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“Freshmen are freshmen”, but TCU’s were pretty good in Saturday’s season-opening win

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Gary Patterson’s team hasn’t arrived... yet... but there is a ton of reason for excitement.

TCU Football vs Southern (September 1, 2018)
TCU Football vs Southern (September 1, 2018)
Melissa Triebwasser

Gary Patterson had a lot of questions going into Saturday’s home opener against Southern, and while they didn’t all get answered, we certainly know more about the young players filling the Horned Frogs’ two-deep than we did before kick-off.

80 different players stepped foot on the green grass of Amon G Carter Stadium Saturday morning, as Gary Patterson subbed liberally on both sides of the ball with the outcome of the game never in doubt. Several true freshmen got their first collegiate action, while other young players began to grow into new, larger roles. We saw the installation of the new starting QB - Shawn Robinson - who delivered a hoe-hum five touchdown day, the arrival of Garret Wallow, who lived up to his Jason Phillips player comp, and the reminder that KaVontae Turpin is still good.

But while veterans delivered up and down the field, Saturday’s win was as much about the unexpected as the expected. Gary Patterson wasn’t exactly... pleased... with the performance, but he was impressed by his young players (well, at least when he could find them). “You’ve got (Izaih) Filikitonga, five months ago, he was playing for Euless Trinity. Ochaun Mathis was just five months ago playing for his high school. Tre Moehrig was just five months ago playing for his high school. I mean, [the freshmen] didn’t show up on the kickoff team, [were] down on the offensive end when we were trying to make adjustments - freshmen are freshmen. Even though I told them before the game what they were going to do. ‘Here’s what you’re going to do. Here’s what happens on the sideline, here’s what freshmen do.’ ... and... we’re looking for all of them. So, it will be a great learning experience tomorrow.”

And while there were certainly growing pains amongst the first and second year players, their teammates were impressed by what they saw and the promise that brings. Sophomore receiver Jalen Reagor, who himself is just a sophomore, is still one of the more experienced players among the wide receiver unit. After a four catch, 45 yard, and one touchdown day, he seemed more excited for his teammates than himself. “I think the receivers stepped up big - especially Derius Davis. Pretty speedy, similar to Turp. He did his job, had two touchdowns. I think we are going to be good - we have speed all around the field.” As they get more experience, Reagor thinks they will improve even more. “Basically just route running, getting the feel of playing in an actual game. In practice, they’ve been going up against our DBs, but now they’ll see different looks, the blocks will be way faster.” He also sees room fro growth in his play, and his chemistry with his QB. “I feel like there’s a lot of room for improvement. I feel like me and Shawn could have connected on a few more balls than we did, but it’s repetition. We will be alright.”

In all, six TCU players made their first career start, five receivers had their first catch, and we finally got to see Grayson Muehlstein attempt, and complete, a pass. Several defensive players made their debut as well, including Garret Wallow (four tackles and a sack), Ochaun Mathis (three tackles), Ben Wilson (two tackles and a fumble recovery), George Ellis, and Lakendrick Van Zandt.

Ten different players caught passes, 12 were targeted, 11 players carried the ball, and four quarterbacks played. There’s a lot of depth on that side of the ball, and a lot of speed. So, how good can this offense be? Reagor would have you believe ELITE good. “Our ceiling is very high. Once we gel, if we gel like we are supposed to, I think we can be one of the best offenses in college football.”

But, we are a long way from that after week one, at least according to the coach. “None of the twos are ready. Our twos and threes allowed them to run about 20 plays. We are going to have to be a a lot more physical.”

They’ll have the chance to show that they can be Friday night.

Game Notes (courtesy of Go Frogs):

  • TCU won its home opener for a 17th consecutive season, tied for the eighth-longest active streak in the nation.
  • TCU won its season opener for the fifth straight year. The Horned Frogs have scored at least 48 points in four of those contests.
  • TCU ran for 235 yards and is now 88-5 when totaling at least 200 yards on the ground under head coach Gary Patterson.
  • The Horned Frogs did not commit a turnover and were plus-3 in turnover margin. Over the last 14 seasons, TCU is 106-14 when ahead (71-7) or even (35-7) in turnover margin.
  • Dating back to last season, TCU has a seven-game home winning streak.
  • The Horned Frogs improved to 83-19 at Amon G. Carter Stadium in 18 seasons under Patterson.
  • Over the last four seasons, TCU’s 41-13 overall record ranks second in the Big 12.
  • The Horned Frogs’ 55 points were their most since last year’s 56-36 win over SMU.
  • TCU had 80 players see action today.
  • TCU’s 21 receptions were spread among 10 receivers.
  • TCU played four quarterbacks in the contest. Only three quarterbacks saw action for the Horned Frogs last season.
  • TCU has won 12 straight games versus FCS opponents.
  • TCU scored for the 321st consecutive game. It’s the nation’s second-longest current streak and fourth all-time in NCAA history. The Horned Frogs haven’t been blanked since Nov. 16, 1991, at Texas (32-0).
  • TCU’s team captains were Cordel Iwuagwu, Kellton Hollins, Niko Small and Ty Summers. All four were captains for the first time.
  • TCU wore a Nike frog skin jersey with white pants and a purple chrome helmet.
  • Six Horned Frogs made their first career starts: wide receiver Taye Barber, defensive tackle Corey Bethley, defensive tackle Terrell Cooper, center Kellton Hollins, offensive tackle Austin Myers and linebacker Garret Wallow.
  • Ty Summers made his 26th career start, most among current Horned Frogs, but just his second start at defensive end.
  • Shawn Robinson became the first TCU quarterback to win his first two starts since Marcus Jackson in 2008 with wins over San Diego State and Colorado State.
  • Robinson became the first Horned Frog since Jeff Ballard in 2006 versus San Diego State (four passing, one rushing) to account for five touchdowns in the first half. He had three scoring passes and two touchdown runs. He completed 17-of-24 passes for 182 yards in playing just the opening two quarters.
  • Robinson had first-half touchdown runs of 36 and 9 yards for the first rushing scores of his TCU career.
  • Michael Collins made his TCU debut and had a 57-yard touchdown pass to TreVontae Hights. He completed 3-of-5 passes for 71 yards.
  • Barber, Al’Dontre Davis, Derius Davis, Ni’Jeel Meeking and Stephens Jr. had their first career receptions.
  • Derius Davis’ 73-yard punt return for a touchdown was the first by a TCU true freshman in his collegiate debut since Deante Gray in the 2012 season opener versus Grambling State. The last true freshman with a punt return for a touchdown was KaVontae Turpin against Kansas in 2015.
  • Derius Davis’ first collegiate touchdown was a 12-yard first-quarter reception.
  • Emari Demercado, in his TCU debut, had a team-high 57 yards rushing on eight carries.
  • Darius Anderson’s 4-yard run on his first carry of the game put him over 1,000 career yards. He totaled eight carries for 36 yards and is now at 1,033.
  • Jalen Reagor’s 12-yard scoring reception was the ninth of his career. He led all true freshmen nationally last season with eight touchdown catches.
  • Barber’s first collegiate touchdown was a 6-yard second-quarter grab.
  • Hights’ 57-yard touchdown catch gave him two scoring receptions on his three career catches.
  • Cole Bunce’s 26- and 30-yard field goals made him 8-of-9 in his career.
  • Grayson Muehlstein recorded his first three career passing attempts and first career completion, 11 yards to John Stephens Jr.
  • Karson Ringdahl made his first career appearance late in the fourth quarter.
  • Innis Gaines had a first-quarter interception to give him picks in consecutive games. He had an interception on Stanford’s final possession to preserve the 39-37 win in the 2017 Valero Alamo Bowl.
  • Summers’ four tackles gave him 275 in his career, moving him past Robert Henson (272, 2005-08) into fourth place for the most stops in the 18-season tenure of head coach Gary Patterson. Next on the list is Martin Patterson with 289 (2001-04).
  • Summers had a third-quarter sack to give him 7 ½ in his career.
  • True freshman Ben Wilson made his first career fumble recovery on a muffed punt in the fourth quarter.