Apparently, the TCU D didn't like hearing how much better the Texas D was than them all week, and decided to let America know they still played pretty good on that side of the ball in Fort Worth. There were definitely stars on both sides of the ball last night; let's examine the brightest of the bunch as well the players that have a little work left to do.
UP: PAUL DAWSON - I vaguely recall a mention on one of the Texas blogs that said something like "Paul Dawson is a nice player, but he's not a finalist for the Nagurski award so he's not as good as Malcolm Brown". Well, Dawson must read the blog (Hi, Paul!) because he decided to go and show that blogger up last night. Dawson had 10 tackles, two tackles for loss, an interception, and made life incredibly hard on the vaunted Texas run game, which was completely shut down (the other Malcolm Brown had 29 yards on 10 attempts, while you and I gained as many yards as Johnathan Gray). His Nagurski finalist counterpart had a nice game - four tackles and a sack, but as good as he has been, Dawson was clearly better in this game.
DOWN: TREVONE BOYKIN - Boykin continued his spotty play on the road, as he missed several reads throughout the night and showed a lot of wildness in the early going. Boykin overthrew several receivers in the first half (which isn't an easy thing to do to the guys that line up for him), struggled to sit in the pocket (though he was under enormous pressure, especially early), and seemed to not see the guys in the seam until it was two late. His day was saved by two jump ball miracles - one each for Josh Doctson and Kolby Listenbee - and an exclamation point TD run in the fourth. It played a lot like the Kansas game - decent stats, a couple of big plays late, and once he knew the D was going to shut down the opponent, he was more willing to take chances and make Boykin type plays. Boykin through one inexcusable pick in the end zone, but it was his only costly mistake and it was at a point in the game where the outcome was basically decided. He finished with less than 300 yards of total offense, two passing TDs and one on the ground. Despite his struggles on the road (against a great defense) there's not another QB in the country I would want over Deuce Boogie. I fully expect a bounce back game next week with a Big 12 title on the line.
UP: SAM CARTER and JOSH CARRAWAY - Sam and Josh have both put up good seasons, but haven't necessarily had the big numbers to support that in the box score. But Thursday night they both came up with huge plays again and again. Carter had two interceptions, and though he almost got himself a down for the fumble after one, he made up for it with his overall play. Adding in four tackles and a pass breakup, he had Tyrone Swoopes' number all game, and was a big reason the Texas QB was so spooked that he kept throwing it to the guys in white. Carraway was also a looming presence along the front line, stuffing the running backs like turkeys, forcing a fumble on a strip sack (that would be returned by Terrell Lathan for a score), two tackles for loss, and oh yeah... a pick six late in the game that gave the Frogs a few of those style points that we aren't supposed to be worried about but all desperately wanted.
DOWN: THE O LINE - Maybe the big boys up front broke in to the Thanksgiving dinner spread before kick off, or maybe the Texas defensive front is really exceptional. Whatever it was, it wasn't good for TCU. Boykin was running for his life most of the night; two of his most impressive plays went for zero yards a piece, but he ran about 25 just to get to that point. Boykin had 12 runs for 59 yards, but only two that were impactful, and Aaron Green was able to break free for 77 yards, but did a lot of east to west running looking for a hole. A couple of false starts, a bad holding call or two - it wasn't the best moment for a group that has been very good all year long.
UP: JOSH DOCTSON - Welcome back, Doc, we missed you. A healthy Josh cures a lot of ills, and the TCU wide receiver was at his best with the lights the brightest Thursday night. The junior hauled in seven catches for 115 yards, two of which were jump balls that he timed perfectly and caught at their highest point. In a game where the offense struggled, Doctson shined especially bright, and was a difference maker on that side of the ball. Special mention also to Kolby Listenbee, who's one handed catch in between two Longhorn defenders was just ridiculous.
DOWN: THIRD DOWN CONVERSION RATES - I feel like this part of the offense has been trending down the past few weeks, and coincides with some of the struggles the Frogs have had, especially on the road. TCU was only 5-15 on third down conversions Thursday night, and looking at the games where the Frogs have struggled (8-16 in Lawrence, 5-15 verses WVU, and 7-20 in Waco), the correlation is obvious - as it would be for just about any team. The other common thread, if memory serves me correct, is a lot of first and second down calls for deep drops and long throws, and when Boykin isn't hitting, that leads to a lot of third and longs. I would like to see more quick passes and screens on first down - plays where Boykin needs to only take a short drop and gets the ball out quickly, so we can run more on second and third and short. The Frogs are converting on just under 42% on third down this season, which is the 47th best in the country - not very good.
Overall, while the offense struggled, the defense shined - and ultimately, the Frogs came out with a huge win. And much of the credit goes to Texas, who had a great defensive game plan and kept TCU on their heels most of the night on that side of the ball. Who gets your Ups and Downs? Let me know in the comments!