Well-rested BYU could be facing a shorthanded TCU team Saturday in Fort Worth
TCU starting quarterback Chandler Morris left the Frogs’ loss to Iowa State in the third quarter with a leg injury
When the Big 12 football schedule was released the last day of January a little more than eight months ago, BYU football players and coaches probably didn’t think their first game in October would be against a 3-3 team on a two-game losing streak
“A bad one tonight; we have not played winning football. Our players are playing hard. There are no effort issues.” — TCU coach Sonny Dykes after a 27-14 loss to Iowa State
But college football is nothing if not unpredictable, and that’s where the TCU Horned Frogs, who played in the College Football Playoff championship game three weeks prior to the 2023 schedule release, currently find themselves.
TCU, which hosts mildly surprising BYU (1-1, 4-1) at 1:30 p.m. MDT on Saturday at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, fell 27-14 at Iowa State late Saturday night and is now just 1-2 in Big 12 play.
What’s more, the Horned Frogs could have to face their former Mountain West Conference rivals without starting quarterback Chandler Morris, who suffered an apparent leg injury with 11 minutes left in the third quarter and wasn’t able to return to the game against the 3-3 Cyclones.
Morris’ status for TCU’s first matchup with BYU since the Frogs downed the Cougars 38-28 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, in 2011 figures to be a big storyline this week. Redshirt freshman Josh Hoover closed out the ISU game for the Frogs and completed 11 of 19 passes for 119 yards.
But Hoover, a former three-star recruit from Heath, Texas, fumbled the first time he touched the ball and his second pass was intercepted. He had thrown only three passes in 2023 before Saturday, and one of those passes was picked off against Nicholls.
So TCU has some issues, particularly on offense.
“A bad one tonight; we have not played winning football,” coach Sonny Dykes told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “Our players are playing hard. There are no effort issues.”
TCU opened as a five-point favorite over BYU on Sunday.
The last time the Frogs played at home, they were upset 24-21 by West Virginia in front of 43,736 at Carter Stadium, which has a capacity of 50,000. It will be interesting to see what the environment and crowd mixture is like this Saturday, with TCU having lost two straight and BYU notorious for drawing big pro-Cougar crowds in central Texas due to a large number of alumni and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the area.
The Cougars will be well-rested, too, having not played since downing Cincinnati 35-27 on Sept. 29, BYU’s first Big 12 victory. The Cougars remain the only Big 12 newcomer with a league win, after Kansas drubbed UCF 51-22 in Lawrence. Houston and Cincinnati were also idle Saturday.
While TCU is dealing with a QB injury, BYU should be as healthy as it has been since the 14-0 win over Sam Houston in the season opener.
“We are sitting in a really good spot right now going into the bye week,” head coach Kalani Sitake said on Oct. 2. “… You have to be ready for a battle every week and we knew our guys would be committed to it. … I feel really good about our chances going into the last seven games of the season.”
There is a good chance that receiver Kody Epps (hamstring), running back Aidan Robbins (ribs), offensive lineman Weylin Lapuaho (arm) and linebacker Ben Bywater (shoulder) will be available to play Saturday. Coaches have been hoping that safety Talan Alfrey (shoulder/collar bone) will be back, but his situation remains unclear.
“I think there are a good number of players who will come back for the TCU game,” Sitake said a week ago. “And then there are some that will probably take a couple more weeks, even after that. But I think for those that have got hurt in the last couple of weeks, there is a good chance that they could all come back by TCU.”
Iowa State was able to rush for 215 yards against the Frogs — the Cyclones averaged 5.8 yards per carry — which should bode well for a BYU rushing attack that has been among the worst in the nation this season.
Without playing this past weekend, the Cougars dropped to No. 129 in rushing yards per game (62.8) and are ahead of only one team in that category, Hawaii (58.5 ypg).
Offensive lineman Connor Pay said last Monday that the bye week would allow time for some self-scouting to determine how the Cougars could improve their rushing attack. Getting a healthy Robbins back in the lineup should help.
Cougars on the air
BYU (1-1, 4-1)
at TCU (1-2, 3-3)
Oct. 14, 1:30 p.m. MDT
Amon G. Carter Stadium
Radio: 102.7 FM/1160 AM
“To be able to fix those (issues) and have a week to recover and have the opportunity to do some self-scout and try to find the best ways to improve, all that stuff, I think is really beneficial, where in the past it has been a lot of guys getting banged up in your eighth, ninth, 10th straight game,” Pay said. “It gives us an opportunity to kinda jumpstart that recovery process a little bit.”
Overall, Pay said the confidence level remains high.
“Our first year in the Big 12, starting the season 4-1, I think that is something we can be proud of even though there is a whole list of things we know we need to get better at,” he said.