I don’t have a lot of negatives after Saturday’s win in Stillwater, a game in which the Frogs started fast, dominated the trenches, and held on for a huge 13 point win in a place they hadn’t left victorious since the early 90’s. Furthermore, they established themselves as a legitimate contender in the Big 12 and a force to be reckoned with this season, no matter where they play.
Let’s take a look at some of Saturday’s stars.
UP: BEN BANOGU
Ben Banogu joined TCU a year ago, but had to sit his first season on campus due to transfer rules. All he has done since then is live in opposing backfield. Banogu has 19 tackles, six for a loss, and three sacks on the season, including a massive momentum swinging strip sack Saturday afternoon that became a touchdown for TCU. Not only has he shown his speed is an absolute weapon for GP, but he has a crazy motor and has made himself into a leader on defense, even being named a captain. Ben is the real deal, and it seems like we find him in this spot nearly every week. If he keeps playing like this, not only will he be lauded here on Frogs O War, he’ll be a pro.
We can’t possibly mention Big Ben without giving a shoutout to the rest of the defensive line - Ty Summers was very effective in taking the bulk of the reps until Mat Boesen returned from suspension, and he burst onto the field and made an immediate impact. LJ Collier and Chris Bradley both had interceptions - they of the combined 554 pounds - and Corey Bethley had a fumble recovery. They, along with Ross Blacklock, combined for 13 tackles, three sacks, and two recorded QB hurries - though it wasn’t often than Rudolph was able to sit back comfortably and deliver the ball. Like they have been all season long, the defensive line was dominant Saturday. And that was a big difference maker.
UP: DARIUS ANDERSON
The loss of Kyle Hicks seemed utterly concerning, but GP was smart to hold back his senior running back this week and give him some extra time to heal with the bye. And he could afford to do that, because apparently he has another Doak Walker candidate in the backfield.
Anderson was so good Saturday; he continues to flash a toughness and skillset that we haven’t seen in purple in quite some time - he’s not LaDainian Tomlinson by any stretch, but he has that combination of inside and outside running ability with that shocking breakaway speed that makes him so hard to game plan against. Give him as good an offensive line as we have seen in Fort Worth to run behind, and it’s bye bye, Jet.
But what made Saturday’s 200 yard performance especially encouraging was the addition of Darius as a receiver - he had four catches through the air for 40+ yards, and filled the gap in the passing game that would normally belong to Hicks. He did a good job in pass pro and in finding the soft spots and giving Hill a release. You can’t ask for much more than that out of a sophomore running back.
UP KAVONTAE TURPIN:
When you need him most, Turp always seems to show up.
That moment Saturday was on his final touch, as KT took a kickoff 42 yards to cross into Oklahoma State territory with just minutes remaining. It was a huge juncture in the game; the Pokes had just driven the field and scored easily - and quickly - to get back within a single score. The Frogs were hanging onto a precarious lead, and hadn’t done anything on offense the two previous drives. Suddenly, there were just a first down away from salting away the game, and it was all because Mike Gundy kicked to Turpin. Play with fire, and you’ll get burned.
Turp added 16 yards on the ground, 21 through the air, and another 12 in the return game. He didn’t have the biggest statistical day of his career, but he was a problem for the Cowboys all day long, and had a huge play when TCU needed it most. That’s all you can ask of a player.
And he’s still rocking the watch. I love you, Turp.
UP: TRAVIN HOWARD
The Frogs’ leading tackler a year ago had been quiet up to this point, but picked a good time to have a breakout game. Howard wasn’t asked to do much through the first three games - the front four of the Frogs has been so good, it’s rare Howard had to make a tackle. Well, the Pokes came out with an aggressive game plan centered on running the ball with Justice Hill, who did a solid job - but he kept running into the wall that is Travin Howard.
Travin had a season high eight tackles on the day, working with his front six counterparts to hold the Cowboys to a 3.3 yards per carry average and requiring Hill to tote the rock 25 times to cross the 100 yard threshold. He dropped back into coverage a time or two, including defending a crucial third down pass attempt to Hill, and was super active in both the run and pass games. We had forgotten how good Howard was; Saturday, he reminded us.
UP: KENNY HILL
I have been cautiously optimistic about Kenny this season, and every time I want to go full believer on him, he makes an “old Kenny” play. There was the time he threw into triple coverage against Jackson State. And the jump ball to Turpin against Arkansas. Can’t forget missing a wide open receiver verse SMU - a play that earned a chorus of boos. And Saturday, there was a bad INT at a critical moment against Oklahoma State.
But, there’s a difference in 2017, and it has to do with Kenny and his play, but more so, it has to do with how the people that matter most: his coaches and his teammates.
After the pick against JSU, Cumbie had Hill throw the same pass to the other side of the field: completion.
Against Arky? The defense held in the red zone and the Razorbacks missed a field goal.
The Frogs scored a touchdown on that drive against SMU after Hill missed his target.
And Saturday, the defense forced a three and out after the pick.
Kenny Hill has never had a problem believing in himself, and now, so do his coaches and his teammates. Hill has become a leader on this TCU team, something that wasn’t always the case. He’s not worried about getting his, but willing to trust the people around him to put him, and his team (and it is HIS team now) in the best position to win. And the Frogs are winning because of it.
TCU leads the country in third down conversion percentage, and they showed why against the Pokes. The Frogs were actually below their conversion rate Saturday, converting on **just** 11/18 opportunities. But that includes the victory formation as well as the give up near their own goal line - two times where TCU wasn’t really trying to extend a drive all that much or at all. Hill was 8/11 passing on third downs, an unbelievable rate for a QB, and is completing 72.6% of his passes on the season with nine touchdowns and three INTs. He’s averaging less than 250 yards through the air per game, and just 15 yards on the ground, both lower than a season ago. But TCU is 4-0, has a top ten win under their belts, and is back on the map as a contender - and that has a lot to do with Kenny Hill. What he did so well Saturday is what he’s done so well all season - take what the defense gives him, audible when the time is right, and make a handful of big time plays when the moment arises. But he has a better sense of what he needs that moment to be than ever before - demonstrated by one particular play.
Early in the first quarter, Kenny was in the grasp of a defensive lineman and looked primed to take a huge loss with a sack - 15 yards or so. He nearly broke free, but the rusher was hanging on to his foot for dear life. Instead of trying to be a hero, Hill simply stood tall and chucked the ball far into the sidelines, living to play another day. The Frogs would punt on that drive, but OSU fumbled and the Frogs got the ball right back. 2016 Kenny probably would have tried to run or complete a pass, version 2.0 made the smart play. And his team scored because of it.
I am glad Kenny Hill is our quarterback. And you should be, too.
UP: JEFF GLADNEY
Gladney was a surprise starter Saturday, and it wasn’t until after the game that we learned why - Julius Lewis is done for the year after suffering an injury in practice leading up to the game. But Gladney, quite possibly the fastest player on the team, more than held his own - running step for step with the Okie State receivers on the deep routes, matching their physicality, and playing bigger than his 6’0” frame when matched up with the 6’4” Marcel Ateman. While James Washington and Marcel Ateman both had 100 yard days, the TCU secondary won more battles than they loss, and the Pokes connected on just one dagger play. That’s a victory. Even on the rare occasions Rudolph had time to throw, he rarely had somewhere to go with the ball. And that led to some coverage sacks, including Banogu’s strip sack that led to a TCU recovered fumble.
Gladney won’t have to see a receiving corp like the Cowboys’ for the rest of the season, but he will keep being tested. He, and Tony James, will have to continue to play well opposite Texada for the Frogs to have a chance. It was a good start Saturday.