FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — TCU has never had a four-game losing streak in Gary Patterson's 18 seasons as head coach.
Before now, the Horned Frogs had lost three in a row only once during his tenure.
After a loss in Patterson's home state of Kansas to the only Big 12 team without a conference victory until then, TCU (3-5, 1-4 Big 12) is back home Saturday and trying to avoid an unprecedented streak against Kansas State.
"I'm trying to win three or four more ballgames here by December," Patterson said. "That's what my short-term goals are."
Well, the coach's alma mater is also struggling and in the same situation. The Wildcats (3-5, 1-4) are coming off a 51-14 loss at Oklahoma that was their fourth loss in five games.
Both TCU and K-State have to win at least three of their last four games just to be bowl eligible. That means one of them is going to have to win its last three games to get to six wins.
"What happened in Norman is tough to shake off," Wildcats center Adam Holtorf said. "There definitely is some anger and frustration in what happened. We didn't execute, we didn't compete, it was a tough loss to take. So there is some anger, but we're trying to channel that in the right ways to motivate ourselves and try and get better."
TCU has actually lost five of its last six games, with the only win in that stretch 17-14 at home over Iowa State after a field goal in the final minute. The Frogs had won all previous six Big 12 meetings against the Jayhawks until the 27-26 loss at Kansas last weekend, when Darius Anderson fumbled inside the Jayhawks 10 with 1:15 left after bumping into one of his own teammates.
"I always talk about the football gods, you can call it whatever you want to call it," Patterson said. "I've been reading ... (media) call it the 'butt fumble.' I'm not sure that I would do it. There's no good loss. Every loss, there's no good loss."
Kansas State is going to have to finish strong to make a bowl game for the ninth consecutive season. After TCU, the Wildcats have consecutive home games against Kansas and Texas Tech before finishing the regular season at Iowa State.
"I'd like to think they want to succeed," said Bill Snyder, K-State's 79-year-old coach. "It's not just about playing in a bowl game, they certainly want that. ... None of them have ever been without a bowl game on their resume in any given year, so it would be a unique experience for them. Above and beyond that, they want to be a competitive football team."
Patterson said two key defenders, free safety Niko Small and linebacker/end Ty Summers, are likely out for the Kansas State game — and possibly longer.
"Maybe down the rest of the year, depending on how it all works," Patterson said, without getting specific about their injuries.
Summers has started 32 career games, the most on the team. Small's 28 are the second-most. Starting cornerbacks Jeff Gladney and Julius Lewis struggled while trying to play through unspecified injuries against Kansas, but Patterson said they are better this week.
Kansas State has averaged 250 yards rushing and run for 10 touchdowns in the past three games. Alex Barnes is second in the Big 12 with 102 yards rushing per game and a league-best nine rushing scores even after being held to 28 yards on 13 carries by Oklahoma.
"He's not the only guy on the field," Snyder said. "There's a whole bunch of people out there and they have to block people."
SUNFLOWER STATE TIES
Patterson was born in Larned, Kansas, and grew up in the state. He went to Pawnee Heights High School and then Dodge City Community College before K-State, where he played linebacker and safety in 1980 and 1981, and then was a student assistant coach. This is only the 12th meeting between these two schools.