The CSU offense, which scores 25 points per game, may be in for a rude awakening when they arrive in Amon G. Carter Stadium this weekend to face No. 12 TCU.
The Horned Frogs (5-0, 1-0 MWC) give up just 15.2 points per game and boast the seventh best defense in the nation, allowing only 249.2 yards of total offense per contest.
“We’ve got our work cut out for us,” offensive coordinator Greg Peterson said.
Fullback Zac Pauga said that TCU has the best defense the Rams will face all season.
Athletic, fast, strong — all adjectives CSU coaches and players have used to describe the TCU defense, led by defensive end Jerry Hughes.
This week, Hughes was named one of 12 semifinalists for the 2009 Rotary Lombardi Award, which goes to the best defensive lineman in the country. Hughes has racked up six sacks this season and will be on full pursuit to add quarterback Grant Stucker to his victim list.
“I don’t particularly pay attention to the defensive line, but I know that Jerry Hughes is an absolute, one-man wrecking crew,” Stucker said.
Left tackle Cole Pemberton draws the task of keeping Hughes out of the backfield.
“He’s a great athlete and knows how to get to the quarterback. I’ve just got to stick to my technique and keep studying him and know what he likes to do and just block him,” Pemberton said.
To negate the strong TCU pass rush, which averages 3.2 sacks per game, head coach Steve Fairchild said the team will have to establish the running game before throwing the ball.
“If we can run it, it helps our pass and pass protection,” Fairchild said.
In last year’s 13-7 loss at Hughes Stadium, the Rams managed only 11 yards on the ground against the Horned Frogs.
“We pounded them pretty good the first drive, but then they just committed everybody to the run, and we didn’t make enough plays throwing it,” Fairchild said.
Pauga knows the importance of his role as the fullback to clear out space for running backs Leonard Mason and John Mosure.
“They have a lot of speed, so you can’t go side-to-side on them. We’ll just have to punch it down their throat,” Pauga said. “We’re going to be trying to go downhill, so it’s going to be my job to knock that first linebacker out of the way.”
If the Rams can get the running game going, opportunities to throw the ball will present themselves as TCU plays a lot of man-to-man coverage in the secondary.
“You’re going to have to beat them through the air,” Stucker said.
The first-year quarterback is coming off a three-interception game against Utah.
“I learned from it. Those are mistakes that I made that are not going to happen again,” Stucker said.
The coaches have full confidence Stucker will bounce back against TCU.
“I told him in the locker room after the game, ‘I’ll take you anywhere, anytime we play.’ I know he’ll be ready to play,” Peterson said.
Kick-off is 2:02 MDT and the game will be televised on Versus, which is Comcast channel 55.
Football Beat Reporter Stephen Meyers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.