PROVO — Going back to the 2008 season, BYU has scored a feeble 17 points — two touchdowns and a field goal — in three losses to TCU.
The Cougars are looking to stir up substantially more offense when they face the Horned Frogs again Friday (6 p.m., MT, ESPN) at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Why has TCU's defense dominated BYU's offense in recent years?
"They do a really good job of disguising coverages and disguising blitzes," explained center Terence Brown. "We just have been stopped."
The key to turning that around, Brown said, is establishing a running game.
"We haven't been able to run the ball. If you can't run the ball, you're not going to be very successful on offense," he said. "They've been able to stop our run, then pin their ears back and come after our quarterback. I would imagine that we're going to try to have a very sound ground game this week, and hopefully that's our emphasis and work from there and put some points on the board."
The Cougars enter Friday's showdown having rushed for at least 200 yards in four straight games, led by quarterback Riley Nelson (averaging 6.5 yards per carry) and running back Michael Alisa (5.2 ypc).
"We hope to continue to keep that up," said Brown. "TCU's going to want to stop the run and we're going to want to run it. So it's going to be a great test."
This time around, the Cougars have a different kind of quarterback in Nelson, whose mobility provides a new dimension to the offense.
"Riley's ability to create and get us out of bad plays or covered receivers and scramble for first downs keeps momentum," said coach Bronco Mendenhall. "The defense doesn't have to play so much. And against a team like TCU that scores so many points, and a team like TCU that we haven't even averaged a touchdown against for three years in a row, you need to hold onto the ball and score points."
Brown said the Cougars, who have won five consecutive games, are playing with a swagger with Nelson leading the offense.
"I know Riley's going to compete and extend plays that aren't there at the beginning," Brown said. "We're going to block hard for him, knowing he can extend plays with his legs and make throws. We're looking forward to the challenge ... Riley's a confident guy. He's not scared of anyone. Hopefully, we can continue as a team to take that attitude."
Here is more hope for BYU — TCU's defense hasn't been as stellar this year as it has been in previous seasons. The Frogs were ranked No. 1 in the country in total defense in 2008, 2009 and 2010, and most teams had trouble moving the ball and scoring against the Frogs during that stretch.
This year, though, TCU is No. 37 in total defense, having surrendered 50 points in a season-opening setback at Baylor, and 40 points in a home loss to arch-rival SMU on Oct. 1.
TCU's "D" is led by All-America linebacker Tank Carder, last year's Mountain West Conference defensive player of the year.
"They are fast. Their linebackers are very quick and they get to the ball well. They play hard," Brown said. "I know their defense is solid. No. 43 (Carder) is a great player. They have a lot of team speed."
One of the Frogs' other top linebackers, Tanner Brock, who was the team's leading tackler last year, is out for the season with a foot injury.
In those three lopsided losses to TCU since 2008, the Cougars have been shut out in the first and fourth quarters. They have rushed for a total of just 194 yards, given up 14 sacks, and turned the ball over eight times.
The Cougars know they can't afford to struggle in those areas again in order to have a chance to win on Friday night.
"They've been the better team. They've beaten us three years in a row," Brown said. "Hopefully this year we can come out and execute and that we can be the better team. We've got to score. We trust our defense will hold them. We'll play our best, put up as many points as we can and it will come down to the fourth quarter. Hopefully we make the plays to win it."
By the numbers
TCU has beaten BYU the past three seasons by a combined score of 101-17. Here's a look at key stats from those three games:
1st downs 10 23
Total offense 147 381
Rushing yds. 56 108
Passing yds. 91 273
Turnovers 2 0
Sacks allowed 3 2
1st downs 18 21
Total offense 298 412
Rushing yds. 110 127
Passing yds. 188 285
Turnovers 2 0
Sacks allowed 5 2
1st downs 19 29
Total offense 297 410
Rushing yds. 28 240
Passing yds. 274 170
Turnovers 4 1
Sacks allowed 6 1
Cougars on the air
BYU (6-2) vs. TCU (5-2)
Friday, 6 p.m. MT
Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM
Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company