Everything is wrong for fans of football in North Texas this weekend: TCU sucked against Oklahoma, and the Dallas Cowboys might be worse than they’ve been in my lifetime. Things are so terrible football-wise, I found myself cheering on the hated SMU Mustangs late Saturday night as they were public schooled on their own turf to dash any hopes of a historic season.
I’m not going to lie and say I enjoyed anything about watching the Frogs whiff against an Oklahoma squad who is substandard compared to previous seasons, but I’ll implore you to stop short of renouncing everything about this staff and team. Relief is coming, and I’ll touch on that later. For now, TCU, if somehow you missed it, hosted the Sooners in a game that progressed in a formulaic way. Coach Lincoln Reilly’s squad scored first and held an advantage leading to intermission that seemed surmountable. Frog coordinator Sonny Cumbie’s offense moved the ball with regularity but never far enough to eat into the lead. Oklahoma, as they often do, used explosive players to make spectacular plays. Freshman Marvin Mims (#17) — a local product from Frisco-Lone Star — shone brightest with a mere four catches for more than 130 yards and two scores. Mims’ performance proved to be the difference in a statistically similar bout between two squads who shouldn’t have grand designs on postseason glory. Freshman quarterback Spencer Rattler (#7) — who we should agree possesses one of the better names in college football — has been prone to mistakes in his debut season but didn’t commit any notable errors against TCU. Neither team turned the ball over, which probably lent to the sluggish and uneventful aftertaste. Two measly Frog touchdowns didn’t help, especially when the second came in garbage time.
The Frogs seem undergunned without a significant presence from the defensive line. The Catch-22 for Patterson is needing to blitz extra defenders to attain quarterback pressure, which maroons the purple secondary in man-to-man coverage. The alternative: allowing the down linemen to be walled off, providing ample time for routes to fully develop. To add injury to insult, cornerback Noah Daniels (#21) — the most acclaimed defender in the Frogs secondary — left the game in the second quarter on crutches and might be gone for the remainder of the season. Patterson is heralded — and rightly so — as a defensive savant whose X’s and O’s are among the best in the business. But talent is talent, and the distribution of defensive playmakers doesn’t seem to be favoring the purple people, who are surrendering 31 points per game on average. More than one touchdown per quarter shouldn’t be a recipe for disaster, but a Patterson defense is generally better than that. Points against, through four games, would typically be more favorable after factoring in warm-up games, which the Frogs didn’t play this season. The Sooners are regularly an explosive offense and delivered on their reputation by bombing the Froggies for more than 300 yards through the air to complement their 160 rushing yards. The worst part is the majority of damage was done by two freshmen (though Rattler did redshirt last season). That said, the defense is experiencing a holistic crisis as they also failed to contain a vaunted rushing attack when hosting Iowa State. Patterson’s defense is maddening at times, yet they deserve credit for forcing a Longhorn fumble, which is the difference between TCU and a winless record.
Cumbie and his offense move the ball, but similarly to last year, finding the end zone is a struggle. Duggan completed more passes than Rattler and didn’t lag significantly in total passing yards, but his offensive line seems as solid as most slab foundations in North Texas. Only two starters from last season are rotating through a group that has yet to gel this season. Even worse, coaches are shifting their positions trying to find an arrangement that works. More shifting will come as guard Wes Harris (#78) — a former Aledo Bearcat — is likely sidelined for the season with an injury. The absence of offensive line coach Chris Thomsen — who is now the tight ends and assistant head coach for the Florida State Seminoles — could be to blame but seems unlikely. Jarrett Anderson, who has coached with the Frogs since 1998, reclaimed the position group and presided over the offensive juggernaut squads who fought for conference championships. TCU, as a school, has produced an impressive 11 current NFL linemen. Fans should retain faith that this group will continue to improve as the season progresses. The rushing game seems to be the Achilles heel of Cumbie, but that assertion is reductive as well. Sure, the Frogs ran for a measly 75 yards against the Sooners but against the Wildcats rolled up just shy of 200 yards while managing only 14 total points. The bottom line is TCU is bad at scoring touchdowns, not necessarily moving the football, which is almost worse than simply being completely inept. The purgatory of spectating an offense who moves the ball between the 30-yard lines with ease but can’t score points is a special kind of hell for Funkytowners.
Reason to Live
The Frog schedule, in retrospect, was a meat grinder from the beginning. TCU has now played all prominent Big 12 squads save for Oklahoma State. The Cowboys — who distinguished themselves as conference frontrunners by beating Iowa State on Saturday — don’t visit Fort Worth until the last conference tilt in December. Patterson and players enjoy a reprieve by visiting Waco to square off with their one-win evangelical enemies on Saturday. The Bears started their season victorious against the bottomfeeding Jayhawks and haven’t won since. Baylor — who shut down for COVID-19 reasons two weeks after their overtime loss at West Virginia — shares one common opponent with our Frogs. UT dispatched the green and gold by 11 points on Saturday, and God’s favor is really all the purple and green are fighting for. The Frogs’ next four games will all feature similarly struggling opponents who are beatable for all intents and purposes, even considering the Frogs’ obvious shortcomings. Despite three losses, TCU is still in the driver’s seat to be the top Big 12 team in the state of Texas. Right now, it seems similar to being the best team in the NFC East. But the best by any metric is something Frog fans shouldn’t shutter in times like these.