Fasten your seatbelts. We’re anticipating turbulence. Last weekend, Coach Gary Patterson’s squad squandered their most winnable remaining match-up in the little apple of Manhattan, Kansas. There’s no inherent fault in falling to a disciplined conference contender on the road. The crimes lay with failing to execute and secure the game despite numerous opportunities.
We drilled into the Froggy scoring statistics last week. Offensive production has been inconsistent but was abysmal Saturday. Offensive Coordinator Sonny Cumbie couldn’t strategize a first- or fourth-quarter point against the Wildcats. Seventeen points during 60 minutes of football does not a job keep. Patterson blamed himself during a post-game presser, but we’ll deal with the defense later. The first offensive play for TCU was a penalty for breaking the huddle with too many players. That, in a microcosm, illustrates with IKEA-instructions-like precision what is wrong with this unit. Generally, the first five to 10 plays are scripted week to week. The players have rehearsed and know them better than their own class schedules. How can the first play in a hostile environment be a penalty? How can this under-performing unit be so ill-prepared? This purple-on-purple powder puff lacked offense from both sides. The most significant momentum swing came on special teams during TCU’s second offensive possession. KSU blocked (No. 31) Jordy Sandy’s punt to deliver Wildcat quarterback Skylar Thompson (No. 10) and company within 20 yards of paydirt. Thompson required only two plays to find his tight end Nick Lenners (No. 87) using a crafty block-and-release route to stealthily cradle an uncontested touchdown pass. The Frogs’ lone first-half touchdown and longest drive lacked a completion – though freshman quarterback Max Duggan (No. 15) was sacked once trying – as 10 consecutive running plays were capped off with Sewo Olonilua (No. 33) netting their only touchdown of the half.
Duggan is cemented as the horse to pull this team. He may not carry them far this year, but Patterson and Cumbie aren’t going to saddle hop now. Sadly, the passing attack is in shambles. Duggan completed approximately half his passes but for less than five yards per completion with zero touchdowns. The frosh hasn’t thrown an interception yet, but that’s not for lack of trying. His most impressive gains through the air were a pair of 18-yarders to the atrophying Jalen Reagor (No. 1), who plucked one questionable duck from the grasp of two Wildcat defenders late in the game. Duggan displayed his rushing upside on a 47-yard scramble utilizing his impressive speed and muscle to stiff-arm a Wildcat safety to the ground in a sequence that will grace Horned highlight reels for years to come. The underlying problem isn’t Duggan but improper utilization of his talents. The former Gatorade player of the year from the state of Iowa isn’t a pocket passer and needs to be purposely moved from behind what has been a woeful offensive line. The Horned hogmallys are run-blocking adequately but fold in pass protection too quickly for Duggan to read his progressions. If Cumbie can’t design plays to move his freshman slinger out of the pocket, his efficiency won’t improve. There’s nothing to lose in opening and modifying what already isn’t working before Cumbie spends his evenings cruising the want-ads.
Normally, allowing 24 points on the road equals a winning performance. Patterson’s D isn’t bad per se but has no clutch. Linebacker Garret Wallow (No. 30) and his Horned homies whiffed on opportunities to shut down K-State all game long. Their offensive counterparts suck and aren’t contributing, but the Wildcats aren’t particularly explosive with the ball either. Thompson, not to be outdone by Duggan, used his legs to continue drives on fourth down more than once, including the nail-in-the-coffin touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter. The most demonstrative defensive fail wasn’t Thompson’s 61-yard scamper – though it was painful to watch – but a third-and-17 from the Wildcats’ own 18 yard-line. What should be a vaunted Frog secondary allowed a 33-yard reception to flip the field and lose the position battle yet again. This current version of Patterson’s stopping unit lacks the edge and swagger Frog fans have come to expect.
I’m sitting on my couch gazing at a frosty beverage embraced by my beloved Valero Alamo Bowl koozie from 2016 and pondering about the differences between the Frogs then and now. It’s confidence, both from fans and in themselves. These Horned Frogs don’t believe they’re going to win close battles. I don’t believe either. Saturday is their homecoming tilt, hosting the Texas Longhorns, a team Patterson has regularly outperformed since arriving in the Big 12. Nothing practical suggests a victory party in Fort Worth on Saturday, but there were no prior indications the Bevos would need a walk-off field goal to beat Kansas last week. Hopefully, Patterson can hijack some weird from the capital dwellers to help the Frog faithful believe again.