Gil LeBreton

Frogs still adjusting to the Big 12’s new normal

After surveying the lava damage to his defense left behind by Baylor on Saturday, TCU coach Gary Patterson wondered aloud Tuesday about the new normal.

“Maybe we’ve got to get used to winning 45-31,” Patterson mused at his weekly media luncheon. “It’s not good to me, but maybe 45-31 can still be good defense in this conference.”

For the third time in his coaching career, a Patterson-coached defense was deep-fried Saturday for more than 700 yards. The first time came in the early 1990s when Patterson was an assistant at Utah State.

The other two 700-yard days have come against the Baylor Bears.

Patterson tried everything Saturday, he suggested. Two deep safeties. Extra, extra defensive backs. Upperclassmen. Underclassmen.

For maybe the 20th time since the 61-58 defeat, he told the story Tuesday of cornerback Jason Verrett, who began his career with a similar nightmarish evening against Baylor, yet rebounded to become an NFL first-round draft choice.

The lesson of the story, as Patterson tells it:

“You’ve got to go play. You’ve got to grow up.”

And as Patterson added, “The bottom line is however the ebb and flow of the game goes, you’ve got to find a way to go with it.”

He doesn’t seem convinced that he accomplished that Saturday.

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Though Patterson wanted to turn the page to the upcoming Oklahoma State game, the questions Tuesday — and the coach’s defensive reference point — kept coming back to 61-58.

“Am I happy with the way things went? No,” Patterson said. “For me, it comes down to what adjustments should I have made.

“There were some things I could have done, run-wise, but I was worried about the pass. I tried to play some coverages that weren’t so good against the run, and it becomes a snowball effect.”

As could be expected in a game that lasted more than 4 1/2 hours, snapshot moments abounded.

How did Baylor find one second left on the clock to kick a field goal as the first half expired? It probably didn’t affect the outcome, but how soon will the Big 12 fire the clock operator for that 27-second play?

My personal cheap second-guess is with TCU’s offense, not its defense. Why didn’t the Frogs huddle and run the play clock more in the final moments, instead of handing the ball back to the Bears after possessions of only 2:39 and 58 seconds?

Patterson got a little defensive when I asked that Tuesday.

“Probably,” he said, “but I sat here the first two years in the Big 12, and I read what you say, and you tell me I have a terrible offense. So now we score 58 points, and you want me to control the clock?

“Baylor threw a couple over our heads, but basically they were able to run the football in the last 7-8-9 minutes. Would we like to do that if we needed to? Yes.”

Running the football is likely to remain the Frogs’ primary hurdle in the weeks ahead. Once Baylor realized TCU couldn’t, quarterback Trevone Boykin and the Frogs’ offense limped to the finish.

The 116 plays by the defense were exhausting for TCU.

“But we were able to play the fourth quarter without Oklahoma scoring,” Patterson noted.

“I go back to me. Moving forward, I’ve got to have a better plan, better answers. That’s what my kids expect. I didn’t have very good answers Saturday, and coach [Art] Briles and his group did a nice job.”

In the Big 12, it’s the new normal.

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