TCU coach Gary Patterson made another subtle reminder of his desire to get backup quarterback Michael Collins more snaps early in games. He hasn’t wavered in that belief, saying starter Shawn Robinson would benefit from this sort of situation.
Patterson mentioned it again during his midweek news conference going into Saturday’s showdown against No. 9 Oklahoma.
It’s a fine line, Patterson acknowledged, between possibly shattering a young quarterback’s confidence with a perceived “benching” and the benefits of watching plays develop from the sidelines (as well as limiting the number of times Robinson would be exposed to hits).
“You don’t want to take him out cause you want him to gain confidence,” Patterson said. “Also as a young player you don’t want to … if they have enough of a bad experience that you can’t get their confidence ever back. Where is that fine line?
“Sometimes you can take him out so you can watch and see all of it too. It’s not always a bad thing to be watching.
“As a defensive guy, the best defense I play is when we’re standing on the sidelines. Offense is on the field – that’s the best defense I know is not to be on the field.”
Robinson has had an up-and-down season as a starter. He’s flashed potential, but has also been turnover-prone. The Frogs’ offense has turned the ball over 13 times in the last four games, and all three losses this season have come after they led at halftime.
The turnovers are something that has to change if TCU hopes to be more than a .500 team in the second half of the season.
“We need to do better at it,” Patterson said. “You can’t be last in Big 12 in takeaways and think you’re going to win a lot of ballgames.”
It starts at the quarterback position with Robinson.
Robinson has thrown more interceptions (five) than touchdowns (four) in Big 12 play. Some haven’t been entirely his fault, whether a receiver should have made a better play or the team was in desperation mode such as his interception in the final seconds of the Texas Tech loss last Thursday.
TCU also has to establish more of a running game and the offensive line can improve. Fairly or not, though, it always comes back to the quarterback.
“We need to give him more help. We didn’t do as good of job as we needed to in protection, catching the ball, running the ball, all those things,” Patterson said. “The quarterback – much is given, much is expected. He’s always the guy who is going to take the blame, just like the head coach is going to be the guy who takes the blame. It’s just what it is. If you don’t like that then you need to not be either one of those two people.”
Robinson has shown an ability and mindset to handle the pressure of the quarterback position. He always seems to bounce back and respond when adversity hits during a game.
Robinson showed his grit against Texas Tech, too, playing through a shoulder injury he sustained late in the Iowa State game. That wasn’t lost on his teammates.
“Tough kid. Tough kid,” center Kellton Hollins said. “He’s a competitor. He’s going to fight.”
That would seem to suggest that Robinson’s confidence remains strong. But Patterson dismissed a question about it.
“I don’t know. I wouldn’t tell Oklahoma that anyway,” Patterson said.
For the season, Robinson is completing 62 percent of his passes (121-for-196) for 1,313 yards with nine touchdowns and eight interceptions. He’s also rushed for 230 yards and three TDs on 47 carries.
The interceptions are concerning, but Patterson mentioned Andy Dalton enduring similar struggles early in his college career before leading the Frogs to an undefeated season and Rose Bowl victory in 2010.
Patterson recalled one particular interception Dalton threw as a redshirt freshman in 2007 against Air Force. The Frogs were in field goal range with the game tied at 17-17 with less than a minute left. But Dalton threw an interception on a first-and-10 play from the Air Force 21.
That sent the game to overtime and Air Force won. It served as a learning experience for Dalton that would pay off down the road. Dalton also split some snaps with Marcus Jackson that season.
Maybe we’ll see a similar approach with Robinson and Collins. With TCU at 3-3 and among the worst teams in the country in terms of turnover margin, Patterson said it hasn’t been managed too well right now.
“If we pull it out, then everybody will say I did a good job managing it,” Patterson said. “If we don’t change it, then I suck. And that’s OK. My two golden retriever rescue dogs will still like me.”