Friday, October 24, 2008

Tall task ahead: Cowboys face TCU

TCU photo
TCU defensive end Jerry Hughes gets a hold of BYU quarterback Max Hall last week.

By Richard Anderson

Let’s recap things.

The Wyoming Cowboys were in dire need of a bye week to recharge themselves mentally and physically.

Check. They had four days off and are a little healthier coming back.

The Cowboys will look to come out of the bye week against an opponent that could give them a little momentum to basically save, if not re-charge the remaining five games of their season. Wyoming will get back to work Saturday against No. 14 TCU. Kickoff is slated for 4 p.m. in Fort Worth, Texas.

Yikes. On paper, the Horned Frogs (4-0 in MWC, 7-1 overall) aren’t likely the team the Cowboys (0-4, 2-5) would like to face coming off the bye week. It's a game that matches one of the worst teams offensively in the NCAA against the best team defensively in the national statistics.

Despite the long odds, Wyoming coach Joe Glenn said they’ll come out and play hard.

“We have five games left in the season and we fully believe something good is going to happen,” Glenn said. “We have to push hard and we have to hang in there with this team early. We’ll see where it is at. If we can play error free first half and do the things I think we are capable of, we’ll see if we can make a game of it.”

Wyoming, which leads the country in turnovers with 27, will certainly have its work cut out for them. Based on past experiences this season and even in last year’s 24-21 win over the Horned Frogs, the Cowboys will look to establish the run first with seniors Devin Moore and Wynel Seldon. The problem: TCI is ranked first against the rush, giving up just 21 yards a game.

Overall, the Horned Frogs are giving up a paltry 218 yards per game, also No. 1 in the country.

“We’re like everybody else,“ Glenn said. “We’ll start the game out trying it and see where it goes.”

Asked in Thursday’s media teleconference on what made the TCU defense so strong, Glenn said it goes back to depth and talent.

“Somebody asked Gary Patterson, their coach, who was their MVP on defense and he couldn’t name him,” Glenn sad. “I named about five of them. They are a talented bunch. They are tough inside, better than they have ever been inside. (Stephen) Hodge (safety) comes off the edge a lot with their stunting. Thirty-nine (linebacker Jason Phillips) is an all-conference player three times now. (Jerry) Hughes (defensive end) is an edge rusher who can really bring the heat. The corners are cover guys and are all over you. It’s hard to get a pass in. I don’t know where to stop. They have the right people for their scheme. Fifty-one (linebacker Robert Henson) is another guy who is a relentless tackler. He comes after you hard. It’s a good football team.”

In last week’s 32-7 dismantling of BYU, Hughes had six sacks that earned him defensive player of the week honors nationally. He leads the nation with 11 quarterback sacks. The Cowboys are ranked 115th in the country (out of 119 teams) in passing and will have to protect starting quarterback Karsten Sween to have a chance to move the ball through the air.

Glenn said that with pass protection, they will have to be smart about getting their protection set to TCU the defense, which lies in the hands of the quarterback.

“Then you have to battle because they are relentless,” he said. “The pre-snap reads are going to tell you where you have to look, and if they change from a pre-snap read to rolling another way, you have to be able to drop back, pick it up and deliver the ball in rhythm.”

As strong as the TCU defense is, the Horned Frogs aren’t too bad on offense as well. In fact, TCU is ranked 38th in the country offensively. Quarterback Andy Dalton was back after missing two games with an injury and played well against BYU, completing 12 of 19 passes for 170 yards.

It’s all about efficiency, Glenn said.

“Against BYU, they came out and threw the ball over their head, which is something nobody had done,” Glenn said. “They ran effectively, they passed a high percentage. This quarterback makes them go pretty good. He is probably a little more balanced than the backup quarterback.”

On the ground, backup quarterback Marcus Jackson is sixth in the league rushing at 58 yards per game (six games), with Joseph Turner leading the team with 400 yards. Ryan Christian also had 302 yards, with Aaron Brown at 212 yards. As a team, the Horned Frogs are second in the MWC and 11th in the country at 233 yards a game.

“To me, they have a NFL back (Brown) playing second team. He might be the fastest guy in the league. If he is not playing, what does that tell you about the other guys?” Glenn said. “They don’t have many weaknesses.”

Ranked 14th in the country in the first BCS standings this season, are the Horned Frogs now the best team in the league?

Glenn said it depends on which week you ask. For now, they might be.

“It’s week-to-week, game-to-game. It’s hard to call,” Glenn said. “They are probably all a little bit better at home than on the road. It is close. I thought BYU was really strong and they got taken apart by this team.”

The Cowboys return home on Nov. 1 when they host San Diego State.

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