For about three quarters, it looked like a Big Ten football game had broken out in Fort Worth.
Remember the days when TCU and Texas Tech were engaging in 55-52 shootouts that epitomized the Big 12 Conference? That was hardly the case on Thursday night as the Horned Frogs dropped a wild, sloppy, and just quite frankly bizarre 17-14 affair with Kliff Kingsbury and the Red Raiders at Amon G. Carter Stadium.
Weird, wild and above all else, ugly.
TCU still couldn’t put its turnover problem to rest — the Frogs now inching closer and closer to the cellar of the FBS in turnover margin. The offense still couldn’t break 20 points, wasting what would otherwise be a phenomenal 17 point defensive outing against one of the most consistently prolific offenses college football has to offer. And when the dust settled, TCU’s eight game win streak had reached its conclusion — the Frogs exiting their home turf on a somber note for the first time since December 2016.
The season is halfway complete. And the preseason No. 16 team in the country? They’re 3-3, 1-2 in Big 12 play, and quite frankly, far from being out of the woods. Oh, and they’ll be facing the No. 11 team in the country next Saturday that is averaging more points per game than the Frogs have combined for in the past three games (47).
Dare I say the obvious that many fans have likely yet to admit.
TCU, we might just have a problem.
Short and sweet, giving up 17 points to the Red Raiders shouldn’t result in a loss — not when playing in a conference that lives and dies by the name of the offense. The ball security, or lack thereof, that was displayed last night? That too is particularly alarming, considering the time TCU had to prepare for what a lot of folks thought would be a shootout with Tech. All things considered, it was a miracle that only one of TCU’s four fumbles on the night wound up in the hands of Texas Tech.
Add it all up though, and the Frogs are in a pickle that very few folks would have believed to have been on its way just under a month ago.
So where do they go now? Who’s to blame? Is it a quarterback crisis, an epidemic of untimely giveaways and missed tackles, or perhaps something even bigger.
Whatever it might be, Gary Patterson is fine taking the blame, as he did last night.
“There’s only one person to blame and that’s me. I gave up two big plays.”
It’s telling, however, when “two big plays” against a team like Texas Tech is too much to overcome. All the credit to Kingsbury for exceeding expectations by a mile already in 2018 (and likely removing itself entirely from the hot seat), but the Red Raiders are no playoff heavyweight among the likes of Ohio State. This is a team that hasn’t posted a winning season since 2015.
No matter how you cut it, facts are facts. Quarterback Shawn Robinson still has thrown at least one interception against every FBS opponent TCU has faced this season, with a pair against three of the four Power 5 teams the Frogs have taken on so far. Only against Southern has his number of touchdown passes exceeded his number of interceptions in a single contest — a trend that has amounted to eight picks on the year.
Time for a change? For those who’d like to see Penn transfer Michael Collins get some playing time, well, “it’s still up to Sonny” for now as Patterson remarked. But certainly there could come a time where Patterson’s orders stand taller on offense than the offensive coordinator — a Texas Tech product himself — who is now in his fifth season with the team.
Certainly there’s more than what immediately meets the eye for Robinson — only a sophomore, and practically a “redshirt freshman” as Patterson put it not that long ago. He’s battled through bumps and bruises. He’s dealt with an o-line that is starting to show some vulnerability six games into the season. Expectations can only be so high for a quarterback in his first season as a team’s starter.
Only thing, winning is what breeds success. That goes for any sport. And right now, that’s easier said than done for the Frogs.
Still on the itinerary? Oklahoma. Kansas. Kansas State. West Virginia. Baylor. Oklahoma State.
All of those schools, save the two from the Sunflower point, have what it takes to rapidly produce a lot of points when they find their groove. And when a team can’t produce more than 20 points in three straight games? Hate to tell you, even the Jayhawks and Wildcats know how to do what the Frogs haven’t done since Ohio State.
God bless the TCU defense, but as we saw on two plays Thursday, it’s not immortal. Bailing out the offense in every single game isn’t how it’s supposed to work in the Big 12, typically, after all.
Forget the championships — both the national title and the Big 12. Maybe even forget the Alamo Bowl with the current trajectory. Barring a win vs. the Sooners next Saturday, TCU will likely have three wins seven games into the season. Come then, they’ll be needing three more in a span of five games just to be afforded even the chance of going bowling. And if the miscues continue, even that won’t be any cupcake.
TCU, we might have a problem.