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TCU Football, Week 2: SFA Preview

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As the Horned Frogs enter a weekend against Stephen F. Austin, don’t let your friends on Facebook worry you, TCU played a really great Minnesota team Thursday and there’s still plenty of reason to believe this team can go the distance…

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

11:36 pm, Thursday: "We're not very good this year!"...the clown types on Facebook as nothing else in his life went right that day and he needs to be reassured in social media.

8:06 am, Friday: Clown shares pro-Donald Trump Facebook link.

Dear Clown,

This was a much more polished Minnesota team than the one we played nearly a year ago. Given that the Gophers were loaded an experienced and strong secondary mixed with first-game, Thursday night jitters, TCU played just fine. Boykin was three bad throws from a TCU blowout, and considering the Frogs played with two freshmen linebackers 99.99% of the game, I think there's more to be happy about than not. I honestly feel a little better about what I saw Thursday night than how I probably would've felt if there score would've been 45-34 in favor of TCU.

Denzel Johnson shined, and Derrick Kindred proved that he's the backbone of the defense this year. And oh yeah--the Frogs were also without two of its best defensive linemen in Devon Pierson and James Macfarland. This defense may not surpass last year's--spiritually or statically--but they're fast and mean as shit. If anything proves Patterson's genius it's not years like last year, a year filled with seniors, it's the ones like this year.

Don't Look Back In Anger, Minnesota is a Pretty Damn Good Team

With no disrespect to Boykin and some of the awful throws he made--because he knows they were awful too--Thursday proved just how important Meacham and Cumbie are. Boykin and the offense left at least 17 points on the board, yet the it was offense that helped dominate the game. They were always in control, and like we said last week with the in-route being the new run up the middle, the Frogs looked brilliant pretty much on every drive until the point where they got into the redzone.

The receivers that Boykin overthrew were wide open and would've scored touchdowns--likely leading to a TCU blowout--and credit the minds of Meacham and Cumbie for that. There was a point where Patterson held Meacham back--speaking on that 4th and short call. There also weren't many play calls as a whole in which said call was the wrong one to make. The read-options looked great. The vertical routes weren't used because Minnesota's tight coverage, but goodness gracious those in-routes to Josh Doctson were superb. Doctson, already a projected a 1st rounder in next year's NFL Draft only supported his case Thursday night. Hero of the Frogs O'War podcast, Ja'Juan Story also had a brilliant catch, and like most the offense (Boykin included) looked like he spent a good deal of the summer throwing plates.

A few bad throws is hardly a justified reason to start crying on Facebook like your rescue dog just kicked the bucket because you think TCU isn't as good this year. Boykin hits those throws, even the throws in the 4th quarter, and TCU walks out of TCF Bank Stadium winning by 20. Everyone shuts up, but then neglects all of the bad. Like the high number of penalties, even by my favorite, Ja'Jaun Story (two false starts). While this is obvious in hindsight, I think the Frogs gain a lot more from a gut-check win than they would've with a 4th quarter surge. The false starts and other stupid penalties that affected the rhythm and dynamic of the offense are now a harder lesson as it could've cost TCU the game. But come late fall given Wisconsin's performance Saturday night, the Golden Gophers may be playing for a chance at a Big 10 West title, and another chance to beat Ohio State in Detroit, which would make this win look miles more impressive. It was kind of a joke that TCU-Minnesota was one of the most important games in 2014, but in 2015, it may actually be.

SFA Preview:

Stephen F. Austin is a game where TCU fans, coaches, and players alike can all take a deep breath. I don't care who you are, playing on a Thursday against a salty Minnesota team on the road is hard for anyone. It wasn't pretty for the defending National Champions Ohio State late last season, it wasn't pretty for TCU on Thursday, and it won't be pretty for Big 10 West teams going forward. Getting their footing against the Lumberjacks and then two really bad defenses in SMU and Texas Tech should and will get the Frogs back where they want to be come October when they play Texas at home. Then again, given how the Longhorns played in South Bend, they also may fall into that the bad defensive category.

Speaking of, while Malik Jefferson rightfully garnered praise despite Texas' generally awful performance against the Irish, more people in the Big 12 need to keep an eye on another true freshman linebacker in TCU's Mike Freeze out of Graham. With SMU and SFA on the horizon, Freeze could get those Myles Garrett-kind of early-in-the-year freshman stats. Redshirt Freshman Ty Summers was also brilliant in his debut filling in for Sammy Douglas after he left the game. (Editor's note: Sammy Douglas has been confirmed by Patterson as out for the year)

Next Saturday against the Lumberjacks should be about getting the footing back, and by all means; it will be. Some of Boykin's throws weren't great last Thursday; but they were throws to newer targets like Emanuel Porter--who only caught 12 passes last year--and Shaun Nixon--who didn't play the entirety of 2014 due to injury. And speaking of the latter, how encouraging was Nixon? Meacham and Cumbie's offense is evolving at such a rapid pace that Kentucky public schools won't be allowed to teach it in a few years. The use of Nixon and Kyle Hicks and finding them on shorter routes will pay some huge dividends and will be one of the trickiest aspects of TCU's offense for Big 12 defenses this season.

SFA Passing

Cmp/Att/Pct.  /

Pass Eff.

Total Yards

TD/Int

Zach Conque

28/38, 73.7%

142.8

297

1/1

I also know that as much as Trevorris Johnson wants to be an outside runner, it was evident from Thursday's game that he's a guy TCU needs running up the middle to be successful. This could remedy the Frogs' redzone woes as we move deeper into the season; I mean, how many slant routes can we throw to Doctson before everyone catches on? Then again, due to his injury, in some combination with the Minnesota's stellar secondary, are reasons we didn't see Boykin's other favorite play (the other being the Listenbee killshot), the Doctson-fade.

Once again, thank you Felts for the wonderful graphic.

SFA Preview Infographic


Sure, there was plenty to be discouraged about in the opener; this was the first time TCU didn't score more than 30-points since 2013; the 23 points scored was also less than half of what they averaged per-game in 2014; and the third-down conversion this season may do the inverse of what Colin Cowherd has done to his hair this year--but that's okay, I'd be honored to be have hair like Roger Sterling at 26 if TCU wins a National Championship. The Frogs went 7-19 on third-down Thursday night, which while far better than Minnesota going 4-15, is still far from where they need to be. A couple bad drops from receivers, mixed in with Boykin's inaccuracy is the Frogs' biggest problem right now--especially when playing a team like Minnesota, a team with a solid secondary, and not being able to just hit Listenbee or Porter with killshots early on second or first down (this will be really difficult come Halloween weekend against West Virginia.) To channel your friends' Facebook anger, I never really felt great when TCU was on third down. Again, credit Kill and Minnesota for playing great defense, but not only could TCU not execute on third down confidently, it's the only place where I feel Meacham and Cumbie didn't feel confident in what play to run--and maybe that's because of all the drops, the fumble, etc.

I did, however, dig the balance from the game; 246 passing, 203 rushing. Leading the team in rushing, and obviously in passing, Boykin had the majority of TCU's offense, and despite his throwing problems, his decision-making was on point and encouraging to say the least. He kept the ball when he needed to, and the only two bad decisions I can recall him making was his interception (Editor's note: Boykin was hit as he threw the ball on that play; Big V got beat by the DE around the left edge) and another pass that probably should've been picked off.

Another interesting thing to point out from Thursday in regards to the offense, and something that we should see even in a team like SFA, is how much time the Horned Frogs ate up offense. The time between snaps was not only a little slower, but their drives as a whole were slightly longer as well. The biggest contributor of this, and like we said above, is the love for the in-route. The Frogs won't have to worry about pace this year. Like we said above, they dominated and controlled about 95% of the game on Thursday. The only time I felt uneasy was on Minnesota's last drive of the game. Thankfully, Mitch Leidner was as mundane as a gas-station turkey sandwich. I said that he was one of the worst P5 quarterbacks I'd ever seen, at least recently. That award may now go to Tyrone Swoopes, but that's for another day.

Aside from the Minnesota's penultimate drive in which they scored, I didn't really have any real complaints about the defense. Like I said in the podcast, and I believe in the game preview and above, Kindred (who finished the game with 9 tackles; 6 solo and 3 assisted) will be extremely important not only in this past game, but to this season's success going forward. In addition to Kindred, I think the secondary as a whole is underrated, and should it stay healthy, might be once again one of the Big 12's finest units. Not only did Kindred excel, but Nick Orr looked great on his tackles and his coverage, Denzel Johnson the same, and Minnesota learned why not many teams are going to throw Ranthony Texada's side of the field. But if Orr continues to play like he did Thursday, teams are going to have to start mixing it up, and thus throwing to both sides against two solid corners will force turnovers, something the TCU offense is perhaps best at.

That last bit is where I understand arguments from Matt Hinton and Bill Connelly come from. TCU does benefit off of turnovers, I don't think anyone's trying to argue that. But also, the Horned Frogs cut their reptilian chompers on turnovers, as Gary's defense now has 26 straight games with a turnover, currently the longest streak in the Nation. Maybe that's a streak that gets broken this year, but if it doesn't get broken in a close game against a team like Baylor or even Oklahoma, it's another reason I'm confident in this team.

Specifically for SFA,  the toughest matchup for the young TCU defense will be attacking the quarterback, Zach Conque. The big 6'6" junior from Arkansas and former UTSA Roadrunner is pretty solid on both sides of the ball; he had 68 yards on the ground and 297 through the air in SFA's loss last season. He gained 92 yards throughout the game, but the 24 he lost tells me either the Lumberjack line needs work, or that he's prone to making bad decisions. With an unapologetic TCU defense that should be returning at least one of its top two defensive lineman--a line that was just fine without them--Conque could be in for a rough game. When TCU plays SFA this Saturday, a team who lost their first game to Northern Arizona by a touchdown, the dots should become more connected. Playing at home gives Boykin confidence, and two home games before going to play in environment in which people hate you like in Lubbock will give Deuce Boogie that mental boost that he thrives so well on.

In the end, Minnesota wasn't a terrible barometer for the season. The Frogs, even in their undefeated Rose Bowl season, played ho-hum in their opener. So while your #HotTake Facebook amigos spent their Labor Day weekend peppering your feed with how disappointed they were with TCU; I'm saying that it's about to get a lot better.

Sincerely,
Marsh