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MMQB: Running Mild?

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Has the offense been unbalanced in 2018? You might be surprised to find out.

TCU Football vs Iowa State | Spetember 29, 2018 | Amon G. Carter Stadium
TCU Football vs Iowa State | Spetember 29, 2018 | Amon G. Carter Stadium
Melissa Triebwasser

It’s been a question for the last several weeks: where has Darius Anderson been?

The Horned Frogs’ superstar running back has seemingly been MIA over the first five games of the season, lacking the workhorse type production expected out of the junior after last year’s breakout campaign.

Anderson is ready for more, as made clear on his twitter account:

A truly humble, team-first guy, Jet hasn’t complained about his carries, or lack thereof. But, when you examine the numbers, there might be another reason why he hasn’t made hay - he’s actually leading the team in yardage through five games. He’s also only trailing Sewo Olonilua by five carries on the year, though he is gaining ground at an impressive 6.0 yards per carry clip.

Anderson has only reached double-digit carries twice through five games this season, though, and even if you throw out Southern, it’s odd that he hasn’t been the bell-cow in close games at SMU (14-12 at the half) and Texas (13-10) at the half - where he combined for just 17 carries. A season ago, Anderson had double digit carries in seven of the nine games he played in (minus OU, which he left early do to injury), averaging 12 per contest and peaking with 26 against Oklahoma State and 18 in the matchup against Texas. He has rushed 12 times once and 16 once, as well.

The win over Iowa State provided, perhaps, the best glimpse into how Sonny Cumbie, Curtis Luper, and the TCU offense want to use Anderson - Olonilua started the game and was the back for the first drive, with Jet not getting his first touch until ten minutes had elapsed in the game. Both backs finished with seven touches, while Shawn Robinson ran the ball six times and attempted 19 passes. In the second half, the two backs split carries on the opening drive, with Sewo taking the first four, Anderson the next four, and the two players alternating snaps before the ill-advised hurdle attempted ended the drive on a turnover. On the final drive, the one that led to a game-winning field goal, Jet was the lead back until Shawn Robinson left the game due to injury, causing the TCU offense to lean on the Wild Frog and Sewo for the final few snaps. It felt like the game plan was to wear down the Iowa State front line early, and attack them with the speed of Darius late. And, it mostly worked, as TCU dominated the line of scrimmage on their final drive.

We all know that Anderson came into the year not quite 100%; after the knee injury suffered late in 2017, he was dinged up in camp a bit and practiced very little prior to the season opener. It makes sense to ease him back into competition, as he is far too valuable to lose for any length of time this fall. But, it’s fair to question/wonder what the game plan is going forward, and why TCU hasn’t leaned more of their running game with their young QB struggling with turnovers and the receivers suffering a case of the dropsies once again. The Frogs have 197 rushing attempts on the season and have dropped back to pass 170 times. So it’s not like the Frog Raid of old, by any stretch, and yet, it doesn’t feel like the ground and pound of the early MWC days, either.

Ultimately, the Frogs are showing balance both in their offense and with their running backs. As the season progresses, I would expect to see that remain true, though don’t be surprised if Anderson gets unleashed over the next two games, as they could make or break TCU’s season.

And if he does...