TCU’s hope for a College Football Playoff or a Big 12 title might have gone underwater with the flash floods of the weekend. Unfortunately, we must briefly survey the damage of Weeks Three and Four in Horned Frog nation.
The first half against OSU looked A-OK for TCU at AT&T Stadium. Joey Bosa, the Buckeyes’ star defensive end, left the game with an injury, and Coach Gary Patterson’s posse nabbed the lead before halftime. Calamity occurred in the third quarter: Ohio State scored twice, once on offense and then immediately from an interception of TCU’s Shawn Robinson on defense. The Frogs fought hard but could not overcome the Buckeye running game while trailing. It seemed that the Frogs were definitely talented enough to win the game, but three turnovers against the fourth-ranked team were too much to overcome for the young team. This game was not a disaster — more like the one that got away.
Hangovers happen. They can happen after big wins and disappointing losses. I’m not sure some of the Frogs weren’t in a frat house last week eating expired guacamole. Robinson made progress in one area of his game by showing better proficiency with the deep pass, finding receivers Jalen Reagor and KaVontae Turpin downfield. However, Sonny Combie’s offense struggled to turn red zone visits into touchdowns. TCU attempted four field goals and found the end zone only once against UT. The Frog running backs never found their footing. Robinson made some nice scrambles, but this team relies on running back Darius Anderson, who had a forgettable evening with only 15 yards to show for eight carries. Longhorn quarterback Sam Ehlinger found soft spots in the Frog secondary all game. UT receiver Collin Johnson inspired many an expletive by continuing drives and making several tough catches. The Frog defense played admirably most of the game, considering their offense gave the ball away four times. The large Texas offensive line kept the clock churning during the fourth quarter, not allowing TCU the chance to crawl back in the game. It was an ugly day in Austin for the Frogs, as burnt orange bested purple for the first time in five years.
Turnovers kill. TCU’s ball security issues are becoming a progressively more debilitating cancer on the team. Week One against Southern, the Frogs were clean with zero turnovers. Week Two at SMU, they lost two. Three against the Buckeyes. And four in Austin. But wait, there’s other bad news. Patterson’s defense, usually the team’s calling card, isn’t producing turnovers to counterbalance. Frog defenders managed to recover a fumble against SMU, and that’s it over the past three games. The Frogs are -minus-8 in turnover margin over the past three weeks. Saturday’s game in Austin reeked of the 2017 game at Iowa State in which TCU turned over the ball three times to the Cyclones and lost. The turnovers are occurring in the worst possible ways: Ohio State scored two defensive touchdowns, and the Longhorns returned an interception inside the TCU 5 yard-line. In both games, interceptions were thrown immediately after the Frog opponent scored to give the Buckeyes and Longhorns fast two-touchdown swings.
TCU must rediscover their offensive identity this week against Iowa State. Anderson must show the prowess he exhibited against Ohio State and run for at least 100 yards. Robinson must be more careful with the ball by committing no more than one turnover and be the second leading rusher behind Anderson. The secondary must find a way to get an interception to build confidence.
The Good News
This is still a good team that is very young. Turnovers have been the difference in two contests with a great opponent (Ohio State) and a good opponent (UT). Despite seven turnovers, the Frogs could have conceivably come out victorious in one or both games. The purple are finally back at Amon G. Carter Stadium for the first time since their opener with Southern. Chaos looms in the Big 12 as Texas Tech trounced Oklahoma State this week and Oklahoma needed overtime to beat the Black Knights from Army in Norman. Now, Patterson assumes the role that the Horned Frogs play best: spoiler.