A s*&t talking punter? Now I have truly seen it all. Just don’t try and do too much, Turp.
That’s why Downing has been eagerly awaiting Iowa State’s showdown Saturday with fourth-ranked Texas Christian at 2:30 p.m. at Jack Trice Stadium.
The game will be an opportunity for Downing to show just what kind of year he's having and to face off against one of the nation's best punt returners in TCU’s KaVontae Turpin.
“I’ve had this game circled on my calendar,” Downing said. “(He’s) probably one of the best returners in college football. So, it’s an exciting week for me because I love a good challenge.”
The legacy Patterson has built reaches far past the hallowed halls of the Carter, out into NFL cities across the US. And the fact that so many of these guys continue to mentor young players speaks volumes about what the program has meant to them.
Patterson’s secret weapon over the years has been the influence of his former players, like when NFL standouts such as Jerry Hughes or Jason Verrett show up during spring practice.
Young players caught off guard early in their TCU careers can be calmed by a wise alumnus who has NFL skins on the wall.
“Coach Patterson is going to push you and it might not be the way you’ve been pushed before,” said Hughes, a 2010 first-round draft pick now in his fifth season with the Buffalo Bills. “He’s doing this so you can go out and perform. It’s never personal. He wants to win games just like we want to win games when we’re out on the field.”
Three years ago, a conference title game might have lifted the Frogs into the playoffs. Now, it could very well keep them out. Ugh.
The Big 12 is damn strong now, however — perhaps the second-best conference in FBS. And since each of the three CFP contenders has a power conference pelt from unbeaten non-conference play (Oklahoma’s win over Ohio State being the most impressive, obviously), you’re looking at three pretty strong résumés no matter who were to finish 11-1 or 12-0.
You’ve got fewer easy outs than ever, and now you’re decreasing the odds of a playoff-acceptable record with only marginal effect on the résumé.
Now that the conference is actually quite good, this title game seems even more foolish than before.
If Kenny Hill can play error-free football, the Frogs have the upper hand in Ames.
“Right now, we’re 7-0 and we need to get to 8-0,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said. “This one will be tougher. I said before the season that Iowa State was going to be a tough ball game and that’s not even knowing what I know now.”
The Horned Frogs have been balanced on offense and have actually done the bulk of their damage on the ground. TCU has run the ball on 57.3 percent of its offensive snaps, the highest mark since the arrival of its spread offense in 2014.
It helps that TCU has a true dual-threat quarterback in Kenny Hill. He ranks fourth in the nation with a 70.2 completion percentage (146 of 208) that is on pace to set a TCU season record, and he has not thrown an interception in his last 100 pass attempts.
Sunday won’t matter unless the Frogs take care of business Saturday. And they know it.
The scenarios can be dizzying to consider. TCU players, at least publicly, say they aren’t thinking about any of it. When a reporter joked about players laying out CFP scenarios, running back Kyle Hicks burst out laughing.
They aren’t quite considering scenarios. This veteran team wouldn’t dare.
“When you see all these upsets and teams taking other teams for granted,” Hicks said, “you realize they lost focus. You don’t want to be that squad … You see it. You can tell what team is focused when you are out there watching a game.”
If there were any signs of complacency, they would have been evident against lowly Kansas. But TCU won, 43-0. The Horned Frogs, in fact, have not allowed a touchdown since the fourth quarter of the West Virginia game on Oct. 7.
They figure to be right in the mix when the initial CFP rankings are released next week.
“I have to win the ballgame for it to matter for us,” Patterson said. “Maybe I’ll think about that on Sunday. We need to take care of business and we’ll see what everyone has to say after that.”