Did you hear the lights and sirens on Saturday? It wasn’t the fashion police en route to confiscate TCU’s new anthracite-and-red unis –– though it should have been –– but a raucous victory celebration after defeating the 15th-ranked Texas Longhorns. Gary Patterson’s purple posse has had a forgettable fall to this point. Beating the Austinites for the fifth time in six meetings does wonders for the mood on campus. New jerseys freshened these Froggies to play an opportunistic and exciting brand of ball.
The most significant storyline is undoubtedly freshman slinger Max Duggan (No. 15). The Iowan came of age throughout the Horned-Horns skirmish. Offensive play calls remained conservative overall –– 60 percent rushing plays, with bruising back Sewo Olonilua (No. 33) receiving most of the carries. Duggan executed the read-option well, calling his own number at precise intervals to keep the UT defensive box honest. Duggan also scrambled for key first downs when the beleaguered burnt-orange secondary dropped too deep in coverage. No. 15 led his unit in rushing for the second consecutive game. Offensive Coordinator Sonny Cumbie opened the floodgates, and the frosh responded by tossing the deep ball with improved accuracy. It’s obvious Cumbie and Duggan emphasized finesse on fly routes this week. Jalen Reagor (No. 1) and Taye Barber (No. 4) burned the Bevos throughout the third and fourth frames. Max threw his first interception of the season in the first quarter. In retrospect, this miscue prompted him to return in the next series confident and relaxed, ready to showcase his Midwestern resilience. Patterson’s defense lifted their young leader by picking off Longhorn QB Sam Ehlinger (No. 11) on the next drive, but the anthracite-and-red secondary wasn’t nearly finished.
All phases propped one another up throughout this 90th meeting of purple and orange. The offense kept the Longhorns within reach in the first half before Duggan and company spooled up for three second-half touchdowns. Special teams, with the exception of one terrible punt and Reagor’s fumble on a kickoff return, kept UT on the long side of the field. TCU utilized two punters and two kickers to accommodate the situation. Aussie punter Jordy Sandy (No. 31) struggled early and eventually shanked a second-quarter kick for 14 yards before Dillon Jones (No. 41) replaced him and consistently kicked it 40 or more. Senior placekicker Jonathan Song (No. 46) nailed four extra points as well as an insurance field goal in the final quarter. The offense loomed near midfield before halftime, trailing by seven but outside of Song’s range. Patterson rushed out freshman Griffin Kell (No. 39) to attempt a 52-yarder. Texas Head Coach Tom Herman used a timeout to ice the freshman, who practice-kicked a miserable attempt wide-right and short as referee whistles rang from all directions. Song asserted his coach voice as he screamed and motioned to the youngster to keep his head down. His critique proved masterful –– and the timeout a blunder –– as Kell booted the ball dead center as the clock ticked zero on the half to elevate the Frogs within four points of the Horns.
Statistically, Patterson’s unit was tops in the Big 12 before Saturday. Truthfully, they were among the worst red-zone stopping units in the country and couldn’t produce turnovers at all. Ehlinger had been among the most efficient passers in the country with only three interceptions this season. The Horned Frogs claimed four of his passes as their property. The defensive front created pressure with line stunts and twists for the first time since the season opener. Hurrying Ehlinger without safety or linebacker blitzes allowed extra shallow zone coverage while deep safeties prevented UT’s lanky receivers from running for long balls. TCU turned the ball over twice, but the D didn’t allow any points from either turnover, even Reagor’s fumble, which delivered the orange offense straight to the Frog 26 yard line.
Take Down the Goalposts
The only thing driving my annoyance meter into overdrive from Saturday was the crowd. Bear with me. The fans were loud, ravenous, and providers of a distinct home field energy for the good guys, but why –– oh, six-pound-eight-ounce-baby-Jesus why –– are we rushing the field? TCU has competed in a major conference for going on eight seasons. There have been final second heroics against top-ranked teams leading to big time bowl berths and co-conference championships. The Frogs have bested Bevo six times since joining the Big 12. The game wasn’t even in question in the final seconds. TCU’s defense iced it with the final interception while enjoying a two-possession lead. Be a fanatic, be loud, stay excited, but we’ve been there before and don’t need to rush the field.