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FORT WORTH (AP) –This is one of those seasons when TCU coach Gary Patterson has plenty of reasons to shake his head while constantly having to plug in different players on defense to do enough to back a high-powered offense.
Still, what matters right now for the fourth-ranked and playoff-hopeful Horned Frogs (4-0, 1-0 Big 12) is that they are still undefeated.
“I don’t have to be the best football team I need to be right now. I just have to be that best team by the last game of the season,” Patterson said. “All I need to do is try to win a ballgame every week by one point and keep getting better and stay healthy.”
The Frogs won their league opener 55-52 at Texas Tech and are now back home Saturday to play Texas, which is 1-3 for the first since 1956 after losing consecutive home games with late breakdowns on special teams.
A missed extra point with 71 seconds left cost Texas a chance to take California to overtime two weeks ago. Then a dropped punt snap set up Oklahoma State for the winning field goal in the final seconds as the Longhorns lost their Big 12 opener at home last week.
“It’s our own fault that we’ve been in the position we’re in. We have to learn how to just go close out games,” second-year coach Charlie Strong said. “Everybody has a job to do, and just do your job and just keep battling, keep competing.”
In the aftermath of the loss to Oklahoma State, there was a players-only meeting for the team playing three of its next four games away from the Austin campus.
“It was needed and it was one of those `come to Jesus’ talks,” said Jerrod Heard, the freshman quarterback. “We definitely needed that, and we rallied up and we needed to hear each other’s voices and just hear what needed to be said.”
A few things to watch when the Longhorns and Horned Frogs play for the 86th time, just the fourth as Big 12 foes:
FIRST-TIMERS: TCU has already had a nation’s-most 13 defensive players make their first career starts this season, and that doesn’t included former transfer Aaron Curry, who made eight starts for Nebraska in 2013 before returning to his hometown to play at TCU. Six different starters have missed games or are still out with injuries, and a seventh took a personal leave from the team after starting the season opener as a true freshman.
HORNS REGRESS: After two explosive games behind Heard and new play-caller Jay Norvell, the Texas offense took a step backward with just one touchdown and less than 300 yards against Oklahoma State. Texas had the lead entering the fourth quarter but its last three possessions produced no first downs as Heard’s protection melted away. Heard had 743 total yards and accounted for five touchdowns in his first two starts, but had only 179 total yards with no TDs last week.
STREAKS AND NUMBERS: TCU’s 12-game winning streak trails only top-ranked and defending national champion Ohio State’s 17 in a row. … Texas is 5-22 against Top 25 teams since 2010. … Frogs QB Trevone Boykin averages 415 total yards per game, and leads all active players with 10,250 yards. … TCU has scored at least 55 points the last three games. The Longhorns haven’t allowed fewer than 28 this season.
OPPORTUNISTIC DEFENSE: The Longhorns defense has been shaky but opportunistic with three touchdowns off turnovers. Defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway scored on a long fumble return and freshman defensive back Holton Hill went 41 yards with an interception against Oklahoma State. The defense’s biggest problem is on third down, where opponents are converting at 56 percent, one of the worst rates in the country.
(© Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. AP Sports Writer Jim Vertuno in Austin, Texas, contributed to this report.)