Friday night games are odd in college football. Colorado is a weird state to boot, so adding a weather delay on top of this quirky duo made perhaps the most anticipated TCU football game — outside of a major bowl — a double-rainbow of weirdness.
I’m not a huge fan of the Sonny Dykes hire, but I’m not not a fan of it either. If I were a single person and cruising West 7th to make some bad decisions, I’d consider Dykes a solid 6 at best. He isn’t a stunner, and wouldn’t stimulate my id to the point where we’d end up in a bathroom stall together, but he isn’t grotesque. However, after a first half involving 62 yards gained in 18 total offensive plays, I was less worried about how attractive Dykes’ hiring was or wasn’t and more seriously concerned that our hookup might land me at the CareNow for a round of reactive antibiotics. It’s unfair to make snap judgments based on just a few drives, especially of a group of brand new coaches, but it was difficult to ignore the lack of cohesion starting out.
Luckily, the remnants of TCU’s Gary Patterson-led defense still shone despite ineffectiveness from the offense during the first half. Linebacker Dee Winters (#13) has improved and seems to be the next name-brand player in a long line of disruptive linebacking athletes from the Fort. The transition to the more traditional 3-4 defense seems to have freed the mobile monster to be even more chaotic for opponents in pass rush and run fits. The defensive line disrupted — not something we’ve seen in several years — as the simplified scheme demands penetration rather than reading of the backfield as in Patterson’s scheme. In the first half, the Buffaloes gained 197 yards during five sustained drives and gained at least one first down each time. Yet they were stopped cold on fourth and short during the first series, and the defense allowed only a pair of field goals. Combine the aforementioned with the hijinks of returner Derius Davis (#11), who housed a punt 60 yards, and the Frogs had a one-point advantage over the dregs of the Pac-12 going into halftime.
The second half was different. Dykes doesn’t wear glasses, but if this were a movie, he would have taken them off and revealed he was scandalous and sexy all along but with a great personality layered on top. The retooled Frog staff made what some coaches call “second-half adjustments.” Frog fans of a certain age might not be familiar with this term — as it’s been several years since it’s happened successfully — but it means the gameplan swapped things TCU was doing in the first half that weren’t working for different things in the second half that were likely to.
The third quarter marked TCU’s first offensive touchdown of the season during the first drive, thanks primarily to veterans running the rock. I applaud Dykes’ willingness to pivot from the traditional spread for which he’s so well known to heavier formations incorporating sniffer[?] backs and multiple tight ends. The purple defense responded by serving up their first three-and-out of the season. TCU had suddenly remembered, or maybe it was learned, how to play offense and scored a field goal during an 80-yard drive to follow before locating the end zone on every subsequent appearance. The defense didn’t let up until the very end, giving up their first touchdown of 2022 with barely a minute remaining while reclining on top of a 31-point lead.
The 38-13 final in favor of the Frogs was good enough for Dykes’ first career win in purple as well as covering a 14-point spread that I wouldn’t have bet my worst enemies’ money on.
What did we learn? It’s much too early to tell. Colorado is in the bottom third of a conference that’s also not particularly good (as we witnessed this weekend while their best teams fell to highly touted opponents from other conferences). The Horned Frogs were the better athletes on the field at almost every position. Still, it’s possible TCU faithful can have a long and fulfilling marriage with Dykes. It’s not going to be a visceral, clothes-ripping attraction but more a case of friends falling for each other in a genuine and sweet partnership that produces a sustainable relationship, which is boring but ultimately better.
The most prevalent concern is that the Frogs still don’t have a quarterback. Chandler Morris (#2) looked uncomfortable in the passing game while completing only 13 of 20 passes, many in windows small enough that he was lucky the team in black and gold weren’t running the opposite direction with the football. Morris didn’t finish the game after his lower leg was pinned awkwardly during a scramble, and veteran Max Duggan (#15) and freshman Sam “Snakes on a Mother-Effing Plane” Jackson (#16) split time as glorified — yet effective — running backs. Morris has already been ruled out for next week’s pay-for-play game against Tarleton State, so the quarterback situation is likely to become hazier than it already is.
Bottom line: TCU beat a team from a major conference on the road at night by multiple touchdowns in Dykes’ first game as head coach. Yet the offense playing only one effective half of football feels a little too much like kissing your ex for fans to be comfortable in this partnership just yet. The defense will need to maintain what Frog faithful know they’re capable of, and one of the three potential quarterbacks will need to establish themselves the standout if we’re going to escalate this fling to an in-a-relationship-on-Facebook status.