TCU started slowly against SMU Saturday, falling behind early on the back of a pair of trick plays and some sloppy execution by the home team. But a Hail Mary to close the first half and a dominant drive to begin the second changed the momentum of the game and gave TCU a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
In this week’s Sideline Pass, we examine the opening drive of the third quarter, a ten play, 73 yard masterpiece that did in the Mustangs.
After Jalen Reagor hauled in a long TD to close the half, TCU got the ball right back to start the third quarter. The game was over before the kickoff though, because SMU players were doing the Baylor dancing sideline thing:
Though Kyle Hicks was lost for the remainder of the game, the Frogs opened with a running play from their own 27 yard line. TCU goes three wide with a single back, and though the offensive line opens up a hole initially, the Ponies close it fast.
That leaves Kenny Hill with a second and nine, which would traditionally be a passing down and distance. But the Frogs have run the ball so well against the Ponies that they can afford to run or pass, and Cumbie drops a tight end into the backfield in an offset I to make the SMU think. It works.
The slot corner peeks in on the play-action, giving Hill a perfect window between the slot receiver (running a deep post) and the outside receiver, Jaelan Austin, who runs a nice post route himself to pick up the first down. The pass was slightly behind Austin, but he corrals it and picks up the extra yardage to move the sticks.
Another minimal gain off tackle sets the Frogs up in another second and long situation. On second and 8, TCU goes with a 5-wide, empty set. The Ponies show a corner blitz, forcing Hill to make a check, and it appears, to change the play. The offensive line gives Kenny a good, clean, pocket, and all day to find a receiver - this time it’s Shaun Nixon in the slot, who gives the SMU defender the old okie-doke to juke him out of his shoes, get inside position, and pick up another TCU first down.
I mean, just look at Shaun’s footwork here:
TCU would get back to back big plays, as Hill once again had a clean pocket. He does a great job of stepping up into the throwing lane, and catches the slot corner peeking once again on the play action, giving Desmon White an opportunity to find a soft spot in the coverage for a huge gain.
Hill drops a near-perfect pass right into Des’ arms, enabling him to pick up nearly another ten yards. This is also where White’s size, or lack of, really pays dividends - he just slinks his way through traffic with a little wiggle release, and there’s nothing but green around him by the time Hill steps up into the pocket. Another clean route by the receiver, another missed coverage by the defense, another big chunk to put TCU inside the red zone.
The drive was nearly stifled on the next play, as Kenny launched one to the goal line for John Diarse, who had a one on one on the outside. It’s another clean pocket, and Hill is able to step up into the lane with ease. But his release point appears slightly off, and the ball comes out with too low a trajectory for the route. In fact, it looks like it was thrown more towards the defender than the target, and much like the week before at Arkansas, had Diarse not turned defensive in that moment, it’s an easy pick.
I can’t see his route from the clip we have, so I can’t tell if he had a step or needed to post up in the end zone. But it appears that Hill needed to lead him a bit and put some air on the ball to give him a chance at the score. The deep pass hasn’t been a strength this season, but in order for the run game to continue to be effective, the Frog offense will need to start stretching the field - at least enough to prove that they can.
In his pocket, Kenny Hill has a luxury few can share - a plethora of playmakers at every position. One such man is junior KaVontae Turpin, who has made a living off of turning nothing into something - sometimes by design, others by sheer athletic ability. The next play was one of my favorite designs of the day - simply, perfect, beautifully executed. Turp goes in motion, starting in the slot before sneaking in behind Emanuel Porter. He flares back out on the snap, gets a good block from Porter on the catch, makes a nifty spin move, gets ANOTHER block from Porter, and then does his Turp thing to bring the ball back inside the five yard line. It’s the perfect Turpin play - just get him the ball with some green around him and let him go to work. Some nice downfield blocking helps, too.
The Frogs have fallen in love with the Wild Frog down near the goal line - and for good reason. Sophomore Sewo Olonilua never stops churning those tree trunk legs, and it takes a lot of guys to bring him down. It’s also setting up some potential fun future plays - opponents have seen that look multiple times this season, and each time it’s been run, it’s been Sewo up the gut.
On first and goal, Sewo takes the direct snap, gets met at the line of scrimmage, and bullies his way forward for a couple yards. He had a decent hole, and probably could have score should he have chosen to bounce it outside.
Predictably, TCU ran the same formation again, and this time, Olonilua is looking for the outside lane. Well, so is SMU, and the result is a couple yard loss. That leads us to third and goal, from the four yard line, in a 28-22 game. This is a huge moment.
Cumbie goes to a more tradition formation, three wide with a tight end in the backfield in an offset I with Darius Anderson. They motion Reagor from the wide side of the field, and run Cole Hunt out with a little flare to the right. Anderson takes teh hand off, finds a crease, makes a man miss (why you would arm tackle Darius I have no idea), and from there, it’s smooth sailing to pay dirt.
Decent blocking by the line, but more so, just a really nice play by a talented back.
The Frogs would take a 35-22 lead and the Ponies would never threaten again on the day. This long third quarter drive was the final nail in the coffin of yet another SMU Iron Skillet loss.