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Stats O’War: Tale of the Texas Game

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TCU shocked Texas and many fans as they pulled off the upset Saturday. How did they get there? Let’s see what the numbers say.

NCAA Football: Texas at Texas Christian Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Well, that was fun.

TCU passed for 273 yards, their third-highest total of the season, intercepted Sam Ehlinger 4 times, and scored 24 second half points on their way to upsetting the #15 Texas Longhorns. It was a game where TCU felt like TCU, something they haven’t done all season - disruptive and annoying defense, explosive and multiple offense. Let’s look through some numbers to see how TCU put themselves in a position to right the ship on their season.

MAX DUGGAN IS 100% THAT DUDE

The freshman hero went 19-27 on passing attempts (70% completion rate), averaged 10.1 yards a carry, and finally was allowed to be so aggressive that he threw his first interception of the season. Duggan’s QBR was 88.1, his second highest of the season (behind the Kansas game), and he was responsible for three touchdowns - two through the air (a 24 yarder to Pro Wells and a 44 yard bomb to Reagor) and one on the ground (an eleven yard run that served as the final dagger, sealing TCU’s win and giving Duggan his iconic TCU moment.

In fact, Duggan gave Texas a QB performance the likes of which the Longhorns hadn’t seen almost all season:

QBR takes a QB’s total contribution - both running and passing - into account, and scores it on a scale where 50 is average (read more here).

Duggan’s performance against Texas was 76.2% better than the average QB this season, an incredible feat for the freshman.

How did the TCU offense do it? Well, for starters, in the second half, they did something they hadn’t done all season: commit to the early pass, and open up the playbook.

Heading into the Texas game, TCU’s early downs rush rate was in the high sixties (~68% of the time). At the half, TCU adjusted, and they really started to target Texas’s weak secondary. It paid off. *Note: the first half rate is inflated by the end-of-half hurry-up drive where TCU was passing; without it, the first half rate was 82.6%!

For the first time all season, TCU let Duggan cook, and they were rewarded with a stellar offensive performance.

DEFENSE

Sam Ehlinger had not thrown more than three interceptions in a game in his career. Yesterday, the TCU defense, who had five interceptions total on the season (two of which came against an FCS opponent), stole Sam’s lunch money to the tune of 4 interceptions. Ehlinger, who ranked in the top ten in QBR nationally before Saturday’s game, put up a 44.5 QBR against TCU’s defense, the lowest non-Kansas rating TCU has allowed all season.

The Frogs held Texas to 4.06 yards per rush (4.77 for Ehlinger - 43 yards on 9 carries), and only 6.69 yards per attempt passing. Ehlinger completed 45.8% of his passes, and TCU held the explosiveness down: even accounting for a 63 yard Duvernay reception, Texas only averaged 14.59 yards per completion.

The defensive line struggled again, but at least showed a pulse when it counted - Mathis, Blackshear, Blacklock, and Bethley comined for 11 of TCU’s tackles, and hurried Ehlinger only 4 times. Garret Wallow did Garret Wallow things, leading the team with 9 total tackles and 2 QB hurries, not to mention his first interception of the seasons.

Certainly there are more improvements to be made on defense, but this was as positive a showing as anyone could’ve hoped for, and the TCU defense proved profoundly annoying to Texas’s offense, which set the Frogs up for a win.

VARIOUS AND SUNDRY

I want to spend a minute talking about scoring drives and field position. TCU averaged a starting field position of their own 24.7 yard line, whereas Texas started at their 25.7. Field position has been a disadvantage for Texas all season, and the difference between the teams was virtually negligible.

Both teams had 5 scoring opportunities, although Texas averaged 5.4 points per scoring opportunity, and TCU averaged 7.4. You read that right - the TCU Horned Frogs, in 2019, averaged over a touchdown on scoring opportunities. (Recall, scoring opportunities are drives where a team has a first down inside the opponent 40).

The real tale of the game, though, was the halftime transition - as I said above, TCU actually opened up their play book, and it showed. In the second half, TCU averaged 12 points per scoring opportunity and averaged a starting field position of the 31 yard line. Texas averaged 5 points per scoring opportunity, and started at their own 25.86 yard line. Texas had two more drives than TCU in the second half, and it didn’t matter.

TCU scored on four of their six second half drives. It was downright beautiful.

Follow me on twitter @statsowar, as I’ll be sharing more stats throughout the week as we all celebrate TCU reminding Texas of the new Big 12 hierarchy.