First, let’s acknowledge that TCU won a game, which is nothing to shudder at in a season of conference-only contests. Second, offensive coordinators Sonny Cumbie and Jerry Kill, though facing an overmatched opponent, crafted a game plan to attack Kansas. Instead of hoping the purple offense would excel at things they’ve struggled with, Cumbie and Kill highlighted what they can do well, and against an inept opponent. What did TCU do well in their 59-23 victory over KU? Run the ball, and then run it some more. At first glance, it seemed like this game might take only two hours to watch, as the Frogs handed off seven straight times on their opening drive. When the final gun ended the Jayhawks’ misery, our Frogs had rushed the rock 41 times for 337 yards and tossed it only 15 times. The headline of most outlets this weekend was that Patterson’s boys scored in every phase of the game, which is true. Consistent placekicker Griffin Kell (#39) nailed a field goal after the opening possession stalled. Quarterback Max Duggan (#15) threw three touchdown passes in four possessions to tight ends Pro Wells (#81) and Carter Ware (#47). Gasp-inducing returner Derius Davis (#12) returned from sick leave to bob and weave his way through a flock of hawks for a punt return score. Duggan fired his jets for yet another long sprint resulting in a touchdown just before the break, and Darwin Barlow (#24) rushed for a short-yardage score early in the second half.
Duggan took a seat after Barlow’s score, and the defense continued the fun. Cornerback C.J. Ceasar II (#16) has suffered as of late with interference penalties and passes bombed over his head, but he redeemed himself with an interception easily returned for a touchdown. Finally, linebacker Dee Winters (#13) scooped and scored a Kansas fumble for a touchdown with 10 minutes remaining. If you were playing “ways to score in football bingo,” you’d be awfully close to blacking out the card.
Yet cynicism and pessimism are a way of life, a creed and philosophy that taint every aspect of a longstanding fans’ being. The positives are padding the bludgeons and arrows of embarrassing or close losses. The downsides are even Saturday night’s game, a steamrolling of the winless Kansas Jayhawks, was hard to enjoy for several reasons. Don’t misunderstand. The alternative, handing KU their first win in their last 12 contests, would have fueled a toddler-like catharsis complete with stomping and yelling before sharing a YouTube video burning my Horned Frog paraphernalia in solidarity with so many snowflakes a la the crybabies after Nike’s Colin Kaepernick ad campaign. But watching TCU largely run roughshod by scoring in almost all phases of the game over a team who earnestly rotated three quarterbacks wasn’t without its own eye-burning moments for Frog faithful.
Three touchdown passes are fantastic considering Duggan has struggled even — like against West Virginia — to hit an open receiver in the end zone. Those three touchdown passes were the only completions for the sophomore QB. To compound the worry, his completions were to his tight ends, who were at least 10-yards wide open each time. TCU’s defense scored two touchdowns, but it was against a horribly inept offense who benched their starting quarterback and subsequently their backup before settling on their third stringer, who promptly exposed our secondary by throwing receivers open and moving the ball in chunks. More than 300 rushing yards is impressive, but it’s a feat that’s unattainable against even a serviceable defense. Cumbie ran the ball because he could and also because his unit isn’t able to pass consistently.
The greatest concern is looking forward, because most, if not at all, of this game plan is completely irrelevant against the 23rd ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys, who visit Frogland to finish TCU’s regular season on Saturday morning. There aren’t any longshot-championship scenarios for our Frogs moving forward. Patterson’s salvage is to finish this unusual season with a winning record and boast that TCU managed to best every in-state opponent. Our Frogs are currently seventh in a mid-conference logjam with Texas, West Virginia, and Kansas State, who’ve all won four. The Longhorns are eagerly anticipating their two-week vacation in the Sunflower State, visiting Kansas State this week — who despite a strong opening season and victory over Oklahoma has lost four consecutive games — and Kansas to finish the season. West Virginia is walking a thorny road to bowl season, visiting conference-leader Iowa State this week before hosting second-place Oklahoma to finish their season.
I’m placing a Frog victory this week in the manageable category. The Pokes, despite dropping 50 points in a narrow victory against Tech last weekend, are a conundrum on both sides of the ball and are similarly inconsistent through the air. The Mullet Militia will try and run the rock, which the Frogs are equipped to defend. In other positive news for the Patterson posse, Cowboys running back Chuba Hubbard (#30) — who almost single handedly dismantled TCU last season — was wearing street clothes and a walking boot against the Raiders and hasn’t emerged the world beater whom college football experienced last season. If the Frogs are victorious, we’ve likely cemented ourselves best of the Big 12 middle twiddles at 5th place behind the state of Oklahoma, Iowa State, and UT. The conference is still in flux with ISU hosting the Mountaineers this weekend. Should the Cyclones stop twisting, and the Cowboys bullseye our Frogs, there’s potential for a three-way tie in conference records between the leaders with crisscrossed head-to-head tiebreakers heading into the final week of the regular season. Join me next week to break down senior day, prognosticate on bowl possibilities, and reevaluate who’ll win the Big 12 conference.