Crunch Time

Crunch Time

Neither the Frogs or the Utah Utes can afford a loss tonight if they want to keep their conference title hopes alive, head coach Gary Patterson said. Both teams come into tonight’s game with identical conference records of 1-2 and overall records of 4-3.

“You’re not going to win the conference with three losses,” Patterson said.

Even with that in mind, Patterson said looking past this week would be a mistake. He said the main focus of the football team is improving their play heading into the rest of the conference schedule.

“Right now, our opinion is to keep ourselves in the race, get to 2-2 in the league and 5-3 overall heading into the break,” Patterson said. “Our goal is to be the best team that TCU can be by the end of the season.”

The break Patterson referred to is the 16-day hiatus the Frogs will have after this game. As for now, both teams are working on a short week. Patterson said the abbreviated week may be tough, but the Frogs have an advantage.

“Utah’s advantage is they got done at about 5 p.m. Saturday, stayed in their own offices and started breaking down film,” Patterson said. “We didn’t get home until 2:30 in the morning. Our advantage is we’re going to play on our grass and they have to fly here.”

The Frogs are coming off their first road victory in Palo Alto, Calif., after knocking off Stanford in a come-from-behind victory, winning 38-36. The Utes are coming off a home victory with a 23-7 win against San Diego State.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Andy Dalton said the performance of the Frogs’ offense against Stanford was by far the cleanest of the year.

“We’ve focused on not making the penalties and dumb mistakes, and we finally started clicking,” Dalton said. “The Stanford game definitely gave us the momentum and we’re trying to carry that into this week.”

Like TCU, the Utes entered the season as one of the favorites to compete for the conference title, but also suffered two conference losses early on. Even though Utah has had its fair share of disappointments this season, senior free safety David Roach said Utah is still a championship-caliber team.

“Utah had a couple of tough breaks where they lost the football game just like we did,” Roach said.

Roach said the team must pull together to prepare for Utah’s great athletes. He said they must get ready to face a strong quarterback and a successful running game.

Utah junior quarterback Brian Johnson could serve as a threat in the air, boasting a completion percentage of nearly 70 percent. In Utah’s backfield, junior running back Darrell Mack has had a solid year for the Utes, rushing for 647 yards, five touchdowns and averaging more than five yards a carry.

No matter how much rest each team has had, or the amount of losses each team has suffered, Patterson said a victory depends on the determination of the two Mountain West Conference rivals.

“It’s still going to come down to who wants to take the ballgame and the win,” Patterson said.