Nov. 27, 2009
Saturday: Lobos at TCU, 11 a.m., Fort Worth
On The Air: The Mtn.; 770-AM KKOB
Online: GameTracker, game story on GoLobos.com
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
In saving the best (TCU) for last, you also have to hope Mike Locksley's Lobos have saved the best for last in terms of execution, focus and maybe playing over their heads.
There is no question that the University of New Mexico is playing the best team in the Mountain West Conference Saturday in Fort Worth and the Horned Frogs actually might be the best team in America.
Of course, the answer to that question won't found this season thanks to a biased BCS system that likely will push TCU into bowl that won't bring to the victor a national championship.
Of course, if the Lobos have their way and a few prayers are answered in Fort Worth, the Horned Frogs will stagger into the 2009 bowl scene with an 11-1 mark and reeling from the biggest loss in Division I history.
If you look at the odds, the Lobos step into the ring with TCU with about as much chance as Rocky had against Apollo Creed, but without that much input into the script.
Oh, the Lobos will have the same chances to tackle and score points as the Frogs, but TCU has been doing this stuff on a level above any other team in the MWC and above most teams in the nation.
Compare a few scores: TCU 38, BYU 7; BYU 24, UNM 19. TCU 55, Utah 28; Utah 45, UNM 14. TCU 45, Wyoming 10; Wyoming 37, UNM 13. TCU 41, UNLV 0; UNLV 34, UNM 17.
OK, you get the point. The Lobos have their work cut out for them if they want to push their 1-10 mark to 2-10 in hostile Amon G. Carter Stadium. The last time the Lobos played a No. 4-ranked team, they lost 48-0 to BYU in 1984.
Lobo coach Mike Locksley said he told his players, "If we can't get excited about this opportunity, then we're in this for the wrong reasons."
Sure, there are reasons to get excited about playing the best. But you had better be at your best and do something to make sure that juggernaut across the line isn't humming on all cylinders.
TCU is tough and the Frogs have powerful pistons of productivity in all aspects of their game. That's why they beat BYU by 31 points. That's why they slapped 55 on Utah. That's why they are 107-to-45 on the scoreboard vs. three Top 25 opponents this season. TCU has outscored its past six opponents by an average of 46.3 to 10.5. Yep, the Frogs have been hammering on people.
Locksley said TCU, "has playmakers in all three phases." TCU is good on special teams, and if that phase kicks in, it just turns a game into a major romp. The Frogs only need their offense and defense to show up to get a normal romp.
It's possible the heavily-favored Frogs might be looking past the 1-10 Lobos, but not likely. TCU has too much riding on this game: the outright MWC title and the program's first 12-0 regular season. Heck, it's also Senior Day.
It you brush past any emotional charges the Frogs bring into the battle, their talent and their statistics are scary enough. They are No. 4 in the nation in total defense (238.8 yards per game) and No. 5 in total offense (472.6).
That's balance. TCU is the only team in the Top 10 to appear in the Top 10 in both those stat categories. The Frogs are playing well of late, too. They have topped 300 yards rushing and 500 yards in total offense in four consecutive games -- and one of those games was against No. 14 Utah.
"(Coach Gary Patterson) really has his team peaking right now and this is when you want your team peaking," said Locksley. "I'm sure they'll be ready to play, as they've got national championship hopes, conference championships, and undefeated seasons on the line.
"They'll be ready to play, and they won't be looking past us."
The Lobos are coming off their only win of the season, a gut-wrenching 29-27 win in Albuquerque over Colorado State. That ended a UNM 10-game MWC losing streak. TCU is on a 13-game win streak.
The TCU offense obviously leans to a strong running game, but junior quarterback Andy Dalton is one of the best in the nation, especially when it comes to winning.
He is 28-6-0 as a starter and one win shy of tying the school mark set by Sam Baugh. Dalton is completing 62.4 percent of his passes which is a product of a solid running game, a good O-line and a savvy quarterback. He also can hurt a team on the ground.
The ground attack is the heart of TCU's attack. The Frogs don't have a featured back, but come at you behind Joseph Turner (62.5 yards per game), Ed Wesley (55.5), Matthew Tucker (55) and Dalton (43.4).
TCU's top receiver and return guy is Jeremy Kerley with 37 grabs for a 41.5 average per game. Jimmy Young has 27 catches and Bart Johnson has 26 grabs. TCU has returned two punts and one kickoff for scores.
Lobo senior QB Donovan Porterie is having a solid season completing 58.9 percent of his throws for 204.5 yards per game. The Lobos have a nice foursome of runnings backs in Demond Dennis (46.4), James Wright (31.9), Kasey Carrier (51.6) and A.J. Butler (25.3). That unit has been hurt by injuries all season.
The Lobos offense has been moving the ball better in the past two games, but things probably will be tougher in Fort Worth. The best part of this TCU team might be its defense. The Frogs are No. 3 in the nation is pass defense, No. 4 in total defense, No. 6 in run defense and No. 6 in scoring defense. The are No. 1 in the nation in first downs allowed.
"I don't think we have to play a perfect game, but we have to go out and play hard, not turn the ball over, and limit their big plays," said Locksley. "All the things that we've talked about, as far as winning big games, the formula doesn't change because it's TCU."
Well, maybe the formula doesn't change. But you probably have to formulate better than ever before.