TCU made Frog fans sweat on Saturday, en route to a 56-36 win over SMU. There’s a lot to process from this one, so let’s get started. In no particular order, here are some things I noticed/took away from the win over SMU.
- Kenny Hill looked really good. He was 24-30 (80% completion percentage), for 365 yards and four touchdowns. He protected the ball well, making good, accurate throws all day long. There was really only one moment that left fans scratching their heads, and that was when he missed/didn’t a wide open receiver about 20 yards downfield. If he hits on that throw, it’s a touchdown for sure. Fortunately, the Frogs scored a few plays later. Ultimately, we got good Kenny Hill today, and we’ll need him again next week in Stillwater.
- The defense got pushed around early, but responded well. I know I’m not the only TCU fan who questioned how good the defense actually was in the first half. SMU logged 273 yards of offense in the first half, and scored touchdowns on their first two drives to knock TCU on their heels early. Fortunately, the Frogs pulled it together in the second half, and outside of two broken defensive plays (one a long run, the other a long pass, both touchdowns) they looked much more composed.
- I wonder how this game would have turned out, if Ben Hicks had been more accurate. While TCU’s defense looked much better in the second half, Ben Hicks’ play declined pretty dramatically. He was just 7-20, for 95 yards and a touchdown, with two interceptions after halftime. Some of this had to do with increased pressure from the TCU front 6, some had to do with him just being terribly inaccurate.
- Trick plays tore TCU up. A flea flicker went for a 58 yard touchdown to open up the scoring, and a double pass led to a huge gain and more points for SMU. While it’s hard to prepare for plays like that, it’s still a bit disheartening to see.
- I’m more concerned with some blown coverages, though. Most apparent was the final touchdown for SMU. James Proche was matched up against Travin Howard, and Howard stuck with him through the route. Howard was supposed to have safety help from Niko Small over the top, but Small was elsewhere, and got to Proche late. Of course, that was just the completed pass. There were multiple times where SMU receivers got behind TCU’s secondary, and Hicks just missed his mark. TCU absolutely can’t afford blown coverages next Saturday against Oklahoma State, or Mason Rudolph is going to eat them alive.
- The Darius Anderson/Kyle Hicks/Sewo Olonilua trio is amazing. The three-headed monster rushed 34 times for 242 yards and two touchdowns (both by Anderson). All three made great moves in space, weren’t afraid of contact, and just all around were great. Unfortunately, it looks like Hicks got banged up again, as he didn’t play in the second half. Patterson mentioned after the game that he is likely going to miss next week’s game against Oklahoma State.
Patterson says RB Kyle Hicks probably out for Oklahoma State. Didn't play second half today. 'Got dinged again.'— Carlos A. Mendez (@calexmendez) September 16, 2017
7. The freshmen from Waxahachie were phenomenal. Kenedy Snell and Jalen Reagor have come in and been immediate impact players for this team. Snell had eight touches on the day (7 carries, 1 reception) and went for 111 yards and two touchdowns, capped by his phenomenal 71-yard touchdown catch. He dusted the entire SMU defense to go untouched.
Waxahachie, stand up. Kenedy Snell goes untouched and gives TCU the lead. pic.twitter.com/W2l8wzYKz2— TexasFootball.com (@dctf) September 16, 2017
Not to be left out, Jalen Reagor had two memorable plays as well. First, he absolutely truck-sticked an official in the midst of a long gain, and he caught a hail mary at the end of the first half, to give the Frogs a 28-22 lead at the break.
8. Mat Boesen will have to sit in the first half due to a targeting call. As he spun off a block from the left tackle early in the third quarter, Boesen’s helmet made contact with Ben Hicks’ head. It’s unfortunate, but he’ll have to sit out the first half against Oklahoma State. Michael Epley got a significant number of snaps once Boesen was out, and we also saw Ty Summers. Most of the workload will probably be placed on the capable shoulders of Ben Banogu and L.J. Collier, both of whom had good days.
9. Ranthony Texada was a beast today. He found himself lined up against Courtland Sutton for the majority of the day, and he absolutely shut the elite receiver down. Sutton finished the day with just one catch for zero yards, and he got hit with an offensive pass interference late in the game, when he threw Texada to the ground downfield.
10. The defense seems to struggle with quick passes. When SMU was at their most efficient in the first half, Ben Hicks was getting the ball out quickly to guys like Trey Quinn in space. TCU responded by pressing a bit on the line, and while it helped, SMU still moved the ball between the 20s with some ease. The Mustangs finished with 459 yards of offense on the day, which is impressive when you consider that Hicks’ completion percentage for the day was below 50% (17-37).
11. Turpin was very involved. He led the team with seven receptions for 88 yards and a touchdown. His 88 yards was more than any other receiver had in the first two games combined. There’s no doubt that he’s an X-factor when he’s on the field and has the ball in his hand. On the day, Turpin finished with 111 total yards.
12. Sewo as a kick returner adds an interesting dimension. Olonilua saw a lot of time returning kicks today, and he took three back for a total of 50 yards, including a very nice 25 yard return out to the TCU 40 late in the game. He swapped time with Shaun Nixon, who managed one return, while Turpin was opposite them each time.
13. Two picks helped the defensive cause. While the defensive line ratcheted up the pressure in the second half, the secondary got in on the action with a couple of picks. Travin Howard’s pick six was the final dagger, scoring wise, while Texada’s interception on SMU’s second to last possession of the game came right after the Frogs opted to punt from the SMU 41 (they took a delay of game penalty on 4th and 1 from the 36 to move back to the 41). The Frogs could have had a third interception, but a tipped pass fell harmlessly to the ground, just one play prior to the long Proche touchdown.
14. Hill completed passes to 12 different guys. Including one to a tight end for a first down! Distribution has been the name of the game for TCU’s passing offense through the first three games. This is good in a way, as it gets a lot of guys game reps, and keeps the defense honest, but it also could hurt TCU down the stretch. The Frogs have yet to find ‘the guy’ they can go to in big situations when they need a first down. With Ty Slanina out with an injury (hopefully he’s back for OSU) and Taj Williams nowhere to be found, someone (hopefully Turpin) needs to step up and be that go-to guy.
15. Penalties need to be cleaned up. The Frogs were hit with 11 penalties for 94 yards. That’ll need to be cleaned up for next Saturday. Penalties on the road in Stillwater can kill you just as quickly as OSU’s passing game.
16. Patterson spent a lot of time talking to the defensive line in the first half. It looked like he was explaining a few things to the younger guys along the line, specifically Corey Bethley and Ross Blacklock. Both would make big plays later in the game, sniffing out screens, but they also struggled to get push at times against a smaller SMU offensive line.
17. TCU gave up over 4 yards/carry to SMU. This shows what a strong passing offense can open up in the run game. TCU’s front 6 absolutely stuffed the run against Arkansas, but against SMU the linebackers had to be far more concerned with SMU’s passing game. This opened up some running lanes that SMU took advantage of. Most notably on a 34-yard touchdown run.
18. The offensive line looked great again. They gave Hill time in the pocket, and opened up big running lanes for whoever was in the backfield. It cannot be expressed how important that is to offensive success. Just look at the Cincinnati Bengals if you don’t think O-lines are important.