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MMQB: Climb on Kyle’s shoulders

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Can Kyle Hicks be the guy to lead TCU’s offense in 2016?

NCAA Football: Iowa State at Texas Christian Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

It’s not often that a high-powered offense’s running game gets the credit it deserves. Whether it’s TCU, Baylor, Texas Tech, or any other spread-them-out-and-run-past-them offense, the flashy passing game always stands front and center.

However, The Frogs, Bears, and Red Raiders offenses these past several years would have been far less effective without the likes of Aaron Green, Shock Linwood, and DeAndre Washington.

Now, for TCU, it seems like a new running back is emerging to help maintain offensive balance in the form of the beastly Kyle Hicks. He wasn’t the only good thing about the game against Iowa State, but he was certainly at the top of the list. Let’s break it all down.

The Good

Hicks had 15 touches in this game (12 carries, 3 receptions). At first glance, you see that, and you wonder, “how central is he really to the offense?” But then you see the numbers. 117 rushing yards (9.8 ypc) and a touchdown. 39 receiving yards and a touchdown. Take away his biggest run of the day, a 64-yard touchdown run, and he still averaged 4.8 yards per carry, a solid number for any back.

Hicks showed speed and strength that the Frogs need out of the backfield, he showed a propensity for picking up a block to protect his quarterback, and he’s got some hands, as he pulled in all three passes that came his way.

The greatest thing about Kyle Hicks emerging, though, is that he’s doing it out of what seems to be a stacked running back group. Trevorris Johnson finally got a chance to show what he could do on Saturday, and he made the most of his four carries, running for 47 yards and a touchdown. Derrick Green got ten carries, running for 26 yards and a touchdown on some bruising, short-down situations.

When you consider that Kenny Hill also ran for a touchdown, that brings the total to four different Horned Frogs that scored a touchdown on the ground Saturday.

Meanwhile, the passing game looks to be getting better, and deeper. John Diarse hauled in seven catches for 97 yards, including a brilliant snag over a corner in excellent position. He seems like he’s going to be a good go-to option for Hill, when the Frogs need a first down.

Defensively, the line looked much better than it has in the first two weeks. Both Iowa State quarterbacks were constantly under pressure, and TCU finished the day with five sacks. Mat Boesen debuted in the purple (gray) and white on Saturday, and he finished with 1.5 sacks, five tackles, and a pass breakup (that should have been an interception). He’s much needed depth at defensive end, and should only make Carraway and McFarland better in the long run.

Jeff Gladney also played lights out at cornerback in this game. Holding Iowa State’s stud receiver Allen Lazard to zero receptions through halftime, and just one catch for eight yards the entire game.

The kicking game should also get a nod here, as there were no mishaps along those lines. Graf and Hatfield both made 37-yard field goal attempts, and Adam Nunez is turning into a boomer at punter. Nunez had two punts over 50 yards on Saturday, and his leg could come in handy as the season progresses.

The Bad

Injuries suck, and TCU suffered several on Saturday. The biggest at first glance is KaVontae Turpin, who saw his knee bend totally the wrong way after making a reception and having a defender jump on his back. While no official announcement has been made regarding his injury, it looked like something that would keep him out for multiple weeks, at the very least.

Meanwhile, Josh Carraway and Jeff Gladney both went down at points in the game clutching ankles. It’s unknown how severe those injuries were, but both would be big losses for the Frogs if they were out for an extended period of time.

It seems like this defense has no real clue how to stop a quarterback from running, which could become a problem quickly once TCU reaches the October portion of their season, when they’ll face Baker Mayfield, Skyler Howard, and Patrick Mahomes. ISU’s Joel Lanning ran 11 times for 31 yards and two touchdowns against the Frogs, as they seemed constantly baffled by his athleticism.

Cornerback play was better, but still left a lot to be desired, and as a whole Patterson was furious with the defense after their effort on Saturday. In his post game press conference Patterson held nothing back, saying that Iowa State’s offense shouldn’t have run more than 60 or so plays (they ran 83), and that the defense needs to get it figured out. He did note though that the defensive guys had a better day as far as getting lined up correctly.

For my next point, though, I need your help. Look up at the header picture for this article. It’s a nice shot of Kyle Hicks hauling in a touchdown pass early in the third quarter. Check out the background. The rows and rows of empty benches.

Yeah, it was hot. It was early. Ok.

None of that makes it any less pitiful of a showing by TCU fans.

The Kenny Hill train keeps rolling

Hill had a good day on Saturday, despite missing some wide open receivers that could have really blown the game wide open. He didn’t turn the ball over, and the offense looked much more consistent, despite still stalling out at a few points.

He was good enough, at least, to earn some rest in the fourth quarter, as Foster Sawyer came on for the final frame. In that limited time I saw nothing from Sawyer that I haven’t seen from Hill so far this season. He flashed a decent arm, solid wheels, and an ability to move the ball a bit.

Next up, let’s see what Hill can do against an SMU squad that always plays TCU tough. I have a feeling he’s going to really break out in this game.

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