TCU bounces back, defense keys win

Red-zone mistakes were the story of TCU's all-too-close win at Kansas in its Big 12 opener a week ago.

Quarterback Casey Pachall made another one this week -- his first interception of the season came at the Virginia 3-yard line -- but the Frogs' defense made it easy in Saturday's 27-7 win.

Skye Dawson fumbled out the back of the end zone after a long reception to give the Frogs another red-zone miscue, but the defense made sure it didn't matter on Saturday.

The defense pitched a shutout for the first three quarters, and the offensive mistakes were once again outweighed by a strong defensive outing.

Brandon Carter's one-handed stab began the day's scoring and produced its biggest highlight for a 68-yard touchdown, but the defense provided the day's biggest highlights and suffocated Virginia's offense for 60 minutes. Carter finished with five catches for 128 yards.

Matthew Tucker had a quiet day as the lone TCU back left standing. Waymon James is out for the season with a knee injury and Ed Wesley left the team after fall camp. Tucker had just 52 yards on 15 carries, and freshman B.J. Catalon added just 11 yards on five carries. The potential to get better is there, but that's got to be a concern.

Linebacker Kenny Cain caught one interception off a tipped pass and snatched another away from a receiver, returning it 41 yards to set up a field goal. He recovered another first-half fumble to complete a huge day for the senior.

To this point, TCU has looked the part of the Big 12's best defense. It took more than 11 quarters for the Frogs to give up their first TD of the season, but considering the wholesale personnel losses suffered by the defense since the end of the 2011 season, that's pretty amazing.

Gary Patterson is working with his youngest team ever, and that's in play big time with the defense.

On Saturday, the Frogs held Virginia's offense to just 3-of-16 on third down and forced four turnovers. Unless your offense is awful (and TCUs decidedly is not), that's going to be good enough to win on just about any day.

By now, though, the offense's penchant for fumbling has to be a concern. Maybe it goes away next week against SMU, but Dawson's fumble came just a play after backup QB Trevone Boykin got away with a fumble at the end of a 40-yard run. Virginia had a chance at it, but the Frogs jumped on it, giving them one more chance.

TCU fumbled that chance away on the next play.

Last week, it didn't change the outcome of the game. Today, it didn't change the outcome of the game.

If it continues, eventually that will not be the case.