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MMQB: John Diarse is tougher than you

The LSU transfer took a big hit, but came back to spark TCU’s offense in the second half.

NCAA Football: Texas Christian at Southern Methodist Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The targeting rule and player safety measures have done a lot to prevent massive hits on unsuspecting players, but they still happen from time to time. On Friday night, John Diarse was on the receiving end of such a hit from SMU defensive back Darrion Millines during the second quarter of TCU’s 33-3 win over SMU. Millines was ejected, as he should have been, but Frog fans were more concerned about Diarse.

After getting checked out on the sidelines, he was cleared to come back into the game. When he did, he kicked a lackluster TCU offense into high gear with one play: a 75-yard touchdown reception on TCU’s first play from scrimmage in the second half. It gave TCU a 13-3 lead, and the Frogs never looked back.

Here’s what else we can take away from TCU’s win over SMU.

The Good

Diarse finished the night with 6 catches for 139 yards and a touchdown, as he helped lead TCU to almost 400 yards of offense in the second half. He now has 290 receiving yards on the season, most for the Frogs.

Diarse was the beneficiary of a very efficient Kenny Hill, who completed 31 of his 45 pass attempts (68.9%) for 452 yards and two touchdowns. When you consider that Hill had to fight through six dropped passes by receivers, his numbers look even more impressive.

Once again, Kyle Hicks had a stellar night, rushing for 89 yards and catching five passes for 53 more on his way to 142 total yards on the night. He didn’t score a touchdown for the first time this season, but he was an absolute force for the Frogs. Hicks now leads the team in rushes (52), rushing yards (314), receptions (20), is second on the team in rushing touchdowns (five, behind Hill’s six), receiving touchdowns (one), and is third on the team in receiving yards (221).

Hicks has touched the ball 72 times this season. He’s gained 535 yards, or 7.4 yards per touch, and scored six touchdowns. It’s safe to say that he’s a legitimate threat that other defenses have to plan for.

The best thing about the SMU game, though, may have been another Trevorris Johnson sighting. The big back had his second solid game in a row, as he continued to obliterate anything and everything in his way. Over the past two games Johnson has eight carries for 83 yards and two touchdowns. That’s 10.4 yards per carry.

Defensively, it’s always nice to see the other team fail to get in the endzone, even if that team is a Matt Davis-less SMU. It was the first time TCU hadn’t allowed an opposing touchdown since the Peach Bowl slaughtering of Ole Miss in 2014. That 2014 TCU defense achieved that feat four times that season (vs. SMU, Oklahoma State, Iowa State, and Ole Miss).

The Frogs also broke a too-long streak without an interception, as Niko Small and Nick Orr both came away with picks for the Frogs. Hopefully that creates some momentum as TCU heads into conference play.

The Bad

Why, oh why can’t TCU get off to a fast start? For an offense that is third in the country in total offense (behind just Louisville and Cal), you would think they could hit the ground running from the start of a game. That isn’t the case, though, and it was true again on Friday night.

TCU finished the game with 589 yards of offense. 374 of those yards came in the second half. On the season, TCU is seeing these first half/second half splits:

Getting off to a fast start is, needless to say, pretty critical from here on out.

Also, the kicking game (not punting, but field goals and kickoffs) is going to give me a heart attack before the season is over.

The Real Tests Are Up Next

Yes, TCU is 3-1, but now the time has come to really prove what the Frogs have in conference play. Oklahoma is up next, followed by a Kansas team that always gives TCU fits, a West Virginia squad that is looking to take advantage of a not-so-great Big 12, and a Tech team that wants revenge after the past two seasons.

It’s time to get it in gear. Let’s go.