The venue and the implications have changed, but the BYU Cougars face a familiar nemesis when they play the TCU Horned Frogs — perhaps their toughest opponent of the season — tonight at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
BYU has suffered three lopsided defeats at the hands of TCU in the past three seasons, falling by a combined score of 101-17. The Horned Frogs, who are in their last year of membership in the Mountain West Conference before leaving for the Big 12, were undefeated last year and capped their perfect season with a Rose Bowl win over Wisconsin.
In his weekly press conference, coach Bronco Mendenhall acknowledged the Horned Frogs have had his number lately.
“TCU is a program that I respect. It’s a program that has won a lot of football games,” Mendenhall said. “It’s a program that is a consistent not only top-20 but recently top-10 finisher … Eventually our program will have to, as it once did two years in a row during [the 2006 and 2007 seasons], be able to compete and beat TCU or teams like that at a consistent level so we can move the program forward.”
The Horned Frogs, who improved to 5-2 by routing New Mexico last week, have thrived offensively this season despite losing quarterback Andy Dalton to the NFL and returning only five offensive starters. TCU has averaged a little over 43 points and 200 yards rushing per game. The defense, however, also lost several starters and has dropped off considerably from a dominant 2010 season. The Horned Frogs gave up a combined 90 points in their losses to Baylor and SMU.
Mendenhall said he still views TCU as a dangerous team even in a slightly down year.
“I’ll tell you, I watched them today, and I am not sure you will notice much difference [from last season],” Mendenhall said.
Even without Dalton?
“It’s the same offense with just that, not a veteran quarterback, so they don’t do as much with him in terms of in the pass game … We already have put on this year’s film versus previous film, it’s the same offense,” he said.
Amidst questions whether the contest against TCU would define the Cougars’ season, junior quarterback Riley Nelson insisted the team isn’t looking at the Horned Frogs any different from their other opponents.
“It’s one game and the season is 12 or 13,” Nelson said. “If everybody wants to say it is [the defining game], then let them say that, but for us internally within the program it doesn’t define us.”
That doesn’t mean the Cougars have forgotten those crushing losses, however.
“We have a lot of history with TCU … They’ve been able to execute the past three years better than we have, and so I really hope we can turn that around this weekend,” senior linebacker Jameson Frazier said. “We’re doing pretty well, picking up steam, getting some momentum with our season, so I think it will be a good game.”