It was… not a pretty win, to say the least. But the fact of the matter is, TCU went on the road to play a good team and left 1-0. Ultimately, that's all that matters. And, on the plus side, GP will have PLENTY to talk about during film study. Let's take a look at who will get the praise, and who needs to look better in week two.
UP - Mike Freeze: the true freshman linebacker, who hadn't played a game since late in 2013, did not look like a rookie in his first collegiate game - and first ever snaps at linebacker. With seven tackles and several crucial stops, he more than lived up to his considerable preseason hype. While he faded some on Minnesota's last scoring drive - but who didn't - it looks pretty obvious that the Frogs have a future star in the middle.
DOWN - Emanuel Porter: the sophomore wide receiver had a great fall camp by all accounts, but didn't play like it Thursday night. While he had a couple really nice catches in the second half, he had a couple drops and appeared to run the wrong route a couple times early in the game. Call it early season jitters, blame it on youth or bad throws, but the big receiver is going to need to play better in order to allow Doc and Listenbee the space to operate on the edges. To his credit, he drew two PI penalties that played major roles on scoring drives, so we won't get after him too much.
UP- Terrell Lathan: In the absence of James McFarland and Davion Pierson, somebody on the D Line had to step up Thursday night. That man was Lathan. With three tackles and a strip sack of Leidner, the 6'5" defensive end was aggressive and active from the first whistle. As the offense struggled, Lathan knew the D would have to step up, and he led his young charges admirably on the field, ensuring the Frogs did enough to win the ball game. While TCU didn't get quite as much contact on Leidner as they would have liked, they kept him rattled and made him shift in the pocket and rush throws enough that he never got in to a groove either.
DOWN - Trevone Boykin: I really hate to do this, but Deuce just wasn't himself in Minnesota. Maybe he was a little too hyped, maybe the Minnesota defense was really good, maybe his offensive line didn't do enough - but if you're going to remain at the top of the Heisman hopeful list, performances like that aren't going to get it done. 26/42 passing for 246 yards isn't terrible by any stretch, but accuracy issues reared their ugly head early and often against the Gophers, and he took far too much punishment as a runner - 18 carries for 92 yards, but at a high cost. There is no man in college football that bears more weight on his shoulders than Boykin, and maybe that impacted him Thursday night. While he wasn't bad, he was far from sharp - missing two wide open receivers in the end zone (one of those wasn't necessarily a bad throw, but one he has to make) and never finding his touch on the deep ball that made him so dangerous a year ago. He could never get Kolby Listenbee going, and this TCU couldn't exploit the speed mismatch on the outside. The interception he threw was just plain ugly, and he was close to having a second pass picked off. But, ultimately, he made enough plays to lead his team to victory. And that's the only thing that matters for game one. This isn't meant as an indictment of Deuce, but he looked like something we hadn't seen in a while: human.
UP - Young Guns: We already mentioned Mike Freeze, and for good reason; but he was far from the only freshman to make their mark in Minny. When Sammy Douglas went down with an undisclosed injury early, redshirt freshman Ty Summer stepped in admirably with seven tackles. Sophomore Nick Orr was a somewhat surprising sophomore across from his fellow second year player, Ranthony Texada, and both played solid defense and kept the Gopher receivers in front of them (with a few exceptions). Chris Bradley had a really solid game in the middle of the D Line, and the sophomore showed flashes of a bright future. Two freshmen were instrumental on offense: Shaun Nixon bounced back from injury last year to gain almost 50 yards on just six touches; true frosh Kavontae Turpin was electric as a returner (even though his best was called back), rusher, and receiver - and while he never quite broke through, he showed nifty feet and an impressive cutting ability. Desmon White was Boykin's safety net in the slot, and the diminutive wideout had five catches for 61 yards. A host of first and second year players made their mark on both sides of the ball, and their development throughout the season should be a lot of fun to watch.
Down - The Offensive Line: the group that was expected to be one of the strongest units on the team simply wasn't. Boykin didn't have enough time to set his feet and get the deep ball going - and while some of that may have been his nerves, the inability of the line to consistently set a good pocket certainly didn't help. The big guys up front didn't own the trenches - not displaying the nastiness and toughness we expect from them. Frankly, they are too good and too talented to not play a lot better. When they did open some holes - and there were some good ones - the running backs missed them. Trevorris Johnson especially struggled in this regard - the big guy kept trying to bounce it outside, when he needed to take the first cut and explode through the first level. For the record - as with Tre - I am not the least bit worried this group won't work things out and get back on track before next Saturday.
Ultimately, each "down" is easily fixable, and getting through the first game on the road may alone be the answer. Not the start we are all hoping for of course, but it's the result we needed!