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October 2, 2013The TCU football team has gotten used to being in a hole.
The Horned Frogs have been outscored 50-34 in the first half this season. Fortunately, the team has outscored opponents 89-41 in the second half, or else the team might not be 2-2.
The undefeated No. 11 Oklahoma Sooners have not have that problem and have outscored opponents 74-21 in the first half. Of course, they are also 62-27 in the second half.
Something has to give for the Horned Frogs this week, they can't afford a slow start and the team knows it.
"We've got to jump on them early," TCU defensive end Jon Koontz said. "Starting slow is something we can't afford to do this week or really the rest of the season."
Starting quarterback Trevone Boykin is the key to that. He started out rough in the first half and completed less than half of his passes. He knows the key is getting success early.
"If we play around in the first half like we did last week, we may not even be in position to come back in the second half," Boykin said. "We have certain plays to beat their defense and it's my job to get us in those plays and to keep moving forward."
Boykin will have to overcome a typically great crowd in Norman to get that fast start. This will be he and every member of the current team's first time playing there.
"I've been in the stadium, but it was empty when I was there," Boykin said. "It's just something you have to prepare for. It's the same everywhere though. Once you snap the ball, you don't think about that."
Koontz is pumped to see the crimson crowd this weekend an it makes him excited about playing college football.
"Going into venues like Norman week after week on these exciting stages is fun," Koontz said. "The crowd noise (at Lubbock) didn't affect us on defense much. It's usually quieter when their offense is on the field. We just have to focus on executing and leave all the other outside factors alone."
Koontz will be anchoring a defensive line that has played really well lately. TCU is in the top-five in the nation in sacks.
"Being able to roll fresh legs in on third downs has helped us get a pass rush and some speed off the edge with the depth we have," Koontz said. "The pressure the defensive tackles have had up the middle has been incredible and if we're able to keep contain on the outside, we can have success on defense."
One of the guys that gets that pressure up the middle and will be tested this week is Jon Lewis. He has burst onto the scene recently and leads the Big 12 with four sacks already.
"He has a great mix of speed and strength and really all of the defensive tackles do," Koontz said. "For an offensive lineman, it's difficult to block those different guys. All of the guys we can put in the middle gives us a huge advantage."
Lewis and the defensive tackles aren't the only ones playing great on that side of the ball. Linebackers Marcus Mallett and Jonathan Anderson have played really well of late. Mallett led the team in tackles and tackles for loss against SMU.
"They are coming along and getting more comfortable in the defense. The first few weeks they were tentative about doing the wrong thing," Koontz said of TCU's linebackers. "Now they are able to relax and play. They are great athletes and can kind of let loose and play."
Those linebackers' ability to make plays has actually helped Boykin as well. The team has been working a lot on its "scramble drill" as a way for Boykin and his receivers to work on chemistry as the quarterback extends plays with his legs.
"In the game, it's something that has to just come naturally, but we definitely work on it in practice," Boykin said. "The defense and receivers don't know where I'm going in the drill, so they jut have to flow with me and I have to find windows. We work on it three or four times a week so it's getting better."
Those chemistry lessons paid off in big ways Sunday as Ty Slanina and Ja'Juan Story made big plays that led to TCU touchdowns.
"I'm glad to see Ja'Juan out there. He had a really big spring so I knew he could make plays. He does it in practice all the time to," Boykin said. "Those guys were out there making plays at the time. Ty brought a lot of emotion to the game. When we watch film of practice, he just has a knack for getting open."
The offense has been waiting all year for the big-play wide receivers to show up and be what they can be. While the group struggled early, Boykin still has plenty of faith in them and is more critical on himself than his wide outs.
"I'm going to give my guys a chance every time. I'm not going to doubt any of my guys," Boykin said. "I go back and look at my own film by myself as a way of helping get ready for the next game."