T-C-U (10-2) vs. Louisiana Tech (8-4)|
Wednesday, December 21st, 8:00 p.m. (et)
From The Sports Network
By Gregg Xenakes, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: Despite feeling slighted yet again by the BCS, the TCU Horned
Frogs are back in the postseason this year and will tangle with the Louisiana
Tech Bulldogs in the seventh annual Poinsettia Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium in San
TCU, which has already won this bowl twice, the most recent victory coming
against Boise State, 17-16, back in 2008, didn't do itself any favors by
opening the 2011 campaign with a 50-48 loss to Baylor and the eventual Heisman
Trophy winner Robert Griffin III, but from there head coach Gary Patterson was
able to get his group back on track for 10 wins in the next 11 games and a
sweep of the Mountain West Conference yet again. Unfortunately, finishing the
regular season ranked 16th in the AP poll and 18th in the BCS was not enough
to get the team into a more prestigious postseason position.
As for the Bulldogs, they too hit a sour note coming out of the gate this
year, losing to Southern Miss in the opener by two points, but unlike the
Horned Frogs the team appeared destined for another disappointing campaign as
it dropped four of the first five games overall and had just a 48-42 overtime
win against Central Arkansas to show for its efforts. But then a strange thing
happened on the way to the second month of the season as the Bulldogs, after
losing the Western Athletic Conference opener to Hawaii at home (44-26), ran
the table in league play and emerged as the champion of the WAC for the first
time since 2001 with a record of 6-1.
"It's been a fun ride for this whole football team and it's been great for
everybody associated with this program," noted head coach Sonny Dykes once the
44-0 victory over New Mexico State was in the books in late November. "Surely,
it feels great to win a championship and when we started camp, we knew we had
the personnel to do so. We started off the season kind of rough, and everybody
hung in there. It speaks about the character of our team as a whole because
losing is a difficult thing to do."
When it comes to the Bulldogs and the postseason, their bowl history is not
nearly as extensive as that of TCU, consisting of just five games, four of
which were played nearby in Shreveport in the Independence Bowl. Three years
ago, LaTech recorded a 17-10 win over Northern Illinois in the 2008 version of
the Independence Bowl, the victory marking just the second in five tries in
the postseason for the Bulldogs who are 2-2-1 entering this meeting with TCU.
TCU has been a fixture in the postseason since 1998 and made its biggest
statement last year with a 21-19 triumph over Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. The
victory was the fifth in the last six postseason efforts by the Horned Frogs,
but still the team is just 12-14-1 in bowl games dating back to the Fort Worth
Classic in 1921 when the squad bowed to Centre by a lopsided 63-7 score.
Strangely enough, even though these two institutions are located less than 300
miles from each other, this games represents the first-ever meeting between
them on the gridiron, and is one of four bowl games this year that features
a pair of conference champions. Working in favor of the Frogs is their
familiarity with Qualcomm Stadium already, having beaten San Diego State there
earlier this season and winning six straight in the venue, which is
temporarily being renamed Snapdragon Stadium for advertising purposes.
For the last several years the Horned Frogs have had one of the most
dominating defenses in all of college football, but this season the group took
more than a few steps back and the slide began with the very first game when
it surrendered a whopping 50 points to the Baylor Bears on the road. In the
last two games of the regular season, TCU appeared to have put all the
necessary pieces together, limiting Colorado State and UNLV to a combined 19
points, but up until then there were plenty of outings in which the Frogs were
pushed to their limit time and time again. Overall, the program finished
second in the MWC and 32nd nationally with 346.3 ypg allowed and 30th in the
country in points permitted (21.3 ppg).
As weak as those numbers might sound for a team that has dominated the
defensive landscape for several years leading up to 2011 coach Patterson, who
with a win in this bowl battle will tie Dutch Meyer as TCU's all-time
winningest coach with 109 victories, knew he could count on linebacker Tank
Carder who was not only the defensive MVP of the Rose Bowl last year, but was
also named the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year. Considering the
Horned Frogs played almost the entire season without Tanner Brock, who was
supposed to be the top defender in the MWC, they can't be too disappointed
with their overall performance.
On the offensive side of the ball this season the Horned Frogs have to be
thrilled with the emergence of quarterback Casey Pachall who stepped into some
very large shoes as he took over for Andy Dalton. Pachall completed a stellar
67.8 percent of his pass attempts for an average of 226.2 ypg, leading to 24
touchdowns and just six interceptions.
On the ground the program ranked 20th in the nation with 210.2 ypg and
produced a whopping 35 touchdowns, compared to a mere six rushing scores by
the competition. Doing much of the damage was Matthew Tucker who hit the end
zone 11 times on 116 attempts.
For the Bulldogs, finding the right man to direct the offense on the field
took a little time, but in the end the team settled on Colby Cameron who ended
up converting 56.4 percent of his passes for 233.8 ypg and 11 touchdowns,
against only two interceptions. Nick Isham could get some playing time in this
game as well, but it all depends on the situation.
However, no matter who it is lining up under center for LaTech, Quinton Patton
will surely be the most sought-out receiver seeing as how he was one of the
most productive players at his position in the WAC this year with 74 catches
leading to 1,135 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Running back Lennon Creer, who had seven touchdowns through the first five
games this season, should have been the premier back for the squad, but he
missed the final two games of the regular season with injury and that puts
Hunter Lee at the top of the list for the time being.
Although he doesn't fall under the umbrella as an offensive player, punter
Ryan Allen was still a very valuable asset for the team when the offense
stalled in 2011 and his efforts did not go unnoticed as he was named Second
Team All-American by the Walter Camp Football Foundation and the winner of the
prestigious Ray Guy Award as the top punter in the nation. Allen finished the
regular season ranked first in the nation in punts inside the 20 (37) and
punts inside the 10 (20) and third in punting average (46.31 yards per punt),
all of which gave the LaTech defense an advantage even before taking the field
in most instances.
Speaking of the Louisiana Tech defense, the group was led by Christian Lacey
who recorded 8.5 sacks on just 35 total tackles, followed closely by Matt
Broha with 7.5 sacks of his own, the team placing second in the WAC and 17th
nationally with 2.67 sacks per game overall.
"We get the chance to play a great opponent in Louisiana Tech," says TCU's
coach Patterson. "They have won a lot of big ballgames. They beat an SEC team
(Ole Miss). (Head Coach) Sonny Dykes has done a tremendous job. They are very
explosive on offense and very physical on defense...They are right there with
Boise State and Baylor as far as skill players. They are all over the place
with their wide receivers. They've got a good quarterback and a great running
back with a big offensive front. Defensively, they've shown they can hold an
SEC team to seven points."
This may not be where the Horned Frogs saw themselves showing up in the
postseason before the 2011 campaign kicked off, but if they want to continue
gaining the respect of the more privileged schools in the FBS they'll need to
put this one to bed early.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: TCU 42, Louisiana Tech 17
12/19 10:52:36 ET