Oklahoma football: Lincoln Riley has owned first four meetings against Gary Patterson

NORMAN, OK - NOVEMBER 11: Tight end Grant Calcaterra
NORMAN, OK - NOVEMBER 11: Tight end Grant Calcaterra /

Ever since Lincoln Riley has been associated with Oklahoma football, the second-year Sooner head coach has owned the chess match between himself and TCU head coach Gary Patterson.

TCU’s Gary Patterson is rightfully called one of the best defensive minds in the country. His 4-2-5 defensive scheme relies on speed, pressure and sound fundamentals to force high-flying Big 12 offenses out of their comfort zones.

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Despite the league’s reputation for high-scoring offense, Patterson consistently produces top 25 defenses. This year his unit is ranked No. 14 in the country allowing just 311.8 yards per game even with an out-of-conference tilt against Ohio State counting against its record.

The one coach Patterson hasn’t figured out how to stop yet? Lincoln Riley of Oklahoma.

Before Riley’s hiring in 2015 the Sooners and Horned Frogs were deadlocked at 1-1 as conference opponents with both games decided by less than a touchdown. Since Riley started calling plays Oklahoma is 4-0 with an average margin of victory of 12.25 points.

The Sooners have averaged 40.25 points per game and 516 yards per contest against TCU since Riley took over. Their lowest output – 30 points in 2015 – was with backup quarterback Trevor Knight taking all the second half snaps after Baker Mayfield had to leave the game with a concussion.

After Oklahoma’s 41-17 win over TCU last year in the Big 12 Championship game Patterson simply took his hat off to his younger counterpart, gushing about the Oklahoma program in the postgame press conference.

“You gotta get to where you believe you can play on that level every day,” Patterson said to the Norman Transcript. “For us, the standard of where we need to get to and what we need to do recruiting-wise, scheme-wise, coaching-wise, player-wise, is Oklahoma.”

So what has been the difference between Oklahoma and most of the rest of the teams TCU plays every year? Here are a few factors.


The TCU defense prides itself on speed. Patterson is known to recruit high school quarterbacks and running backs and mold them to fit his scheme.

This speed overwhelms a lot of the spread attacks in the Big 12 and takes away the screens and draws that many teams rely on to succeed. The Sooners are one of the only teams on the Horned Frogs’ schedule that can match and often beat the TCU speed with their skill position talent.


The Horned Frogs are built to prevent teams from running around them, but their penchant for smaller, faster defensive linemen leaves them open to a physical running game. While most teams in the league don’t have the size up front to take advantage of this flaw, the Sooners usually do.

Oklahoma’s beefy offensive line often takes advantage of its smaller counterparts and establishes a running game for the Sooners. Oklahoma has rushed for more than 200 yards in each of its last four wins over TCU.


When it comes down to it, Lincoln Riley has moved his chess pieces better than Gary Patterson in the previous four meetings. In 2015-16 he used Baker Mayfield’s scrambling ability to attack the Horned Frogs up the middle along with the dynamic one-two punch of Joe Mixon an Samaje Perine. In 2017 he unleashed Rodney Anderson as a runner, but more importantly as a receiver out of the backfield. Anderson scored four touchdowns in the the first half alone in the Sooners’ first win over the Horned Frogs last year.

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With a full two weeks to prepare and plenty to prove following a 48-45 loss to Texas, it will be interesting to see how the Sooners attack the Horned Frogs this week. Can Riley continue his recent mastery of the TCU 4-2-5? Or will Patterson strike his first major blow in this battle of two of college football’s best minds?