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Three Up, Three Down: Just Keep Winning

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TCU did enough to get a win over a ranked opponent Saturday. Who shined and who sputtered in the victory?

NCAA Football: West Virginia at Texas Christian Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

I am really having to nit-pick this week to find some downs; certainly it wasn’t a flawless game by the Frogs, but at the end of the day, they beat a ranked opponent and ran their record to 5-0. I don’t want to be mad about that.

So, with no joy in my heart, I found three ‘negatives’, but they are of the slightest variety. Our ups this week were plenty of fun though, as was the final score!

UP: KENNY HILL

Kenny did everything you want your senior leader to do - he was smart with the football, didn’t try to do too much, and when his team needed a big play, he made it time and time again. Hill showed a ton of heart Saturday afternoon, whether it was his spin move on the toss back touchdown pass - a play he made all on his own, as all four blockers decided to whiff on the one defender that had a chance to make a play - or the touchdown run on third down with time winding down, when he willed himself into the end zone (with a little help from a Kyle Hicks block) for what would prove to be the game-winning touchdown. Hill’s numbers may not impress overall, but his leadership and self-sacrifice in the name of winning was evident all afternoon. Anyone saying he should be sat at this point is flat out wrong.

DOWN: PLAY-CALLING

Sonny WYD. WVU came into the game as the 115th ranked run defense in the country, so of course the Frogs unleashed their three-headed monster on the Eers and racked up rushing yards at the same pace Dana crushes Monsters, right?

Wrong. I have no idea what the offensive coordinators saw in film, and don’t claim to know what I am doing over them, but, it’s fair to question the strategy Saturday. Sometimes, coaches get so focused on catching the opposition off-guard that they lose sight of what has been working. I think that was the case for TCU against WVU. Sure, the Eers were loading the box, and sure the Frogs’ offensive line is banged up and not as effective without Patrick Morris, but I can’t find any reason that Hicks and Anderson should have COMBINED for 20 carries. Hicks’ touches were limited coming off of injury, but the last time we saw DA, he was slicing and dicing and Oklahoma State defense that is probably stronger up front than WVU. In my opinion, you play to your strengths, and challenge your opponent to stop them. We saw that in Sunday’s Cowboys’ game - Zeke was ineffective early, but they kept pounding away, and by the fourth quarter the Packers’ D was worn down and giving up chunk plays to the Boys’ chunky running back (sorry, I couldn’t resist).

The trick play was a perfect call at the perfect time, and the one ‘cute’ thing I actually liked. It came on second down, the blocking was set up perfectly (even if they all, you know, forgot to block), and it caught the Eers completely off guard and gave TCU a much needed spark. But the Wild Frog snap/jet sweep run with Reagor on fourth and one? Had that not worked, I would have run onto the field and smashed someone’s headset. It’s FOURTH AND ONE AND YOU HAVE A 240 POUND MAN CHILD TAKING A DIRECT SNAP RUN THE DANG BALL UP THE MIDDLE.

Sonny Cumbie is super cute, but I hope his play calling is less-so Saturday. Still love you, though, Sonny.

UP: ADAM NUNEZ

Hot Take - TCU does not win Saturday if not for Adam Nunez.

TCU’s sophomore punter has struggled in 2017, not able to get his leg into punts and flip the field the way we are accustomed to. But one thing that hasn’t changed is his short game - there might not be a better coffin corner guy in the country. Nunez was just showing off Saturday; his first four punts were downed inside the six yard line. He befuddled the WVU return game - they had three returns for zero yards. In total, Nunez had seven punts for 301 yards with a long of 51, and looked much more like his old self. The Mountaineers return game has been dangerous, and he completely negated it Saturday. Additionally, his play made a huge difference to TCU’s defense, who used a long field to hold the Eers to just three first half points.

Great job Adam, but I hope that we don’t need you to be that good the rest of the way ;)

DOWN: DEFENSIVE LINE

Every week, I find myself asking just how Ben Banogu ended up at Louisiana Monroe. This kid is an absolutely freak in the best possible way, and he deserves as much credit as any individual for TCU’s 5-0 start.

I am seriously nit-picking here when I say that the TCU defensive line struggled, and really it’s only because of how high that bar has been set so far this year. The Frogs allowed a 38 yard run on WVU’s first play, negating Nunez’s beauty of a punt, but settled in after the first quarter and held WVU to a 3.6 yard per carry average on 39 attempts.

Will Grier wasn’t very comfortable for most of the game, but the Frogs had a really hard time pulling him to the ground, sacking him just twice despite having a player draped all over him at least five times throughout the game. The two sacks were huge though - a corner blitz by Ranthony Texada and a monster of a takedown by Ben Banogu with time winding down before the half, ending a scoring opportunity.

The TCU D-Line was okay Saturday, maybe even good, but will need to be a little better with the run-heavy Wildcats next up.

UP: TRAVIN HOWARD

Remember this guy? He has had his two best games of the year now that the Frogs have entered conference play, piling up double-digit tackles against Oklahoma State and WVU. It’s no accident that his production is on the uptick now that the Big 12 teams are on the docket, as these powerful offenses are able to move the ball at an accelerated rate, and the linebacker position becomes even more crucial to the defensive success of the 4-2-5.

With Montrel Wilson MIA and Sammy Douglas and Arico Evans banged up, it was the familiar duo of Ty Summers and Howard in the middle, and they looked like their old selves. Howard was in on 12 tackles, including seven solo, and was a menace - especially late. He was all over the field, using his combination of strength, speed, and toughness to be a problem against both the run and the pass. And with his running buddy Summers lined up next to him, two of the smartest football players in the conference were able to diagnose plays, fill gaps, and wreak havoc. Summers still struggles to cover route-runners, and the Eers exploited that with their crossing routes and pick plays, but overall, it was a good effort by the TCU linebackers, especially Travin Howard.

DOWN: OFFENSIVE LINE

I had no idea how much we would miss Patrick Morris.

While his snaps were kind of all over the place the first four games, his blocking was impeccable, and his presence allowed Austin Schlottman to slide over, making him one of the most athletic guards in the country. Now that Schlottman is back in, the TCU offensive line looks a lot different - they aren’t able to pull nearly as much or as well, and the run game was stagnant. I’m not sure how much of that had to do with the line’s ability to block and how much had to do with the play-calling, but obviously those two things go hand in hand. Cordel Iwuagwu slid into the left guard slot and was just fine, but the run game overall produced just 176 yards on 36 carries against one of the worst Power Five rush defenses in the country, and had just a 4.7 per carry average, well below their season stats to date. Mind you, the Eers got several players back on defense leading into the game, and that certainly helped, but TCU will need a better effort in the trenches against a Kansas State team that is used to defending the run in practice.

But hey, no holding penalties, no false starts, and a win. That’s good enough for me.