Gary Patterson’s job just got a whole lot harder.
The introduction of Caleb Williams into Saturday’s OU-Texas contest sparked the Oklahoma offense, and should probably be the guy going forward.
After OU’s offense underwhelmed at points to start the year, Williams’ legs add an entirely different dynamic.
And if it is indeed Williams on Saturday, Patterson has two and a half quarters of tape on the true freshman quarterback from the Cotton Bowl and a handful of possessions from Oklahoma’s second game of the year against Western Carolina.
But regardless of who the quarterback is, the TCU head coach said preparing for either Spencer Rattler or Williams provides a major challenge.
“Well I mean really they run the same offense,” Patterson said Monday morning during a Big 12 conference call. “(Williams is) a little bit more, probably stronger like Jalen Hurts. So you got to go back and you got to prepare for anything they've done with more of the quarterback run game. But I mean, they're very similar.”
The bad news for Patterson and the Horned Frogs is they struggled to contain Hurts on the ground.
Oklahoma rushed for 366 yards in 2019, with Hurts accounting for 173 yards on 28 carries.
While Hurts feasted, running back Kennedy Brooks also had a big day on the ground, toting the rock 25 times for 149 yards.
The tradeoff was that Hurts had a relatively calm day through the air, completing 11-of-21 passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns, also throwing one interception.
In fact, the main reason the Horned Frogs were able to hold OU to 28 points on the day (the lowest point total a Lincoln Riley offense has posted against Patterson’s Horned Frogs) was that TCU forced a pair of fumbles to go along with Hurts’ lone interception.
That’s incredibly bad news for Patterson’s defense, which enters Norman this week with the 116th best rushing defense in the country, allowing 206.0 yards per game on the ground.
A lot of that can be chalked up to the personnel as plenty of Horned Frogs defenders have missed games due to injury, but still Patterson isn’t pleased with the run defense in Fort Worth.
“Biggest thing is just get guys back. Our whole thing's about adjustment,” Patterson said. “We just got to keep people on the field to be able to do that… But the one thing that I do like about what they've done. They are playing hard, and so long as you play hard you're going to give yourself an opportunity to be successful.”
But even in years where TCU’s defenses have been the class of the Big 12, Patterson, like many other defensive coordinators across the country, struggles with Riley’s offense.
Since Riley was named offensive coordinator in Norman, Oklahoma has averaged 39.1 points, 515.6 total yards and 266.6 rushing yards per game against the Horned Frogs.
Patterson gave full credit to Riley and his ability to highlight his talent, no matter the skillset, over his years running the Oklahoma offense.
“Lincoln's done a great job of — three years as a coordinator and then as a head coach of being able to play,” Patterson said. “And not only does he fit to the quarterback strengths but he also fits to his personnel.
“ … You've got to you got to make sure you're accountable to everybody on the field. That's when you know when we have our most success, when we do have success it's been because we do that. Because you got to be accountable. If you have a weakness or you move in the wrong position, your eyes aren't in the right place and he's gonna take advantage of you.”
Facing the Oklahoma offense is never an easy task for any defensive coordinator, but Saturday’s events have done nothing but make Patterson’s job that much harder.
“Coach (Riley) does a great job of — gonna put you in mismatches anyway so you got to really prepare all for it,” Patterson said. “But it's, you know, you got to prepare for Oklahoma, not just for the quarterback. They've got good players everywhere.”
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