I thoroughly enjoyed watching the Horned Frogs play under the lights for the first time in an eternity. I don’t know if it’s because I’m a constantly tired parent or because TTU just doesn’t have the same swagger since Mike Leach left, but this game was kind of a snoozer.
TCU v. Tech is typically a shootout with historically exciting finishes. Tech, not known for their admissions standards or defense, can generally be relied on to provide fireworks in the way of 50-60 pass attempts per game along with plentiful points scored. Tech quarterback Henry Colombi (#3) did sling the ball 41 times en route to 344 yards, but the scoring was primarily from coach Gary Patterson’s purple wave crashing through the dustbowl of Lubbock. Fans, as well as yours truly, have been begging and pleading for running back Zach Evans (#6) to receive an increased workload. Evans certainly labored during the first half, collecting 60 yards during his first two runs from scrimmage. I publicly shamed the offensive coaching staff of Doug Meacham and Jerry Kill last week for their drives against Texas — all three-and-outs — in which Evans never touched the ball. TCU scored four touchdowns in the first half against the Raiders, and Evans rushed twice to begin the game and three times to start each subsequent drive. Add to the offensive bulldozing a tip-six from cornerback Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson (#1), and a comfortable 35-10 lead awaited Patterson and company in the locker room during halftime.
Patterson, when queried about Evans’ load last week, asserted the volume was purposeful and what Steve Sarkisian did with Bijan Robinson (#5) against the Frogs — 38 carries — is no way to keep a player healthy and thriving for multiple years. Sarkisian hasn’t retorted the comment since he’s probably still sobbing from Texas’ 21-point meltdown and loss against OU on Saturday afternoon. It’s hard to glean too much from this second half. It became obvious early that Meacham and Kill returned to bleed the clock from the start of the third quarter. Their conservatism is especially cringeworthy considering the Red Raider offense is still potent, despite their complete lack of a defense. Evans didn’t touch the field during the second half. The star speedster is battling a foot injury that was exacerbated by the artificial turf in Lubbock, and his services became superfluous considering the lead. No. 6 accumulated a whole day’s work during the first two quarters and gathered 143 yards on 17 carries with two touchdowns.
It seems to onlookers that the members of the Frog running back contingent are close and collegial teammates, but I’ll bet dollars to donuts that his counterparts could stand a little less journalistic fawning over the former five-star recruit. With Evans on the sideline, sophomore Kendre Miller (#33) crushed a second half worthy of a standalone highlight reel. Miller started and finished two drives with one rush each for 75 yards and 45 yards respectively and three touchdowns for the evening. His 12 carries for 185 yards left the Rocket Man with a ludicrous 15.4-yard average per touch. As a team, the Frogs finished just shy of 400 rushing yards, as TCU’s offensive line solidified their push against Tech’s three-man front. Max Duggan (#15), for all the criticism past and pending, managed the game perfectly. The Horned Frogs tossed the ball only 10 times but completed eight, including a gorgeous bomb to Derius Davis (#11) in the first half.
The final score of 52-31 doesn’t impart how dominant the Frogs were on offense. Patterson and staff threw the bus into low gear in the second half and luckily Miller didn’t receive the memo. Defense was concerning, as Tech racked up 214 rushing yards. There is simply no run penetration coming from the defensive line. Albeit, with the Red Raiders system, run-pass options are famous for making defenders wrong no matter what they do. Frog linemen aren’t typically coached to penetrate on snap unless a stunt or blitz is called but rather hold blockers to clog running gaps and read backfield activity and other keys. The problem remains with their inability to shed blocks once engaged and the play materializes. SMU, Texas, and now Tech have all run roughshod through this defense. The notable change is that TCU’s offensive staff seems to finally be committing to what is working for them, at least they did versus a defense that is simply lacking.
This leads us to the next problem. The conference frontrunners, the Oklahoma Sooners, are hosting Patterson and sons this weekend. All of the talk regarding the Crimson and Cream will center on the quarterback conundrum faced by coach Lincoln Riley, who benched his pre-season Heisman candidate mid-game against Texas in favor of a freshman who led his land stealers to the largest comeback in the history of the 116-game series. The real monster in the upcoming contest goes by the name of Kennedy Brooks (#26). Brooks, who opted out last season, is now a 23-year-old junior and has beaten better TCU defenses twice by rushing for 150 yards or more each time. The Mansfield High School product is fresh from a 217-yard performance, complete with a go-ahead touchdown, against Texas. Brooks is head and shoulders more talented than any running back the Frogs have struggled against previously and has a superior supporting cast to boot. The Sooners surrendered 48 points to Texas, so the Frogs should be able to move the ball if they stick to their talents. Sadly, between Brooks and receiver Marvin Mims (#17) — who scored twice against the Frogs last season — this defense will not be able to keep whoever starts at quarterback for the Sooners frustrated long enough to win.