From The Sports Network
By Gregg Xenakes, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: The TCU Horned Frogs, ranked fifth in the nation this week, begin a three-game homestand this weekend as they challenge the Wyoming Cowboys to a Mountain West Conference showdown in Fort Worth.
As the favorite to again take the title in the MWC this season, the Horned Frogs started off their league schedule on the right foot last weekend when they captured a 27-0 win against Colorado State on the road. It was the first time the Rams had been shut out in several years and the first for the TCU defense since blanking UNLV at home (41-0) on Halloween last year.
Despite picking up the victory, TCU head coach Gary Patterson still had some concerns.
"Down the road if we play that way in a place like Utah, we aren't going to win a conference title. When you go on the road you've got to have attention to detail. You've got to score touchdowns, not field goals. But we did what we needed to do."
As for the Cowboys, they managed to snap a three-game slide last Saturday by taking care of Toledo in a non-conference battle, 20-15, on the road in Ohio. The victory was the first for the Pokes against another member of the Football Bowl Subdivision in 2010. The 20 points tallied were also the most for Wyoming against another member of the FBS thus far, actually matching the combined scores the team had in the last two outings versus Boise State and Air Force.
TCU dominated the Pokes last season, 45-10, and now holds a 4-2 advantage in the all-time series as a result.
The Cowboys moved out to a 20-0 advantage in their meeting with Toledo at the Glass Bowl, yet the visitors nearly let one slip away before holding on for the five-point decision. Austyn Carta-Samuels converted 11-of-21 passes for just 102 yards and an interception, while the two sacks against him brought his rushing total down to 56 yards, yet he still led the way for the Pokes in that department as well.
As far as the Wyoming defense was concerned, the squad looked very strong against the pass as it limited the combined efforts of Austin Dantin and Terrance Owens to just 14-of-35 for 184 yards and kept them out of the end zone. On the other hand, the run defense was somewhat exposed as it gave up better than five yards per attempt to the home team. Ghaali Muhammad tallied a team-best 10 tackles, of which eight were solo, registering two stops behind the line of scrimmage as well as one sack and a forced fumble in the contest.
Muhammad, currently second on Wyoming in total stops with 50 over five games, paces the squad with his four tackles for loss and is one of three players credited with a sack thus far. Quarterback takedowns have been rather rare for the Pokes in the early going of 2010, the team averaging just one per game to rank seventh in the conference and tied for 107th in the nation. TFLs are also a lost art for the unit, the Cowboys logging only 4.4 per game to rank 100th in the country entering play this week. With that lack of pressure in the backfield it should not come as a surprise that Wyoming is 110th in total defense with 448.0 ypg allowed.
Carta-Samuels, after being recognized as one of the top freshmen in the MWC last year, has taken on quite a bit of responsibility for the Cowboys and to this point it doesn't appear to be working in his favor. Granted, Carta- Samuels has managed to convert 65.1 percent of his pass attempts, but he is averaging barely 160 ypg through the air and has more INTs (five) than TDs (four). Getting more production out of Alvester Alexander is certainly something that would ease the stress on the signal-caller, but averaging just 3.1 yards per carry doesn't mean Alexander is ready to make that move.
Unlike the Cowboys who are 118th in the country in rushing with a feeble 68 ypg, the Horned Frogs are one of the best in the business at moving the ball on the ground again this season. Through five games TCU is second only to Air Force in the conference and ranks seventh in the nation with 275 ypg.
Against Colorado State last weekend, the Frogs ran wild with their 346 yards and two touchdowns on 49 attempts, averaging a healthy 7.1 yards per carry along the way. Matthew Tucker paced the group with 87 yards on eight attempts, but it was Ed Wesley who again earned most of the glory with his 78 yards and two touchdowns on 15 attempts.
"It's all because we have an older group of offensive linemen," Wesley says of his team's success on the ground. "We've got two All-Americans, and when they get up there and they have something in mind that they want to do, it's pretty hard to stop them."
Quarterback Andy Dalton played conservatively when it came to putting the ball in the air for the Frogs against CSU, connecting on 11-of-24 passes for 109 yards and a score. Nevertheless, Dalton is well aware that this offense operates at peak capacity when the big guys up front are opening holes for the running backs to burst through.
"The running game has done well all year, and it kind of sets up the passing game. When the passing game wasn't working well, the running game was, and that's how we have to have it."
As far as the defense for the Horned Frogs was concerned, they were up to the challenge of shutting down Colorado State in every way imaginable last week. Not only did the team hold the Rams to a mere 45 yards rushing, it also sacked Pete Thomas four times and limited his 17 pass completions to just 116 yards.
Even though it makes sense that most TCU opponents this season have had to try and pass the ball just to keep up in their individual matchups, the Horned Frogs have made it tough on everyone to earn every yard. TCU ranks first in the MWC and seventh in the nation this week with a pass defense that is allowing a mere 137.8 ypg and the run defense has held foes to 100.2 ypg, so it should come as no surprise that the Frogs have the third-best overall defense in all the land, permitting opponents just 238 ypg and that limited yardage resulting in 12.4 ppg, also the best mark in the Mountain West.
The Horned Frogs are the kind of team that can get the job done no matter what the opposition throws at them from one week to the next. If you need Dalton to air it out he can handle it, and if the squad has to pound away at the line of scrimmage the QB is happy to direct that attack as well. The bottom line is that few defenses have what it takes to completely shut down TCU and right now the Cowboys might be further off the pace than most opponents on TCU's schedule.