There was no hangover for the Horned Frogs last Saturday, coming off of their miracle win in Lubbock. Not even the early morning kickoff could detour TCU from demolishing Texas as part of the homecoming festivities, as they rolled to a 30-0 lead in the first quarter and never looked back. But it will be a different beast on the road at Kansas State under the lights of the Bill Snyder Family Stadium, and the Cats are surely still licking their wounds after a zebra ran them over on the way to an L. Let's take a look at some of the key points the Frogs will need to focus on this Saturday.
FINISH THE PLAY: TCU has missed 30 tackles in their last two games-- something that nearly cost them in Lubbock and allowed both the Raiders and the Horns to rack up triple digits in the ground game. While the missed plays on defense weren't as detrimental against the Horns, it's a disturbing trend that will need to be halted against the hard-running Wildcats. With an offense predicated on the read option, a blown assignment or a missed tackle could be the difference between a third and long and a long run. It will be key for the ever-improving guys in the middle - Travin Howard and Montrel Wilson - to diagnose plays quickly and react quickly at the linebacker spots. It will also be crucial that the defensive line - which is finally looking closer to full strength - put the same type of pressure on whoever is taking snaps for the Cats much like they did to Heard and Swoopes a week ago.
BACK IN THE SADDLE, AGAIN?: So, have you guys heard that TCU has had some injury issues this season? In addition to Mike Tuaua returning from suspension, the Frogs got Davion Pierson back close to full strength last week, and both players should be better as they work their way back into game shape. There is also hope that Terrell Lathan will return to the defensive line, and while question marks surround Kolby Listenbee and Emanuel Porter on offense, it appears both *could* be back for game six. Big V went out with an injury against Texas as well, but there have been no signs that it's anything serious. Every guy that the Frogs get back, as well as every snap the replacements play, makes the team a little deeper, a little smarter, and a little better. While they will never get back to full-strength - too many guys are out with season-ending injuries for that - if they can get back to as good as it's going to get, that will make Gary Patterson's job that much easier.
BE SELFISH (WITH THE BALL): Part of what makes the Frog offense so dang good - and so hard to stop - is that the players are undeniably unselfish and seem to really not care who gets the ball, as long as the team has success. Guys like Josh Doctson and Kolby Listenbee never complain about touches, and even Aaron Green won't utter a peep after games where he only totes the rock 10-15 times. That's just the nature of this group, and part of what makes them so special. But, there is one area where TCU must go against their natural tendencies - want the ball, keep the ball, and take the ball away from KSU. Since his ugly interception against SMU, Trevone Boykin has been an absolute jerk to opposing defenses - he just plain refuses to share. Even in that crazy Texas Tech game, where the teams combined for almost 1400 yards on 187 snaps, there was not a single turnover. TCU was turnover free against Texas last week, and a third straight game of holding on to the rock - and taking it away from a Wildcat team that has been vulnerable to that type of thing - would go a long way to securing win number six (and bowl eligibility) for the Frogs.
BIG BOYS DOING BIG THINGS: The K State run defense is the best in the Big XII, and one of the best in the country, as they have held opposing offenses in the 70s on the ground. For the Frogs to best exploit a shaky Cats passing defense, the run game will need to get rolling early and often. That means the big boys up front will need to do work in the trenches - dominating the front line of the other purple people and creating holes for Aaron Green to burst through. A year ago, it was #22's crazy cut-back 65 yard score that salted the game away; for TCU to run away from Bill Snyder's crew in the Little Apple, he will have to run away from them once again.
TURPINTIME: Just get the ball in this kid's hands. But seriously, the emergence of KaVontae Turpin opens up so much more of the offensive playbook; against a solid run defense like the one the Cats hang their hats on, the ability to use a short pass almost like a running play could give KSU fits. And with guys like Desmon White and Turp looking to score every time they touch the ball - and possessing the quicks to do so - defenses don't know where to key. If you try and take away the running game, Cumbie and Meach will use screens, sweeps, and slants to get the ball to the green and put their playmakers in space. Try and lock down on the guys on the inside? Well, you may have heard of a dude playing wideout for TCU that wears #9 - and he's pretty decent himself. It's a case of pick your poison when it comes to containing TCU's D... and none of the options are any more appealing than the Wicked Witch's apple.
Ultimately, I (like many TCU fans), have nothing but respect for our fellow purple people. Obviously, the Frogs need a convincing win on the road to maintain their ranking and continue in pursuit of the ultimate goal, but I will wish the Cats nothing but the best - after Saturday night.