TCU will play Arkansas Pine-Bluff to begin its 2019 campaign, and while ostensibly there are many facets of the game that the Frogs will have to control and matchups they’ll have to win and schemes they’ll have to devise, there’s really only one key here:
Do not screw this up.
UAPB is an FCS team that went 2-10 and lost 90-6 to South Dakota State last season. I’m not implying that the Frogs need to win by more than 84 for Saturday to be a success, but this should not be a game that makes any fan watching at home break a sweat. This is a chance for Alex Delton to come out, lead a couple touchdown drives and cede the stage for Max Duggan to make his college debut and score 35 meaningless second half points.
But “do not screw this up” is a negative statement, and we like to be positive around here. Here are five things TCU should do against UAPB that will prevent the Frogs from screwing it up.
TCU has staked its reputation as a defensive team under Gary Patterson (a sentence everyone reading this already knows, but I’m required by law to write anyway). Last year, however, the Frogs were suspiciously mediocre at forcing turnovers, with an average of 1.6 takeaways per game, good for No. 53 in the country. TCU was No. 56 in the nation in interceptions, with .9 per game. For a defensive-oriented team in a pass-first conference, that’s a bit weird.
It’d be great for the Frogs to come out and set the tone on defense early in the season by wrecking UAPB’s passing game.
The battle between Delton and Duggan for the definitive starting quarterback spot isn’t over yet, I would wager, but that doesn’t mean there has to be any salvos in the first game. It’d be best for both quarterbacks, and for TCU, if both guys play well. Delton will get the start, and hopefully, he’ll slice and dice UAPB early enough that Duggan can build reps. Heck, if everything goes right, neither QB might even need to play the fourth quarter.
This game isn’t the time to formulate hard and fast opinions on either Duggan or Delton. (Besides, you should’ve been forming your baseless opinions over the summer, anyway.)
SPREAD IT AROUND
Jalen Reagor will get his catches this year, by hook or by crook. This is a great game to find out what receiver will serve best as the No. 2 option to Reagor. Taye Barber is the most likely candidate, having finished second on the team in catches last year. Derius Davis offers all the speed in the world and returned a punt for a TD on his first college touch last season. Tre’Vontae Heights offers, sigh, height, at a listed 6-3.
This is not the time to feed Reagor the ball all game. Let him run loose early on, wrap him in bubble wrap on the sideline at halftime, and start working the ball to the second level of receivers to try to find a hidden gem for later on in the year.
GET WEIRD WITH IT
The coaching staff has been talking in the offseason about working in new wrinkles, like putting Darius Anderson and Sewo Olonilua on the field together. Patterson mentioned how happy he was with how the TCU quarterbacks were throwing the ball deep in practice.
Olonilua is suspended for the first half, but other than that – this is the time to try some new stuff! Once the Frogs build a solid lead, it should be nothing but free-form jazz out there. Don’t put anything on film you don’t want Texas or Oklahoma seeing, but if you have a half-brained idea for a play, there’s no better time to try it out than Saturday. Put Olonilua, Anderson AND Emari Demarcado on the field at the same time. Have your quarterback exclusively throw passes at least 30 yards downfield. Try a 60-yard field goal. Go crazy – just make sure the game is in hand first.
This is obviously out of the Frogs’ control, but even a 70-3 win can be considered a massive screw-up if a starter goes down with an injury. We saw earlier this week how unfeeling and unfair the injury bug is when Dylan Moses, a start at Alabama, went down with a torn ACL before playing a snap this year.
There’s a long season ahead of us. Don’t throw it all away Saturday.
PREDICTION: TCU 59, UAPB 7.