Gunn, Texas Christian continue to show grit

QB rebounds from injuries to lead Frogs to 6-0 mark

National notebook

College Football

October 17, 2003|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

Texas Christian has a rich football history, going back to the days of Slingin' Sammy Baugh and, more recently with LaDainian Tomlinson. The current Horned Frogs, who take a 6-0 record into tomorrow's game at Alabama-Birmingham, are trying to find their own place in the program's lore.

Sophomore quarterback Tye Gunn admits he's not much of a history student, but even Slingin' Sammy would love his grit. Gunn has twice come back from injury in the past year, first when he blew out his right knee last season and from a separated shoulder this season.

The knee injury, which required total reconstructive surgery, was supposed to keep Gunn out six months to a year.

"It was pretty devastating," Gunn recalled earlier this week. "My goal was to get back before summer workouts."

Gunn was back on the field in 4 1/2 months. Then, in a 17-3 win over Navy on Sept. 6, Gunn sustained a second-degree separation of his right shoulder. He missed only two weeks, returning to lead the Horned Frogs to wins over Army and South Florida.

There's a simple reason for TCU's success this season despite missing Gunn as well as tailbacks Lonta Hobbs and Ricky Madison. Junior Brandon Hassell helped the team in wins against Vanderbilt and Arizona, and freshman tailback Robert Merrill has rushed for 435 yards and a touchdown in four games.

Third-year TCU coach Gary Patterson challenged those coming off the bench "to step across the line and be a player." But even Patterson admits to being a little surprised by his team's unbeaten record. "Especially with all the injuries we've had," he said.

Gunn is quick to credit TCU's unblemished record to the team's defense. When the Horned Frogs broke South Florida's 21-game home unbeaten streak last week with a 13-10 victory, the defense accounted for 10 sacks against a team that had given up just eight coming in.

"They actually won the game for us," Gunn said. "They're a very dominating defense."

Ranked 16th, TCU still has a way to go to get up to where the 2000 team was when it was ranked ninth after starting 7-0. Unlike No. 12 Northern Illinois, TCU's wins over BCS conference schools have come against the doormats of the Southeastern Conference and Pac-10, respectively.

Gunn isn't expecting a big-time bowl invitation if the Horned Frogs finish unbeaten.

"I think it's going to be hard," Gunn said.

Midseason report

The first eight weeks of the 2003 season have helped illuminate the biggest surprises and disappointments, as well as the race for this year's Heisman Trophy.

Biggest surprise (team): Though Northern Illinois might be the Cinderella team of the year with its wins over Maryland, Iowa State and at Alabama, the most impressive turnarounds have been by perennial Big 12 losers Missouri (5-1, including a win last week over Nebraska) and Kansas (4-2 with a win over Missouri).

Biggest disappointment (team): There was talk around the ACC that North Carolina State was about to replace Florida State as the league's top team. Losing at Ohio State in overtime was admirable, but the Wolfpack has also lost at Wake Forest and Georgia Tech.

Biggest surprise (player): Texas Tech quarterback B.J. Symons sat for three years behind Kliff Kingsbury in Lubbock - four including his freshman redshirt season - and most figured that the Red Raiders wouldn't be in the red zone or end zone as much. Those who did figured wrong: Symons has thrown for 27 touchdowns (only six interceptions) and leads the nation in passing.

Biggest disappointment (player): Washington's Cody Pickett came into the season as a Heisman candidate, but the Huskies quarterback got off to a rocky start against Ohio State, and things have unraveled from there. Pickett has as many interceptions (seven) as touchdowns for a disappointing 3-3 team.

Coach of the year: It has to be Joe Novak of Northern Illinois. The Huskies are threatening to force the BCS to take them into one of the premier games, and Novak has gotten his players to believe they can play - and beat - anyone on their schedule. Other candidates include Mark Mangino at Kansas and Navy's Paul Johnson.

Coach on the hot seat: Florida's Ron Zook might be working elsewhere next season. The Gators have lost to in-state rival Miami and SEC rival Tennessee, but the most galling defeat came against Mississippi. Zook will have some company from Bobby Bowden if Florida State doesn't recover from last week's loss to the Hurricanes.

Heisman hunt: Symons could be doing his pose if he can continue to throw for big yards against tougher competition. Kevin Jones has the confidence to wear Michael Vick's old number at Virginia Tech and, after a slow start, the tailback has become a dominant player for the Hokies. N.C. State's Philip Rivers has been hurt by his team's fall from the Top 25.

Three games to watch

Florida State at Virginia: The Cavaliers are hoping to replay their victory over the Seminoles in Charlottesville in 1995, and Florida State is vulnerable after last week's loss at home to Miami. A win by Virginia could open the door for a scramble at the top of the ACC.

Missouri at Oklahoma: The Tigers are coming off a huge win at home against Nebraska, but a dose of reality should hit them in Norman. Led by quarterback Jason White, the Sooners pummeled Texas like it was a mediocre I-AA team. Missouri has talent, but not enough to topple the No. 1 team in the country.

Southern California at Notre Dame: This has long been one of college football's marquee matchups, and any game against the Trojans in South Bend will have all the pageantry surrounding it. The only problem is that Notre Dame's sluggish start - despite last week's upset win at Pittsburgh - has dulled much of the hype.

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.