Wednesday, October 4, 2000
Warriors areThe brief exchange between Dennis Franchione and June Jones was polite enough. The Texas Christian University coach didn't dive at the knees of his Hawaii counterpart. And Jones didn't promise to lead a march on the NCAA to have the rule changed on chop blocks.
The Horned Frogs open asRealAudio: 'Net broadcast Click Here
in WAC game
By Paul Arnett
After all, it was only July. The two weren't scheduled to meet until the first weekend in October, so why scrap over the Western Athletic Conference buffet? Save it for another time, another place.
Jones tried to downplay his anticipation for this game at his weekly news conference Monday. Something about them all being big games. OK, if you say so. But in July, he was licking his chops, figuring the Horned Frogs would be unbeaten and nationally ranked, and his team would be no worse than 2-1, and ready for a prime time upset.
But man, how times have changed.
Hawaii opened as a 38-point underdog in this meeting of shareholders of the 1999 WAC title. Since TCU beat Hawaii at Aloha Stadium last year, Franchione firmly believed his Horned Frogs were one-up in the category that counts: head-to-head.
And yet, when it came time to decide which team went to what bowl, Hawaii's wishes carried much more weight and national exposure. TCU played somewhere in Alabama and beat nationally ranked East Carolina. Hawaii was home in paradise in a classic battle of former NFL head coaches. No comparison.
You can't blame the WAC for Jones being the favored son. The Cinderella story wrapped in the rags-to-riches uniform caught the eye of the media nationwide. Jones is named collegiate coach of the year after producing a miracle in paradise. By late December, hardly a soul remembered TCU hammered Hawaii, and did it without the injured LaDainian Tomlinson.
But Franchione didn't forget how the fates cast him adrift in the little-known, little-watched Mobile Bowl or how TCU used the win in Hawaii as a launching pad for consecutive postseason appearances.
This is a chance for payback in a major way. As a five-touchdown favorite in search of an elusive Bowl Championship Series bid, Franchione can let the Frogs out without anyone questioning his running up the score.
Tomlinson is also in search of an equally unlikely bid for the Heisman Trophy.
He needs a lot of yards to garner some real attention, say something of the 200 variety. What better situation for the senior running back? If he leads TCU to a convincing win this Saturday on a regional Fox Sports Southwest broadcast, it could pay huge dividends in several ways.
"We know we can't afford to stumble at any point in the season or risk losing any chance of being in the top six,'" Franchione said. "I know Hawaii is struggling a little bit, but they played better last week and had a chance at coming back to win that game.
"All I can be worried about is our next opponent. It's true we could finish 11-0 and wind up not being in the top six, but we're still a long way from being at that point.
"So far, our seniors haven't let this team lose its focus, no matter who we're playing. That makes my job a little easier."
So does returning 18 starters from a team that finished 8-4 last year.
The Horned Frogs began their current nine-game winning streak -- the longest since the 1938 national championship team won 14 consecutive meetings -- in Hawaii.
Tomlinson is second nationally in rushing with 680 yards and third in scoring with eight touchdowns. He finished first last year in rushing with 1,850 yards. The Waco, Texas, product is also seventh in all-purpose yards, making him the target of Hawaii's investigation.
"LaDainian is a special kind of athlete," Franchione said. "He makes our offense go. But to tell you the truth, our defense has been overlooked. Those guys have been something special in our first four games."
Defensive end Aaron Schobel is the leader in that huddle. He has been bothered somewhat with a hip pointer, but still leads the nation in quarterback sacks, averaging two a game. As a unit, TCU leads nearly every major defensive category in the WAC. But even more importantly, the Horned Frogs are among the nation's leaders as well.
They are first in scoring defense, yielding 6.8 points a game. TCU is second in the country in total defense (199.6 yards a game) and 14th against the run, giving up a stingy 80.4 yards a game.
"We've also been strong against the pass," Franchione pointed out and he's right, TCU is eighth in the country with an efficiency rating of 84.4.
"We set some high goals this year and we're not there yet. But so far, we've played as well as I could expect."
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