Is it possible to find "Bad" in a 56-0 opening game? Yes, yes it is.
Welcome to the Monday Morning Quarterback, your weekly stop for all things TCU Football: The Good, The Bad, The Opportunities. The FOW staff has had a solid 24 hours to think about what just happened, now it is time to break a full game of plays down into three simple categories and discover the truth behind all that stuff we saw last Saturday.
Today, we look at Grambling State, a team that came in as an across the board mismatch and left torn, tattered and frayed. Did TCU do well? Of course they did. But, there is always room to improve. Let's dive in.
So, did you watch the game? We did, it was a pretty fun affair. From the first touch of the ball (literally) TCU dominated every facet of the game and this domination continued through the entire 60 minute period. Since the starters didn't bother coming out for the second half (what slackers!), let's take a look at the positional stats to get a sense of how TCU fared.
Quarterbacks: 17 for 17 (276 Yards) w/ 4 Passing Touchdowns, 6 Carries (62 Yards) w/ 1 Rushing Touchdown
Running Backs: 34 Carries (193 Yards) w/ 1 Touchdown, 5 Receptions (87 Yards)
Wide Receivers: 12 Receptions (189 Yards) w/ 4 Touchdowns
Defense: 3 Sacks, 1 INT w/ 1 Touchdown
Typically, this is where we will break down each players contribution and take a look at how TCU used them, but unfortunately this game sucked so bad that the trends this game reflected are not reality, they are a facade. But, when you look at the numbers, you have to like three things: The running backs had fantastic production in both the running and passing game, thus the quarterbacks only attempted 17 passes and the receivers helped out with some tremendous YAC.
The defense was also solid, with TCU showing that it might just have two elite level pass rushers on the outside (Fields/Maponga), a solid interior DT rotation and a much, much improved secondary. The linebackers were OK, which we will discuss shortly, but overall the focus was on one simple facet of the game, the shutout, the score line shows that the mission was accomplished.
So, where should we focus our praise? Where should we focus our angst? What should we look for next week? Follow me, my friends...
Um, everything? The offense clicked, the defense played fast and with ferocity and the special teams play was almost flawless. But, three guys in particular really stuck out to me, all of whom are freshman: BJ Catalon, Devonte Fields and Jaden Oberkrom.
BJ looks like an incredibly quick, fast and instinctive running back, the guy reminds me a lot of Jamal Charles. Now, why not compare him to Ed Wesley? Because BJ's greatest asset is his instinctive focus on running down hill and getting up field, not jumping outside the tackles every time the ball is snapped. I am sure Tucker and James are going to be the primary backs going forward from now on, but getting a little BJ in our lives wouldn't hurt... Wait....
Devonte Fields is probably a little undersized to play DE in the Big 12, but against a bad offensive line for Grambling State he looked every bit the phenom we have come to expect. He is quick with great hands, but hasn't yet developed the power or explosiveness you want to see from a premier DE. Overall, it was a great debut and I expect him to be a great change of pace going forward next to Ross Forest.
Jaden Oberkrom... What is there to say that hasn't been said, the guy is the future of TCU special teams. That leg is every bit as amazing as advertised and as long as he has balls of steel he is going to have a great career here at TCU.
Not much to say here, except for the linebackers. Kenny Cain is still undersized and slightly underwhelming, but I think he is probably at least average for a Big 12 linebacker. His playing mates, however, were not so great. I don't know what to expect from Joel Hasley in the future, he seems vastly undersized yet adequately quick for the position, which means he is going to need to show instincts at the MLB position, just like Brock and Carder before him.
I would guess this position is going to be a work in progress for TCU all year long. I hope to see more out of guys like Paul Dawson as the year goes on, hopefully by week eight we will have a rotation we like and can count on regularly... We will need it to take on rushing attacks that feature the names of Malcolm Brown, Joe Bergeron and Johnathan Gray.
Two thoughts here... I expect for guys like Josh Boyce to continue to get their touches, but I think Casey showed his willingness to spread the wealth around as needed which should help keep a deep receiving core happy. I hope to see more of Ladarius Brown and Skye Dawson in game two, both have the talent to add to the offensive attack here over the long season.
The other opportunity is for the offensive line... We can't know anything important after the game we just watched BUT I did like what I saw from the offensive line including the two freshman at RT. This group worked well, with a number of guys rotating in and out but the cohesiveness saying mostly intact. If they put up an equally impressive performance next week at Kansas, I will start to feel a little bit better about what we once thought was going to be a deficiency on this years team. If we can indeed cross it off the list, you might want to just add another win to your preseason prediction, it would be THAT big.
Although it was just Grambling, I was impressed with the way the team came out and dominated from the opening whistle. The team was focused and disciplined in every phase of the game. Only having two penalties in your first game is pretty good. The Tigers were never in the game and that is the way it should have been.
Also, you cannot mention this game without talking about the new stadium and Gary Patterson. The new Amon Carter Stadium is a thing of beauty and for Gary Patterson to break Dutch's wins record in the same night it opened is something special.
I would agree that the QB position was the most impressive. Going 17-17 is difficult to do no matter who you play. Casey Pachall had a rocky offseason, but it is clear none of that had an effect on him at all. Boykin could be a star in the making. Wow he looked nice on the long TD run.
Devonte Fields, welcome to the big time. I had been worried about the defensive end position opposite of Maponga, but that worry has gone away. Fields was having his way with the Grambling offensive line all night. It is going to be fun to watch this kid develop because this game was only the beginning.
There isn't much bad to come out of this game. I thought the announcer mispronouncing TCU players names was pretty bad, but as far as on the field goes? I've really got nothing besides I wanted to see LaDarius Brown catch a few passes. Although I do think that was by design.
I am curious as to how the running back rotation plays out this season. Will James and Tucker get a majority of the carries or will Catalon continue to get opportunities?
I think we really need to watch the punt returner position as well. Skye Dawson should not get his job back unless Gray does something wrong or starts fumbling.
Any win without injuries (apparently Ross Forest's knee ding wasn't major) is good. Getting live snaps for 12 freshman is good, including a full half of the new backup QB running more of the offense than just handoffs right, handoffs left, is icing on the cake. Doing all of this in good weather, in a beautiful new stadium, to put the coach on top of the all-time wins list? That's more than good-- that's excellent.
Jaden Oberkrom is money for extra points, and Deante' Gray is money for fielding kicks and punts cleanly. We breathe sighs of reliefs about this only because of recent (bad) experience.
Also good-- perhaps very good-- was seeing big Michael Thompson playing. He's one of the experienced players on o-line, and took snaps throughout the game, rotating in at right tackle. A healthy Thompson will be key later this season to keeping Pachall (and Boykin!) upright.
How do you find bad in a win like that? Maybe It's bad because it's hard to tell if any specific plays or squads on the team were good, because the level of competition was so low. Some say it's bad that we didn't see many catches from LaDarius Brown. I'm not ready to call that bad-- it's one half (he didn't play a lot in the second half).
Watching Casey Pachall and Trey Boykin run the offense without incompletions was beautiful. Our receivers are so good, and the o-line as giving the quarterbacks plenty of time to deliver the ball precisely. It was like a well-oiled machine. TCU's offense is good when the QB can deliver catchable balls to receivers who have blockers in front of them. It's simple, and on Saturday night it was working as cleanly as I've ever seen it.
On the ground Waymon James is the next great running back at TCU. He's a known quantity, and it's simply impossible to give him enough catches. Matt Tucker ran hard, and Aundre Dean somehow just can't make it happen. But Waymon James is sublime.