Begin quote: Even with a ravaged defense, TCU blasts Texas...end quote. I read this sentence, in some capacity, more times than I could count on Sunday. Sure, the Horned Frogs will be without their best cornerback the rest of the season, and losing Kenny Iloka has put tremendous pressure on the weak safety position and has churned out very meh results. That said: it's getting better.
I said two weeks ago, that if TCU won in Lubbock--no matter how--they'd have a pretty good chance to cruise until they got West Virginia. Even with all of the spiritual goodwill Texas built up after two very decent performances, which they lost late--many Longhorn fans were optimistic about the game. No bad refereeing; No Nick Rose choke; Jerrod Heard; etc. To be fair, I gave Texas the benefit of the doubt; not to win of course, but at least to be somewhat kinetic.
I was too generous I guess, and I was too generous even knowing Mike Tuaua might be back. Tuaua was absolute dynamite on Saturday, and it just goes to show how even a smidge more of depth on the defensive line can change the Frogs' fortune. However, the most exciting moment of Tuaua's day was undoubtedly sprinting to cover one of Texas' "signature" wheel routes. This is how overplayed narratives begin; with Tuaua back, and Terrell Lathan (likely) back this weekend, TCU begins taking strides at being the perennial punch in the mouth it's accustomed to being.
Speaking of dynamite, there's no one--not even Josh Doctson--more explosive than KaVontae Turpin. The freshman from Louisiana is a powder keg dipped in kerosene, wrapped in c4; his highlights resemble one of the various scenes in Apocalypse Now. Turpin was so under the Rivals Radar that they didn't even give the 2-Star rated player a profile picture.
Everything is slowly piecing together, and to paraphrase the words of Samuel L. Jackson in Jurassic Park; it could've been a lot worse on Saturday. A lot worse. Despite what the ever-gracious, ever-intelligent Baylor Twitter will tell you; Patterson wasn't running up the score. Boykin was taken out in the 4th, you know like every other quarterback is when their team is up big. The defense is getting better and so is the offense. The latter of which is quite scary if you think about.
Kansas State Preview
Ian Malcolm would be a TCU fan. No one likes, or wants to believe Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park; not the curmudgeon Alan Grant; not the wonderful Ellie Sadler; not the overzealous little shit and his much cooler older sister who basically saves everyone's lives with her 90s-style hacking. Malcolm does throw up the then Hail Mary assumption that even in a same-sex environment, life will find a way in Jurassic Park. Turns out, he's right and by the end of the movie everyone agrees with him. Even Jon Hammond, who's completely disgusted Malcolm throughout the film, ends up deciding to "not endorse" his own theme park. TCU is slowly having to prove that they're not just evolutionary, but revolutionary. No Texas fans, especially bloggers, were thrilled with Gary Patterson's pre-game comments about the Longhorn offensive line: "We've beaten better with less" he said. As it turns out, he was right.
The revolution will have a new challenge on Saturday.
Playing in the Little Apple is never easy, and while there will be an obvious challenge that awaits the Frogs--not only from the Wildcats themselves, but also from TCU's mediocre road performances--there's still plenty of reason to think the Frogs will be able to flex their muscles once again like they did last Saturday.
This starts with depth.
It seems like all signs are pointing for Terrell Lathan's return. Until the Frogs' performance on Saturday, Lathan's pass rushing was arguably the brightest spot of the season. Then again, the safety duo of Denzel Johnson and Derrick Kindred has gone relatively unnoticed because of all the personnel losses; buried in the knee-jerk and borderline lazy go-to using the words like attrition in regards to TCU's defense. Make no mistake, those two have been carrying a good chunk of the weight with little to no praise, especially Johnson.
Patterson said on Monday that TCU is "coming out of the fog," and it's easy to see why he thinks that. Not only is the defensive line reloading, the weak safety position is starting to show some promise. Ridwan Issahaku was more than stellar against Texas, finishing with 9 tackles (6 assisted, 3 solo)-- third most on the team.
Saturday's game will be another test. The Wildcats have had their share of trouble and disaster this season. As friends of the blog, Ian Boyd tells me we should expect the same stuff from Kansas State we've seen the last three years; however, they just won't have superstars like Collin Klein or Tyler Lockett this time. Long-term backup--literally had never started a game high school or college until last month--Joe Huebener is making the most of it. Despite his injury woes last weekend, he's expected to be back in action when TCU rolls into town. Huebener throws slightly more than Jerrod Heard, but doesn't have nearly the same speed, despite what the rushing yards may tell you. The Frogs had trouble with their last power runner with Patrick Mahomes; however, Huebener is far from Mahomes. Things have gotten so weird in Manhattan that in the name of caution, Kansas State has listed a lineman as a potential quarterback.
In addition to Huebener's feet, which have been good enough to be second on the team in rushing with 113 yards, the Wildcats spread out the rushing attack. Their leading rusher, Justin Silmon, has slightly more than half of what Aaron Green has totaled this year (260 yards). Elsewhere, and minus Huebener, they have four rushers with 40 yards or more, two of which Charles Jones, running back, and Kody Cook, receiver, have totaled 87 yards each.
The Wildcats have some solid athletes at receiver; aside from Cook, keep an eye out for Dominique Heath and Deante' Burton. Given Huebener's arm strength, I'm cautiously optimistic about containing the Kansas State's passing game. I still give my player to watch to Cook, who stepped in for Huebener against Oklahoma State and completed more passes than Jerrod Heard did against TCU. Cook also accumulated and led the team with 87 yards rushing that game.
**First Downs, Healing Kolby, Turpin Too Turnt**
Where TCU's biggest challenge may lie is finding its offensive rhythm on the road. While they've met modest success, and while TCU's defense still has a lot to prove, I just don't think the Wildcats' offense will be too much trouble for the Frogs to handle. But damn, that defense is salty. Boasting the best rush defense in the Big 12 at an astounding 71 yards per game, the Wildcats have a real chance to throw the Frogs' scheme off by limiting the harmonic balance of passing and handing it off to Aaron Green that they've become accustomed to in recent years. That being said, the best rushing teams they've played so far are Louisiana Tech, who is tied for the 48th in rushing yards; Oklahoma State, the 102nd ranked team that barely beat them; and UTSA, ranked 79th. Not the greatest sample size, then again, neither is TCU's in terms of defensive teams played.
Despite the night game in the Little Apple, TCU's offense has given very little hope for an opposing team to stop them. Averaging over 600-yards per game is just the tip of the iceberg; they rank in the Top 20 nationally in both passing and in rushing--Baylor is the only other team to do this. Nationally, Boykin ranks 5th in passing yards, 11th in passing yards per completion, 1st in passing touchdowns (along with Seth Russell), and 6th in passing efficiency. Despite these majestic numbers, there's been a different approach for this offense in 2015.
With Kolby Listenbee gone, the playbook has had to adapt. This would explain why the Frogs rank second nationally in both total first downs and first downs per game. Sans the Listenbee-killshot, the playbook has had to go to the middle or to the side; hence the in-routes (which my love is well documented) and KaVontae Turpin's favorite, the wheel route. I'm not sure if Listenbee will play this weekend. Don't get me wrong, I want him to, but if it's at the cost of risking further injury, and if he's not one hundred percent...why bother? TCU is undoubtedly better with him, but they've been pretty damn good without him. Not even a Texas or Texas Tech team putting double coverage on Doctson works, and even if more coverage gets put on him--well, there's a long list of effective, proven candidates Boykin can go to. Listenbee dresses every game, so he'll be back in 2015, same with Emmanuel Porter. Thankfully, everything's working fine for now; but when those guys come back, presumably for the West Virginia--Oklahoma State--Kansas (ha)--Oklahoma--Baylor stretch, simultaneously with an improved defense, it could be the cherry on top for TCU's final playoff push.
Speaking of Turpin, I can't remember a player being this lauded. Yes, Boykin and Doctson are the best QB-WR duo in the history of TCU, both are electric and I cry at night thinking of their departure. But everyone gets LIT when Turpin catches the ball. Sipping their Coke mixed in with the cheap whiskey they Rogue Nation-ed into The Carter, the fans roar when Turpin does something. It's become mutual; he feeds off of us and we feed off of him. He won't have that home crowd with him this Saturday, but he knows everyone's behind him-- even Gary Patterson, who as far as I can remember has never been so high on a player, let alone a freshman. Expect Turpin to go full #TurpinTime this weekend.
Score Prediction: TCU 48, Kansas State 27
This may not be the prettiest win, but TCU forces Huebener to make mistakes early, before a sloppy middle of the game that forces the Wildcat quarterback to make a late mistake and then the Frogs run away with it. There's a point where it gets a little close in the 3rd: possibly a 35-24 score which, again, the Frogs respond violently to and give us a final score more indicative of the Wildcats simply being outmatched.
Whether it's a healthy Huebener or Kody Cook, Kansas State wins this game playing their game: a delicate dance that'll pepper in Cook or Huebener running the ball and testing TCU's linebackers with graceful lead-blocking, pop passes, and tight end stuff, you know, the usual. In the end, I just don't think they'll score quick enough and I don't think their defensive unit, even their rushing defense, will be able contain Boykin and co.