TCU ended its run in the Mountain West last season with a league-record 17 consecutive home wins. The Horned Frogs will now try to protect their home field against a conference opponent for the first time as part of the Big 12, but it appears they'll be doing it without starting quarterback Casey Pachall.
With Pachall suspended after being arrested for DWI, No. 15 TCU looks to extend the longest active winning streak in the nation to 13 on Saturday against Iowa State.
Pachall was arrested Thursday morning after being pulled over for running a stop sign near campus, and coach Gary Patterson suspended him indefinitely hours later. Pachall, who has thrown for 948 yards, 10 touchdowns and one interception, was said by Fort Worth police to have a blood-alcohol level above the legal limit.
"I've got a young football team and a person who obviously needs help," Patterson said. "Until I can come up with some answers, it's not about one season, it's about a lot of seasons."
That likely leaves freshman Trevone Boykin, who's gone 9 of 10 for 74 yards and one touchdown in three games, to make his first career start. Boykin has also run 12 times for 122 yards.
The arrest puts a damper on TCU's quick start to its first season in the Big 12. The Frogs (4-0, 1-0) opened conference play with a 20-6 victory over Kansas on Sept. 15.
Patterson is also disappointed with TCU's 25 penalties in the last two games, though playing 15 freshman has played a big part in that. The driving rainstorm the Frogs played through last Saturday in a 24-16 win at SMU has added to his inability to get an accurate feel for his team.
"Is the defense as good as the 2008 defense (that was best in the nation)? No. Has the offense played as well as the Rose Bowl offense (that was 12th in the FBS in 2010)? No. But the key to it is on the games that you have to, we've been better," Patterson said.
TCU had three points and 27 yards after halftime last week, when they posted a season-low 156 yards.
The Frogs, though, are again of the best defensive teams in the country, ranking second in the FBS in scoring defense at 7.3 points per contest and seventh with 255.8 yards allowed.
TCU is also tied for second in the nation with nine interceptions after picking off five passes last weekend.
"I knew the defense was going to have to step up," safety Elisha Olabode said after intercepting his second pass this season.
Freshman end Devonte Fields has definitely stepped up, leading the Big 12 with five sacks and 8 1/2 tackles for loss.
Facing Fields and a TCU team with 11 sacks, Iowa State (3-1, 0-1) will have to do a better job protecting senior Steele Jantz than it did last Saturday, when he was sacked four times in a 24-13 loss to Texas Tech. Jantz was facing one of the best defensive teams in the nation and didn't excel in the situation, going 10 of 20 for 73 yards and a career high-tying three INTs.
Iowa State totaled 189 yards and is 88th in the FBS in total offense at 369.0 yards a game and scoring at 24.3 points.
"We're concerned -- we scored six points (on offense) and we're under 200 yards," coach Paul Rhoads said.
Like TCU, though, the Cyclones have received standout defensive performances. Led by senior linebackers A.J. Klein -- who tied the NCAA record with four INT returns for a touchdown by a linebacker with his 87-yard score last Saturday -- and Jake Knott, Iowa State is yielding 14.0 points per game. That's good for 17th best in the FBS.
The Cyclones held the Red Raiders to season lows in points and rushing yards with 63.
"Those kids played good defense and they know it, and they did it against a squad full of talented offensive players," Rhoads said. "That maturity, along with that level of play -- the best level of play we've played at in four years -- leaves them hungry for more. I think there's a great desire to keep playing great defense against offenses that are obviously the best in the land."
The Frogs aren't considered to have one of those, but the Cyclones' secondary needs to keep an eye on receivers Brandon Carter and Josh Boyce -- the program leader with 18 TD receptions -- who have combined for 540 receiving yards and seven scores.
The Frogs are 3-0 all-time against Iowa State after winning 27-24 in the 2005 Houston Bowl.
In the Cyclones' only visit to Fort Worth in 1995, TCU won 27-10.
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Iowa State has made a living surprising ranked Big 12 teams under Paul Rhoads, and it'll get a good opportunity on the road against a TCU team that's shown lots of potential without hanging very many points on the board so far. The defense has a case as the Big 12's best to this point, but the Frogs managed just 156 yards of offense in a rainy win over SMU last week. Iowa State's defense will be ready to handle the physical TCU attack. Casey Pachall will have to be at his best.