2011 Predictions & Game Story
Week 2 - TCU at Air Force
Mountain West Fearless Predictions &
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Sept. 10 TCU 35 … at Air Force 19
CFN Analysis: COMING
(AP) AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- The 25th-ranked TCU Horned Frogs brushed off their Baylor blues in a big way, routing Air Force 35-19 Saturday.
"It's big," Horned Frogs defensive end Jon Koontz said. "We had two tough games on the road against two tough opponents. We would have liked to get that one in Waco but as long as we could come back and get this one, that's definitely better than going back home 0-2."
TCU's 18th straight win in the Mountain West Conference tied the record set by BYU from 2006-08.
The Horned Frogs (1-1), who haven't lost a league game since 2008, were efficient in all phases in bouncing back from a stunning 50-48 loss at Baylor last week that ended their BCS-best 25-game regular-season winning streak.
"We always knew we were a good team, even after last week," TCU quarterback Casey Pachall said. "But this win gives us a lot more confidence knowing what we can do and what we can't do and it's going to help us in the future."
TCU rebounded without its star running back and top tackler, as tailback Ed Wesley (shoulder) and linebacker Tanner Brock (foot) didn't make the trip.
"I feel like this gives us real character, the guys stepping in and stepping up," Pachall said. "With them being out, our mentality didn't change. Our mentality coming in was to come in and get after it."
Wesley was replaced by Matthew Tucker, who scored on a 1-yard leap and a 3-yard run in the first half as TCU built a 21-0 lead. Tucker finished with 95 yards on 16 carries, and Waymon James rushed 13 times for 55 yards and a TD.
"We needed this because everybody had been down," Tucker said.
Kenny Cain replaced Brock at strongside linebacker and was one of three defenders who made his first career start. He had a career-best seven stops and was joined by newcomers Trent Thomas at safety and Kevin White at cornerback in the shuffled lineup.
"We had some of our 2s come in and there was no drop-off," linebacker Tank Carder said. "I think that's the key. That's what you look for."
The backups helped stifle Air Force's vaunted option offense.
Air Force (1-1), which had its five-game winning streak snapped, fancied itself a contender for the MWC crown but now will face an uphill climb in the conference, which loses the Horned Frogs to the Big East in 2012.
"They took it to us pretty good on both sides of the ball," Falcons wide receiver Jonathan Warzeka said.
The Falcons were driving on their opening possession when running back Wes Cobb's illegal chop block thwarted their momentum. Then, Koontz sliced through to stuff quarterback Tim Jefferson on fourth-and-3 at midfield.
"It stopped their drive, stopped their momentum," Koontz said.
Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said he went for it there because he figured "it might help us later in the game if we were able to keep their defense on the field a little bit, especially early."
"It didn't work," he said.
Not much of anything went right for the Falcons.
The fourth-down stop set up a 49-yard touchdown drive capped by Luke Shivers' 3-yard TD catch from Pachall, who completed 20 of 25 passes for 206 yards and two TDs.
The Falcons got on the board with a last-second field goal before halftime and carried that momentum out of the tunnel when they forced the Frogs into a three-and-out to start the third quarter.
Travaras Battle punched the ball out of punt returner Mikel Hunter's hands, however, and Greg Burks recovered it at midfield, a takeaway TCU turned into a touchdown eight plays later.
"I feel like I let my defense down the most," Hunter said. "They had gone out there and worked hard to get a three-and-out and gain momentum and then that happened."
TCU turned the turnover into points on Pachall's 21-yard TD connection with freshman David Porter, his second score on just three catches this season.
David Baska gained 34 yards on a fake punt and, one play later, Warzeka took the pitch from his quarterback, pulled up and hit Zack Kauth in stride for a 32-yard touchdown, the senior flanker's second career TD toss.
"I'm 2 for 2 against TCU with touchdowns, but obviously the scoreboard says it all," Warzeka said. "I don't know if we thought we were a little bit better than we were, but we just didn't come out to play today and I think it showed.
"Thankfully we have this week off to regroup," he added. "We'll take this week just to rebuild ourselves."
Calhoun pulled Jefferson, who went for precautionary X-rays after the game, and replaced him with Connor Dietz in the third quarter.
Although Dietz led the Falcons on a cosmetic scoring drive in the final minute, Calhoun chose to go for a field goal on fourth-and-goal from the 4 with 8:18 left in the game and his team trailing by 24 points.
"Frankly, I didn't feel real confident about us being able to knock it in at that point," Calhoun said.
TCU (0-1) at Air Force (1-0) Sept. 10, 3:30, mtn.
Here's The Deal … Is this Air Force's time to make a big jump in the Mountain West? While Boise State is still on the slate, with Utah and BYU gone, this is the big chance to finally move up and be one of the true top-tier conference programs after years of knocking on the door.
The Falcons have lost three straight to the Horned Frogs, but after struggling against Robert Griffin and Baylor in a thrilling loss, the time might be ripe to get back over the hump. TCU came roaring back to almost pull out the win, but for one game at least, that didn't appear to be the typical dominant team that's been so amazing on defense for the last several years and so brutally efficient on offense.
Yes, the TCU defense got ripped up for 50 points, but it clamped down and settled down in the second half and started to find its groove again. That game wasn't a helper for a program used to battling for a BCS spot, but now the real work begins with the Mountain West title a good goal. A loss would be disastrous, with road games at San Diego State and Boise State to deal with, but a strong, decisive win might show that the program is back on serve.
Air Force was sharp offensively with 391 yards on the ground against South Dakota, and while it might not have been a destructive blowout, it was 37-7 going into the fourth quarter before allowing a few late points. This is head coach Troy Calhoun's best team yet, and if it can get by the Horned Frogs, and with Tennessee State next before going to Navy and Notre Dame, this should be an interesting first half of the season.
Why TCU Might Win: The fourth quarter against Baylor. Most team could've, should've and would've folded after being down so big after three quarters, but TCU showed the heart and the fight to get back in the game and almost pull off a miracle. Casey Pachall found his groove and fought through cramps to finish with four touchdown passes as the offense rolled at will late in the game, and now the mindset and the attitude could carry over. This is a very proud team that isn't going to come up with a clunker two games in a row; TCU hasn't lost back-to-back games early September of 2007.
The defense didn't work against Robert Griffin and Baylor, while allowing 120 yards and a touchdown on the ground to Terrance Ganaway, but it won't have to worry about a passing game this week. Air Force might be effective through the air, but it's not going to throw for 414 yards and six touchdowns like Baylor did. Tank Carder and the TCU defensive front can focus solely on slowing down the Falcon ground game, and if the secondary gets burned once in a while, it gets burned. If Air Force can't run the ball, it can't win.
Why Air Force Might Win: It's possible TCU is able to load up to stop the run and it still doesn't matter.
TCU is loaded with talent on the defensive front seven, but Air Force's offensive line knows what it's doing and should be able to open up the same holes that were there last week when the Bears were able to run wild. Can Air Force control the clock and the ball? If it can keep TCU's offense off the field with a ball control attack, something it hasn't been able to do in recent years, it'll shorten the game; that's what the Falcons want.
Defensively, the Air Force defensive front is smallish and could have problems, but the linebacking corps is tremendous and should be every bit as effective as TCU's corps. The Falcon defense is better than Baylor's, and with TCU star running back Ed Wesley likely out with a shoulder problem, the offense might have to rely more on Pachall. He might have been great late against Baylor, but the Air Force secondary always seems to find ways to produce, finishing second in the nation in pass defense last year.
What To Watch Out For: The Falcon backfield is loaded with veterans and it needs a huge performance out of quarterback Tim Jefferson, who isn't going to make any big mistakes. He hasn't had any luck against TCU over his first three seasons, out for the game in 2009 and ineffective last year, but he has seen it all and should be ready for what gets thrown his way. After running for 69 yards and two touchdowns, and after throwing for 96 yards and a score with two interceptions, he has to be ready to come up with the game of his life and be Griffin-like against the Horned Frog secondary.
With Wesley hurting, Matthew Tucker will get more work, but against Baylor it was sophomore Waymon James, a 5-8, 203-pound plugger who was the closer late in the season as he came on to finish third on the team with 513 yards and five touchdowns averaging 5.9 yards per carry. While he was a star against San Diego State with 102 yards and a score, he'll forever be remembered by Horned Frog fans for coming up with the team's final first down of the Rose Bowl. A big-time recruit after a phenomenal high school career (running for 4,732 career yards and 54 touchdowns), he was the team's most effective back against Baylor with 64 yards on six carries. He could be the gamebreaker.
What Will Happen: TCU will be back to being TCU. Air Force will come up with several good drives, and it'll keep the game close through the first half, but the Horned Frogs aren't going to come up with a second straight dud. The worst thing to happen to Air Force was TCU's Baylor game, and from all reports, this is a very, very focused and ticked off Horned Frog squad, and it'll show.
CFN Prediction: TCU 34 … Air Force 17
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