Jason Olson, Deseret Morning News
TCU's Aaron Brown (23) gets the ball stripped away by BYU defensive back Ben Criddle on Thursday.

It's been a tough, disappointing year for the TCU football team, and Thursday night's loss to BYU didn't ease its pain.

Still visibly agitated after the 27-22 defeat at LaVell Edwards Stadium that essentially went to the final minute, Horned Frogs coach Gary Patterson expressed pride in his defense and frustration with a banged-up offense.

"When Joseph Turner has been healthy, him and Aaron Brown, we've been very good on offense," Patterson said. "The problem is they've only played four games."

That's a slight exaggeration: TCU's top running-back tandem has actually played a combined 13 games. But their playing time has been limited by injury, and those are significant losses considering these are the guys who were expected to lead the Frogs to a conference title. Brown, in fact, was the preseason pick as offensive player of the year.

Against BYU, Brown ran for net 8 yards, while Turner gained 32.

Still, it was just a five-point defeat, a fact that a determined Horned Frog defense deserves credit for.

"I really like the way the defense played in the second half," Patterson said. "We didn't give up any touchdowns."

The TCU coach said the defense's primary goals coming in were to control BYU's tight ends and keep the Cougar running backs from making a big impact in the passing game.

They succeeded at the latter: BYU's running backs caught just six passes for 33 yards. But the tight ends, especially Dennis Pitta, who caught seven balls for 88 yards, proved harder to contain.

A bigger factor, though, was TCU's inability to keep BYU from converting on third down. The Cougars were successful on 13 of 20 third-down plays. That's 65 percent, well above their already impressive 42 percent on the season.

By comparison, TCU converted on just 4 of 14 third downs.

"They were good on third downs last year," Patterson said of BYU. "I think they're first in the league, besides Air Force."

Patterson indicated some discontent with a schedule that has forced them to play three Thursday games, as opposed to, for instance, BYU, which played just one. Perhaps considering that, he felt his defense deserved a lot of credit for a solid performance.

"Our kids came into a stadium where BYU plays very well and played their hearts out," he said.

Now, Patterson said, his team will focus on its one remaining goal: the postseason. With wins over UNLV and San Diego State in their final two games, the Horned Frogs would finish the season 7-5 and in all likelihood receive a bowl bid.

And next year, Patterson expects his young team, which will return more than half its starters on both sides of the ball, to show the payoff from a learning experience this season.

"We've grown up since the beginning of the year," he said.