FORT WORTH (AP) – TCU coach Gary Patterson heard the same thing so many times about going into the Big 12.
Despite their success against teams from BCS conferences, including a Rose Bowl victory and No. 2 final ranking only two seasons ago, the coach kept hearing that the Horned Frogs were going to have play “way over” their heads and be nearly flawless to beat other Big 12 teams.
Then Big 12 newcomer TCU went out in its first conference road game at Kansas last weekend and committed four turnovers, including three fumbles inside the 20 — and still won.
“Now we do it later on, we’re probably not (winning),” Patterson said.
While Patterson isn’t too concerned about those miscues yet, he knows moving forward in the Big 12 that it’s unlikely the 17th-ranked Frogs (2-0) will be able to keep getting away with them like they have been.
“We can’t make mistakes like that against good teams,” said running back Matthew Tucker, who fumbled late in the game. “We just got away with a win.”
Since the start of the 2009 season, the Frogs have had at least four turnovers in a game four times — all road games they won. That included three Mountain West Conference games, two at Wyoming and the other at San Diego State before Saturday’s 20-6 win at Kansas, the team picked to finish at the bottom of the Big 12 standings again this year.
TCU is home Saturday against Virginia (2-1). There is then a three-week span with road games against SMU and Baylor, the only two teams that beat the Frogs last season, sandwiching their first Big 12 home game against Iowa State.
The Horned Frogs played in three different non-automatic qualifier conferences over the past 16 seasons, winning or sharing titles in the WAC, Conference USA and the Mountain West.
Moving to the Big 12 will certainly provide less margin of error for the Frogs, the only FBS team to win at least 11 games in six of the last seven seasons.
Consider the closing stretch of their regular-season schedule this year. The Frogs’ last four games are against teams ranked in the top 15 of the AP poll — at No. 8 West Virginia, No. 15 Kansas State, at No. 12 Texas and home against No. 6 Oklahoma.
When the Frogs played at Texas in 2007 and had four turnovers, they lost 34-13. They turned the ball over four times against another Big 12 team in 2008, losing 35-10 at Oklahoma.
Since that loss to the Sooners, TCU is 44-4 overall with the losses coming by a combined 19 points.
Virginia also won a game this season with four turnovers, three in the red zone and all four inside its 30 — just like TCU did at Kansas.
The Cavaliers won 17-16 over Penn State two weeks ago when the Nittany Lions were held to minus-14 yards after the giveaways. But Penn State also missed four field goal attempts, including a 20-yarder.
TCU lost fumbles on its first two possessions against Kansas. Second-year starting quarterback Casey Pachall couldn’t recover a low snap, then later in the first quarter fumbled when he was sacked.
Pachall was running toward the end zone in the fourth quarter when the ball was knocked out of his hands at the 1, then rolled through the end zone for a touchback. Tucker’s turnover on the next drive was similar, a ball he lost at the Jayhawks 7.
Tucker, a senior, said those last two fumbles came when they were switching the ball from one arm to the other.
“We were taught at practice to never switch over when we’re going into the end zone. It was a mistake. It won’t happen again,” Tucker said. “We’ve got to move on and not worry about that.”
Right after Tucker’s fumble, Kansas drove 93 yards to the Frogs 3. But defensive end Stansly Maponga forced a fumble by quarterback Dayne Crist that was recovered in the end zone by safety Elisha Olabode to clinch the victory.
“Matthew, the one fumble, but through his years he hasn’t been somebody who has been like that. … If it was younger guys, I’d be on them,” Patterson said. “You can’t lose the takeaway battle is you’re going to win a lot of games. Fortunately for us, we stopped a drive and changed the momentum with one of our takeaways.”
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