That was the best game that TCU had played all year, and there are a lot of things that went into that overall great performance (as we will discuss) but I just want to monologue really quick.
NEVER EVER SAY “BACK” FOR ANYTHING EVER IT WILL ONLY END POORLY FOR YOU AND YOU WILL BECOME A MEME LIKE SAMMY HOLD THIS L-inger in the clip above.
Now, last year I watched the TCU vs UT game in a room with a handful of UT fans and all they would say was “Let’s go HORNS!” over and over and over, not being heckling or disrespectful...just annoying. It didn’t help that I had to watch Shawn Robinson do his best NFL version of Jamarcus Russell impression and literally fumble the game away as we lost to UT 31-16 in Austin. This also happened to be the infamous game where our band was launched all the way into the stratosphere in terms of where they were seated.
Fast forward one year and this one was basically a 180 of what happened in the previous contest. Texas finished with 4 turnovers, missed a FG, had it’s band moved up to the top of the stadium, left the opposing stadium with an L, and by the end of the game it was I who was satirically yelling “LETS GO HORNS” as the UT QB found himself throwing his 3rd pick of the game.
Revenge is truly a dish best served cold.
The Deep Ball:
IT’S A BIRD. IT’S A PLANE. NO IT’S...A PASS THAT WENT 30+ YARDS DOWN THE FIELD! It was truly exciting and brought a lot of fans joy to see the Horned Frogs offense air it out against one of the worst pass defenses in the country. We saw the opponent’s weakness and we took shots at them. Taye Barber, Jalen Reagor, and Pro Wells all had large chunk plays and set us up for some clutch 3rd down conversions.
I’ll talk more about the play calling in a bit, but the thought that we could finally be working this part of the offense back into our game is something to salivate over, because the threat of a deep ball makes life harder for safeties, the harder life is for safeties the easier it is to manipulate them, and the easier it is to manipulate them the more we can get what we want on the ground and through the air. The puzzle pieces are coming together!
This Secondary/Pass Coverage:
The Horned Frogs defense finished the day with 4 interceptions, each one going to a different player (Wallow, Washington, Gaines, Moehrig). This secondary held one of the best quarterbacks in the conference to a sub .500 completion percentage (22-48) and while they bent from time to time, they never broke down. They were out there going toe to toe with the larger UT receivers, but the speed and coverage was all we needed to pick off Ehlinger time and time and time and time again. Had we not whiffed on a running back wheel route and made a tackle in the middle of the field before Duvernay broke away that would have kept Sam Ehlinger’s stats from looking as gracious as they did.
Players being back and being healthy:
Of course as I type this out the news that starting left tackle Lucas Niang is going to be out for the rest of the season due to a hip surgery (gulp) but it was clear that this is what a healthy TCU offense is supposed to look like in 2019. Even with a true freshman at quarterback the offense showed off the speed we have at every spot on the field. Taye Barber and John Stephens Jr had some clutch late game catches and it makes you think what this team could look like going forward if everyone stays healthy (knock on wood) and the offense begins to click.
Here is your weekly Ross Blacklock appreciation sentence.
The Running Defense in the second half:
Outside of three QB scrambles, the Frogs put the clamps down on the Texas running game in the second half which was huge in forcing 3rd and long situations for the Longhorns late in the game. Not much elaboration necessary here other than let’s hope we can do this against other good running teams in the big 12 (HEAVY AND NOT SUBTLE COUGHING VOICE - BAYLOR and OU).
I will do some more talking on Cumbie and the whole QB performance in the QB section, but this game for me was a bit of an eye opener - I was ready to say we needed new blood on the coaching staff, specifically the play calling department, but Cumbie called a good game today. QB runs mixed in with deep shots, and the occasional option thrown in as well kept the Texas defense on its toes in the second half.
Looking back at it, were the missing receivers really that big of a factor in our offenses staleness? Was Gary not letting Sonny run what he wanted to run? Had Sonny finally figured out what worked and what didn’t? Or was the Texas secondary so bad that it made our offense look better than it actually was? It’s probably a mix of all the above.
All of that being said, it’s safe to say that Cumbie was as excited as we were to see these guys execute the plays that he was calling and he too had a great game on Saturday.
This week Reagor fumbled the ball on a return in the first half that put Texas in our red zone - which they thankfully ended up missing the FG they attempted on that drive. We have lost a fumble in 4 out of our 7 games this season, and I really don’t want that number to get any higher. As we have seen against Iowa State and SMU, a fumble deep in our own territory is basically the kiss of death for any momentum for us. We’ve got a tough road schedule coming up, so we absolutely cannot afford to gift the other team those opportunities. Coaching staff, please get this ironed out!
The Frogs made a lot of plays today, but there were several examples of a player or players missing an open field tackle or letting a Texas player break away from them for large chunks of yards. I’m going to let you all know right now that if we can’t tackle against Oklahoma, that the game’s going to be over by the end of the 1st quarter.
That long play we gave up to Duvernay on 3rd down when he was wrapped up before the line to gain, which he from the opposing 30 all the way to our own 10, was something that we could have totally turned into a 4th and 5 instead of a red zone stand.
The Rational Quarterback Analysis Manifesto
Well this one may be my toughest QB portion to write yet because I truly don’t know what to point to in terms of what was the main catalyst for success here. Was it that Sonny called one of his better games? Did having all of the healthy players back make that big of a difference? Was the Texas pass defense really THAT bad? Or was Max Duggan really great today? I’m going to hedge (classic Mason) and go with a little bit of all of the above.
I think this is the offense that Sonny has wanted to run all year, but for various reasons (and quarterbacks getting snaps) the offense has been in a state of flux and we haven’t been able to get consistent plays that work that our offense can execute successfully.
For example, we successfully tossed it deep more than any other game this season, and Taye Barber made a couple of epic catches, but he is probably the second best WR on the team in terms of using his speed to create separation. You also have John Stephens Jr getting open on a clutch 3rd and 11 play and having the awareness to drag his feet before going out of bounds. OUR WIDE RECEIVERS ARE CATCHING THE BALL PEOPLE AND THAT IS A GOOD THING. It also helps that we have a QB that can throw it down the field consistently (well or so I hope based on this game).
Duggan still has some growing to do, but he showed off his value with not just his deep ball accuracy, but with his feet as well. Duggan picked up first downs with his legs, kept plays alive, and survived a solid Texas defensive line that put the pressure on him from time to time. I think my heart jumped out of my mouth when Duggan nearly got taken down in the endzone, but broke away and ran for the first down. That’s what we call going full Mad Max. What a day. What a lovely day.
This game could be dangerous in terms of our expectations, because if Texas’ pass defense was bad enough to make us look better than we are, then we may be in for more frustrating times ahead - which I mean c’est la vie. But still, this could have been the break that we needed to get things clicking going forward. I’m really hoping that this game helped our team figure out what our offense’s strengths really are and how we can use them to exploit the weakness of the opposing defenses. We have KILLER speed, and now that our playmakers are back, our QB is getting better every week, and our play caller is figuring it out...the unit could be pretty fun even if its not necessarily elite yet.
We just have to keep watching.
Play of the Game:
It’s not a play. It’s the quote of the year from head coach Gary Patterson, HELL YEAH!
GIVE ME MORE EXPLICIT G-PAT!
Okay, but the real play of the game was tough because there were so many, but the one that basically iced the game on a long 3rd down and silenced all of the UT fans around me while simultaneously putting my jaw on the ground was the Taye Barber special:
3rd and 14, a little over 2 minutes on the clock and up by 3 TCU needed a first down in order to keep the drive alive and the ball out of the Horns’ hands. Max saw his man, threw it up, and his man came down with not just the ball but also my jaw.
Next Week, on the road in Stillwater.
The Frogs have only won here once during our time in the Big 12, and you can bet that this Oklahoma State offense will put up a fight, led by NATION rushing leader Chuba Hubbard. This is always a fun coaching matchup to watch, but let’s hope the Frogs stay hot on the road.
HORNS DOWN AND FROGS UP!