PROVO — Over the past five weeks, BYU revamped its offense and won five consecutive games.
But just how much have the Cougars improved during that span? That question could be answered Friday (6 p.m., MT, ESPN), when BYU squares off against TCU at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Tex.
The Cougars (6-2), who rolled to a 56-3 victory over Idaho State last Saturday, will get an opportunity to measure their progress this season against the Horned Frogs (5-2). TCU has clobbered BYU the past three seasons by a combined score of 101-17.
"Our team's respect for our opponent, the guys who have played against them, that word spreads pretty quickly," said coach Bronco Mendenhall. "We've played them six times (since 2005). We've won two and they've won four. The last couple haven't been as competitive as I would have liked. It will be natural to say the focus will be on TCU. But I want our team to get better. This will be a great chance for us to see where we are and to challenge ourselves."
BYU and TCU were Mountain West Conference rivals before the Cougars bolted the MWC after last season to go independent. The Frogs are in their final season in the MWC. A year ago, TCU announced it was moving to the Big East Conference, but earlier this month, the Frogs accepted an invitation to join the Big 12 for the 2012 season. It was an invitation that many speculated would be extended to BYU.
While the Frogs, the defending Rose Bowl champions, aren't as strong as they've been in recent years, they are coming off a 69-0 blanking of New Mexico last Saturday. TCU gained 515 yards of total offense and held the hapless Lobos to 85.
In that contest, TCU broke a school record for most points scored in a single game. Quarterback Casey Pachall completed 13-of-17 passes for 175 yards and two touchdowns, all in the first half, and the Frogs rushed for 264 yards. TCU scored touchdowns on three of its four possessions in the second quarter to jump out to a 41-0 lead at halftime.
"Coaches harped on getting the ball out in space and executing each play and not taking plays off," Pachall told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "That's what we did and that's what we need to carry over to next week, especially against that good BYU defense."
BYU enjoyed similar success against Idaho State, a Football Championship Subdivision team. The Cougars amassed a season-high 572 yards of total offense as quarterback Riley Nelson, making his third straight start, threw for 215 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 62 yards and another TD. Running back Michael Alisa added 66 yards on eight carries, including a 42-yard TD run.
"We're coming a lot closer (to reaching the team's potential) with a convincing win like that," said wide receiver Cody Hoffman, who caught five passes for 71 yards and two touchdowns. "We just need to work on the little things. I think our potential has almost been reached."
The Cougars opened the season with a 1-2 record after devastating back-to-back defeats at Texas and at home to Utah. Since then, BYU has built a five-game winning streak.
"It's a big turnaround, coming off of those two hard losses," Hoffman said. "Now we're finally building up the momentum and we're able to make plays and put points on the board. We struggled at first with scoring. We made a couple of changes and now we're putting numerous points on the board and it's helping our defense out."
With a Friday kickoff, BYU and TCU have precious little time to prepare for each other. That's why, right after Saturday's victory, the Cougar coaching staff returned to the football office to start getting ready for the Frogs.
TCU coach Gary Patterson took a similar approach.
"I won't watch this much at all," he said about the New Mexico game film. "I'm taking my laptop home and I'll have BYU on by 6:30. You guys get to rest, I ain't resting. I may turn the baseball game on while I do it. Maybe I'll get a bite to eat, but I'll be a lot happier if I can some way get to 6-2."
Cougars on the air
BYU (6-2) vs. TCU (5-2)
Friday, 6 p.m. MT
Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Tex.
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM
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