Is this hell? No. It’s Iowa. It just feels like hell. TCU didn’t enjoy its visit to the Heartland. I’m always told that Midwesterners are friendly to a fault. I didn’t sense that on Saturday. The land of corn and Caucasus wasn’t kind to Fort Worth’s finest. Rain delayed the start two hours. TCU didn’t receive the memo that it wouldn’t start playing until mid-afternoon. Paradoxically, if these teams were cars, the Frogs misfired on Iowa-sourced ethanol-laden garbage while the Cyclones hummed along powered by pure 93-octane sourced directly from the Gulf of Mexico.
Offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie attempted to copy and paste the blueprint from last week’s Kansas domination on the first drive. The major problem is running back Sewo Olonilua (No. 33) is not equal to Darius Anderson (No. 6), and the two should be allocated carries strategically: Anderson anywhere on the field. Olonilua near the goal line or with a short line to gain. QB Max Duggan – who is from Iowa – found none of the comforts of home. ISU alternated between dropping eight into coverage and crowding receivers and the offensive line to smother the rushing attack. It took Cumbie and company three drives to net a field goal. The slow start descended to disaster after Duggan took the first snap of the next drive from his own 13. A blindside safety blitzer sacked him from behind, knocking the ball to the ground for an easy scoop and score and an 11-point advantage for ISU. Cumbie’s aggressive play call, relying on a young QB in the shadow of his own goal post, obviously didn’t sit well with head coach Gary Patterson. Duggan struggled to complete meaningful passes, and the unit slumped for three-and-outs twice more before senior Alex Delton (No. 16) subbed in to drive the Frogs into prayer-of-a-field-goal range as time expired before halftime. Frogs trailed 21-3 at half. Cumbie’s strategy of short throws to the boundary and hoping his athletes can break the first tackle is tired and predictable. The calls aren’t fooling anyone and undercut the goal of warming Duggan into a downfield throwing rhythm.
The Cyclones fought from the kickoff like their farm subsidies were at stake. Sophomore quarterback Brock Purdy (No. 15) ran roughshod past linebacker Garret Wallow (No. 30) and the Horned Frog secondary. Purdy’s run fakes baited the d-line into over-pursuit when he wasn’t hitting receivers on comeback and stop routes underneath deep safety coverage. The Cyclone offensive line successfully single-blocked throughout the soggy afternoon. Time of possession ticked further and further to ISU’s favor as the game wore on and TCU wore down. First- half hustle was adequate from Patterson’s unit as they stopped the children of the corn on downs. Unfortunately, the next drive extended via a hands-to-the-face penalty against Ross Blacklock (No. 90), which concluded with a blown coverage and a touchdown pass from Purdy to insultingly open tight end Charlie Kolar (No. 88). The second half descended to defensive mediocrity. Iowa State added four touchdowns without meaningful pursuit or energetic rally to the ball carrier from purple defenders. Purdy was rarely pressured, and the Froggy D registered one sack and only three tackles for loss –– embarrassing stats for a Patterson group. Wallow, who was still the leading tackler for the unit, was seamlessly neutralized at the point of attack, and his defensive line couldn’t pull the slack. Sloppy secondary tackling allowed Purdy to sustain long-designed runs all game, and the sophomore finished with nearly 250 yards passing and more than 100 rushing with four combined touchdowns. The lack of pressure from down linemen is rendering the entire unit ineffective. A lack of a pass rush or penetration allows quarterbacks ample time to read progressions. Opponents have realized they can load up and push the d-line around to kill the clock late in games. If the offense falls behind by two possessions, comebacks can’t be sustained.
The first half, albeit awful, paved the way for a solid B+ second half for Duggan and his cohorts. Jalen Reagor (No. 1) muscled his way back into the passing game and nabbed a deep post for a long gain that led to the Frogs’ first touchdown via a follow-up fade. Duggan’s confidence escalated as TCU took to the air to score twice more on consecutive drives. It was all for naught as ISU answered score for score. In both the SMU and ISU losses, Duggan seemed to awaken in the second half and transition from fastballs to catchable off-speed tosses thrown with the receiver in mind. Duggan will mature. He’s mobile, tough, and hasn’t thrown an interception through five games, in part because the ball is thrown with such force that everyone struggles to wrangle it.
Every major Texas-based team won this week. Baylor and SMU are unbeaten and along with Texas and Texas A&M are ranked in the Associated Press Top 25. Tech exploded on previously ranked Oklahoma State for an impressive offensive onslaught and win in Lubbock. It seems the entire state is trending up while the Frogs are fluctuating like the stock market when Trump tweets at China. Patterson will try to work bounce-back magic during the team’s final bye week that is going to suck after such a bad loss. Both sides of the ball have significant work to accomplish in rediscovering their swagger and execution before visiting Patterson’s alma mater, Kansas State, in two weeks. The eyes of Texas and the Big 12 will be fixed on the Dallas fairgrounds for what will likely be the first act of a two-part conference championship on Saturday morning when UT and OU duke it out.