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TCU’s defense allowed only 137 yards and three first downs and forced two turnovers in their domination of the Dukes. Courtesy TCU Athletics

TCU hosted Duquesne University on Saturday night during their yearly warmup spat with a Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) school. The Dukes are successful in their division, but have made the playoffs only twice in the past decade, the last time being 2018. The Catholic university from Pittsburgh hasn’t made national noise since the 1930s, back when TCU was winning national championships.

Expectedly, TCU looked great in this game from a bird’s eye view. The score was 35-0 at halftime, and the squads agreed to abbreviated 12-minute quarters in the second half. QB Max Duggan was efficient, despite one lazy interception, completing nearly 75% of his passes. Coach Gary Patterson remained noncommittal at running back for now, splitting time among four backs, three of whom carried for touchdowns. Damarqua Foster (#21) carried most often with 10 rushes, Kendre Miller (#33) logged eight, and Zach Evans (#6) and Emari Demercado (#3) — the lone senior among a sea of sophomores — each carried five times. Offensive coordinator Doug Meacham spread the love with 10 Frogs gracing the rushing stat sheet. The longest sprint belonged to Demercado, a 22-yard zip during the first quarter. Racking up 178 yards is fine, but it’s not as exciting watching singles and doubles when it would be more encouraging celebrating home runs.

TCU’s receiving stat line is similar. Ten Froggies caught passes for 253 total yards with two touchdowns. Senior Taye Barber (#4) broke free for a 34-yard reception in the first quarter, and electric returner and receiver Derius Davis (#11) hauled in a 47-yarder. I’m not trying to be Danny Downer here, but the offensive phase left me concerned. It’s unwise to thumb your nose at efficiency, but I expected to see big plays and more pronounced dominance against this opponent. Meacham’s design requires Duggan to throw into too many tight windows on crossing and out routes. This receiving corps, which is long, fast, and athletic enough to be a Division III basketball team, didn’t show great separation on their routes. Duggan is working on his third year as starting QB, yet the long ball isn’t a consistent threat. The offense is still overly dependent on a consistent running game — which they had against the Dukes — and passes into the flat, which require receivers to juke the first defender to create a running lane. We as fans don’t learn much from games like these, leaving hypothetical projections how the same performance would fare against better opponents. When you drill into the numbers, the offense — which has been the Frogs Achilles’ Heel — still seems to be a weakness. Granted, maybe they were doing exactly as much as the situation called for. Still, I encourage Frog fans to approach the coming weeks with cautious optimism as schedule difficulty increases exponentially once pre-conference games conclude.

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The Big 12 conference at large was nearly perfect last weekend. Kansas managed to grind themselves to a victory over their FCS opponent. Friday’s Jayhawk win was so sadly significant that their fans charged the field to celebrate what should be an automatic win, but we can’t chide them too much. Victories in Lawrence aren’t to be hastily discarded. Baylor wrestled late into their game with Texas State. The Cyclones played their yearly heart attack versus Northern Iowa — I still can’t figure out why Iowa Staters haven’t axed this one from their schedule — and escaped with a 16-10 victory over the Panthers. Oklahoma hosted Tulane after Hurricane Ida dictated the game be moved from New Orleans to Norman, and the Sooners seemed hell bent on graciously hosting the Green Wave by allowing a fourth-quarter comeback that almost cost them the game. Texas Tech spent their first half struggling against Houston — who are expected to join the Big 12 soon, along with BYU, Central Florida, and Cincinnati — until finding their legs and galloping away in the fourth quarter. Oklahoma State won by a touchdown over FCS workhorse Missouri State, and Kansas State trucked Stanford, 24-7, during a game played at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. UT, the only conference team hosting a ranked opponent in the University of Louisiana, slowly accumulated a lead over the Cajuns in the first two quarters before stomping the gas in the second half on their way to a 38-18 crawfish boil. The Mountaineers — who always seem to be the odd team out — were the only losers from opening weekend, losing to the Terrapins by six and proving once and for all that crabcakes and football are what Maryland does.

It’s painful to admit, but the most impressive conference victory was Texas. The Longhorns played the best opponent of anyone and won easily. Kansas State comes second place in the fashion show, and the Horned Frogs are probably third, with an asterisk. Sadly, we’re not likely to know much more about the Frogs after next week hosting the Cal Golden Bears, who lost by five points to the Nevada Wolfpack on Saturday. The stat line suggests the Bears are a similar squad that Patterson saw in 2018’s Cheez-It Bowl. The Californians’ strength is their defense and will be somewhat balanced between passing and rushing. If TCU’s defense can shut down sophomore running back Damien Moore (#28) — which they’re fully capable of — Saturday should be an easy cruise to victory even if Duggan and company struggle a bit. Don’t be too bullish on the Frogs making a conference run yet. We’d all be best served by putting our shit-talking on cruise control and relaxing in the slow lane until we host the Longhorns in a few weeks.

 

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