stretch definitely set the tone for where the 18-40 crowd is today.
Moving to the Big 12 definitely continued the momentum. Getting to go a 13-0 in the MWC was great, but no one's arguing that this isn't better. Pretty much every home game is meaningful and has some sort of stake. Whereas when I was in school, you maybe had an opener at Jerry World, and then you got to play Utah or BYU at home at the end of the season. Also, if you lost one game in the MWC, it was the end of the world. That couldn't be further from the case now.
Also, I couldn't be prouder of what the student section has become. It's always been rowdy, but now there's a method to the mayhem. TCU has a great system where every student gets in free. They have the entire lower deck to themselves. The TCU fanbase is a uniquely intimate one, especially among the under-40 crowd. I don't see it slowing down anytime soon, and in 10-15 years when the people who experienced this change are in the age group where the fanbase is currently lacking, it'll be widely known what a special thing TCU has going for it.
Before joining the Big 12, what was the perception of Oklahoma State, and has that changed since joining the conference?
It's always been positive. I think Oklahoma State has an underdog narrative not unlike TCU. Plus, it's hard not to love Gundy.
This is Oklahoma State's first trip to Fort Worth, what advice do you have for Cowboy fans going to the game?
Tailgate in the back lot. Just about everyone should be really nice to you. The only people that will ever have a hard time are Baylor fans. There's a lot of respect for the Pokes, and having y'all down for the first time should make it even more inviting.
You know it's coming and I have to ask, What's your prediction for the game? Are you worried at all about a possible let down after back to back top 10 match-ups, and the heartbreaking loss to Baylor?
Nothing could feel worse than last week.
The same sort of questions came up after the Oklahoma game as to whether or not TCU could continue the momentum, and for the most part they did. I think the team has had enough time to rest and have moved emotionally past last week. As a fan, you always worry. But TCU's always going to put up a fight.
As shown in the Oklahoma and Baylor games, TCU's biggest weakness is giving up the deep ball--especially to the slot receiver. As long as the doesn't happen too much, they should be fine. The run defense I never have to worry about and the offense is putting us in a position to win every game.
The good thing about playing Oklahoma, at Baylor, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, at West Virginia, and Kansas State consecutively is that you're not getting a chance to slow down. You're constantly playing big games at high level and are in that mindset for a over a month. There's not a lot of room to be lazy and take a week off, and I really like that.
TCU's also scored on their first drive in every game thus far. I'd like to think Saturday won't be any different. Because Daxx is not getting such great support from his line right now, I think the defense will get to them early and not give the Pokes a lot of breathing room on offense. Tyreek is such a beast, that he'll make it interesting, but TCU puts in away early in the 4th and gets their first win against Oklahoma State.
TCU 41, Oklahoma State 24.