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Duggan and his Frogs didn’t enjoy their first trip out of state this season when they failed to find the end zone. Photo by Ben Queen courtesy of TCU Athletics.

My 3-year-old started a nap strike several months ago. Consequently, TCU’s morning games usually result in my sitting in a strip-mall parking lot watching the Frogs’ follies on my mobile device after he’s fallen asleep. As I stared at a CVS marquee on Saturday, the fourth quarter commenced with TCU trailing West Virginia by 11 points, set to receive a punt and start the ensuing drive with favorable field position. Punt returner Derius Davis (#12), who has electrified Frog faithful in recent games, didn’t dress out for this contest and was sidelined with an undisclosed illness. In Davis’ place, Trevon Moehrig (#7), Coach Gary Patterson’s star safety who’ll be playing for big money by this time next year, subbed in to receive the punt. Moehrig muffed the kick back to the Mountaineers. WVU quarterback Jarret Doege (#2) promptly bombed the ball to T.J. Simmons (#1), who strode away for a 38-yard TD and an 18-point advantage. Soberly, I closed the Fox Sports App and bid my time playing Call of Duty: Mobile, an environment in which the ineptitude is mine and subject to my complete control. I returned with a cooler head, but after reconnecting I saw what appeared to be TCU on the cusp of finding the end zone for the first time. Promptly, Frog “slinger” Max Duggan (#15) threw a corkscrewing pass directly into the eager arms of Mountaineer safety Tykee Smith (#23), who fled from the 1 yard line to the 43 before Duggan corralled him long enough for re-inFrogments to arrive. That, in a nutshell, was how this game progressed for our Toads.

“Touchdown” isn’t a word I can use to reference our Frogs this week. Offensive Coordinator Sonny Cumbie and his unit can’t claim any. Placekicker Griffin Kell (#39) notched two field goals while Duggan overthrew stud wideout Taye Barber (#4) when he was as inexplicably open as public schools during a spiking pandemic. You’ve just read the entire highlight reel. Other than those reprieves, TCU’s offense left Morgantown resembling a hill blown to bits so miners could ravage the coal buried within. Duggan, similar to last week, struggled to complete meaningful passes to outside receivers, often airmailing them well out of lanky receivers’ wingspans. His throws across the middle of the field were more successful but fruitless on the scoreboard. The Mountaineer defense remained unwilling to allow Duggan scrambling attempts, rendering the gifted sprinter wholly ineffective.

Last week, I mused that if Doege received protection, then difficulty awaited the Frog defense. An ardent pessimist, being correct about things isn’t enjoyable. Doege attempted fewer passes than anticipated but with a startling 73% efficiency leading to two touchdowns, plus a rushing score. Simmons was money in the bank on Saturday, hauling in only four passes but finding the end zone twice while amassing 90 yards. The West Virginians didn’t need much else since Leddie Brown (#4) pounded the rock 24 times for more than 150 yards. TCU’s pass rush, which improved markedly during wins against Baylor and Tech, evaporated into the mountain mist. Frog defenders dropped Doege only twice, one of which was on the stat line thanks only to an intentional grounding penalty.

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As inept as TCU’s offense remained throughout the game, hope remained through three quarters. Despite falling behind early, Kell’s field goals and WVU’s own undisciplined nature kept the Frogs within striking distance thanks to repeated bonehead penalties that helped our flatlining offense. Saturday, like many games this season, felt different than the stat line suggested. WVU outgained TCU only by approximately 100 yards, yet the score was 24-6. Doege completed only three more passes than Duggan, but if you watched them play, it was clear which one you’d want for your Thanksgiving Day pick-up game. Each defense performed well within — 24 points are the fewest scored by WVU at home this season. But six points is the fewest scored by a Horned Frog offense in almost four years. To be fair (said in Letterkenny voice), WVU has been the best defense in the conference this season and has been lights out at home. Sloppy execution continues to be the calling card of a TCU offense that just can’t seem to remove their heads from their ass. Additional offensive coaches, which were supposed to buoy what has been a sinking ship for the last two seasons, seem now more liability than asset. Matchups with the Mountaineers have never been a given, but the couch burners now boast a 5-4 record over Patterson since the two joined the Big 12, with Team Deliverance claiming the last three meetings.

The most worrying trend in the TCUniverse is not this game specifically but patterns themselves. While Oklahoma, Texas, and West Virginia seem to be evolving and improving as the season moves along, the Frogs oscillate between average and asinine. The defensive secondary sustained additional injuries and consequent deletions on Saturday, and Cumbie’s offense remains awful. Duggan, who I maintain shows tremendous potential, does not seem to be improving this season, and as frustrating as that can be for fans, there is absolutely not a better option on the roster. TCU has claimed victory only once after trailing this year, which was against the Longhorns while down a field goal early in the fourth quarter. On no other occasion have the Frogs trailed and rallied to win the game, which made WVU scoring a touchdown on the first drive an ominous early sign. Patterson and company are off this week and preparing to visit Lawrence and the dead-last Kansas Jayhawks after Turkey Day. KU has challenged our Frogs in the past, and I wouldn’t put it past them to make this year’s edition another interesting episode in the series. Check back next week for Misery Loves Company: 2020 edition, and I’ll try to rationalize our struggles by pointing out other prominent programs that also suck. I promise, it’ll give us something to feel thankful for. Gratitude is the reason for the season, right?

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