If for some strange reason you watched the opening kickoff while the Frogs were hosting the Mountaineers before being called away on urgent business, consider yourself lucky. TCU began homecoming weekend with a bang when Derius Davis (#11) ran coast-to-coast for a 100-yard opening kickoff return touchdown.
This, sadly, was the scoring highlight of the evening for TCU faithful.
The first half wasn’t entirely futile. Despite the established lacking of Coach Gary Patterson’s defense, they held WVU to a field goal on their first drive and were able to stymie quarterback Jarret Doege (#2) and company from scoring repeated touchdowns. TCU fell behind after jumping to their instant lead but retorted with a nine-play 74-yard drive that was punctuated by Max Duggan (#15) hitting receiver Taye Barber (#4) on an unnecessarily risky rollout pass called on fourth and three. Sadly, TCU’s beleaguered defensive unit couldn’t keep the John Denver diehards from reaching the end zone during the next drive, and the Horned Frogs never retook the lead, but that’s simply because they couldn’t score again.
Let’s address the elephant in the room. This TCU team isn’t good. The aforementioned doesn’t mean they’re terrible, but the evidence supporting their mediocrity has grown to a quantity even the Dallas police department couldn’t lose. Fort Worth’s football team has only two wins this year, Duquesne doesn’t count, and it’s difficult to foresee them gathering many more. Hell, even Kansas played Oklahoma tighter than the Frogs managed to. West Virginia — though playing many close games to this point — arrived in Funkytown with only two wins and left with a convincing third.
Looking back at Patterson’s history against WVU, Saturday’s result isn’t surprising. WVU has beaten the Frogs four consecutive times, and during the 11-game history between the schools, the Mountaineers have accumulated seven victories. For some reason, especially on offense, our Frogs are just a terrible matchup for the former Big Easters. Perhaps there’s some sort of curse plaguing TCU because of their invitation to the defunct conference that they reneged on before its collapse. Duggan, especially, regressed so mightily from last week’s career performance against OU that it was nauseating to witness. Two bad interceptions — both in the second half — in addition to primary receiver Quentin Johnston (#1) being stripped in the fourth quarter, made up three turnovers that lost this game and contributed to a putrid 10 points to the offense’s credit. After lauding Duggan and Johnston’s newfound connection against OU, it was particularly disheartening to watch the second half meltdown, since all three turnovers involved the duo.
So is there hope for the rest of this season? Maybe. The offensive numbers against West Virginia aren’t compellingly bad. TCU gained close to 400 combined yards and moved the ball well at times. Three turnovers are hard to overcome against anyone who isn’t Texas Tech, but the question is why TCU struggles so much against WVU. This unit, whose inconsistencies are well documented, hasn’t scored as few points since the last time they played West Virginia, when Duggan and disciples didn’t score a single touchdown. In 2019, TCU’s lowest scoring output was a draw between WVU and Kansas State. In 2018, the Mountaineers again held Patterson’s squad to their smallest scoring total of the season. For whatever reason, and I should have seen it coming, the Mountaineers are excellent at trivializing TCU’s offense.
For fans, this means you shouldn’t write the home squad off against beating remaining teams on the schedule that perhaps they shouldn’t. This year’s Big 12 is more wide open than it has ever been, not even OU and their shiny freshman quarterback seem safe, and no one else is unbeaten. Patterson embarks on his own homecoming next week when TCU travels to Kansas State, where the head coach used to play linebacker. Normally a road game would cause concern, but fans should expect the opposite. Amon G. Carter, over the last several years, has provided little home-field advantage for the Toads as they have one of the worst home records in the conference. The Wildcats managed a slim victory past the Red Raiders last week by scoring 25 points to Tech’s 24. TCU scoring 52 in Lubbock should be a good indication that aside from abhorrent execution — which is possible — the Frogs are capable of breaking their losing streak and beating the Cats.
The more frightening part of the Frogs playing yet another season where bowl eligibility seems optimistic, at best, is country-wide realignment. Patterson shepherded this program and peaked at a time when landscapes changed, teams shuffled, and TCU took advantage. We’re approaching another tumultuous period when you’re likely to see those things happen again. The shift has already begun with OU and UT declaring their intentions to join the SEC in the near future. The Big 12 has added new teams to apply a tourniquet to the bleeding, but don’t be fooled. The conference of Texas and Midwestern friends could still fold, and there would be little warning. Just ask West Virginia. The Big East dissolved overnight, and the Mountaineers liferafted over as the odd-man out there in coal country. TCU, in a perfect world, needs to be producing their best on-field product right now. The Frogs need suitors and need to be wanted. The purple and white brand has improved and is nationally recognized but doesn’t monetize enough that Fort Worth fans can’t be relegated in favor of more consistent contenders — who are also rivals — should the Big 12 fall into the sinkhole of conferences that were.