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Stats O’ War: Week 1 Notes and Numbers

TCU got the win; let’s look at the numbers and see how they got there.

TCU Football vs Arkansas-Pine Bluff (8.31.19)
We saw A LOT of this Saturday night, but TCU kickers were 6-6 on field goals, and that’s a positive, right?
Melissa Triebwasser

Week 1 has happened, and now we as fans begin the season-long investigation into the age-old question: “Is our team actually good?” On Sundays throughout the season, I’ll be combing through the box scores and a little play by play data to identify interesting trends and outliers of TCU Football’s performance.

TCU started slow but found times to right the ship against FCS opponent UAPB, looking at times like a high-ceiling, competent team and other times conjuring memories of TCU’s stagnant, grinding offenses of old. Let’s peruse the box score and find a couple stats and numbers worth noting:

  1. TCU DROPPING THE BALL: The Frogs looked pretty sloppy, as one would expect in a season opener, but right off the bat there seems to be a sticking point for the days of practice leading up into TCU’s next game - ball security. While the Horned Frogs didn’t throw an interception (15 last year, more than one a game), they did put the ball on the ground seven times, thrice on punt returns. As a team who ranked near the bottom in FBS in expected and actual turnover margin last season, the Frogs need to focus on controlling the ball in order to take a step forward from their turnover-plagued 7-6 2018 season.
  2. HOLY FIELD GOALS, BATMAN: While 6 field goals is no one’s dream against an FCS opponent, TCU’s kicking performance Saturday night warrants some discussion. Since the departure of Jaden Oberkrom, hallowed be his name, TCU’s kicking situation has been, shall we say, tenuous? Last night, Jonthan Song (and to a lesser extent freshman Griffin Kell) assuaged some concerns and uncertainty over the kicking game by scoring 17 points (5/5 on FG, 2/2 on XPs). Song easily hit a 38 yarder, and took care of business on the two extra points he attempted. Similar to the issues with turnovers, a little more consistency in the kicking game is the path to an improved 2019 TCU football team. Hopefully, Song’s performance Saturday was an indication of what’s to come.
  3. THE QB BATTLE RAGES ON: Freshman Max Duggan came into the game in the middle of the first quarter, and he and Graduate Transfer Alex Delton more or less traded possessions throughout the rest of the game. There was a clear imbalance in the stat sheet between the two QBs - Duggan accounted for both of TCU’s early touchdowns, throwing for 165 yards (7.2 per attempt) to Delton’s 119 yards (5.4 per attempt). Duggan’s QuarterBack Rating of 94.4 was more than double Delton’s. While I think Duggan separated himself as the clear starter last night, it’s worth noting that Delton had a couple of well-thrown balls either dropped or defended well by UAPB senior CB Shawn Steele, who had a great night for the Golden Lions. Delton also had a nice run (54 yards), but the offense stalled in the Red Zone for both QBs; aside from Duggan’s 1 yard TD run, TCU’s only other touchdown came from out of the red zone. The Frogs had 9 scoring opportunities (first down inside the opponent’s 40 yard line), but kicked 6 field goals and scored three touchdowns. That’s a high conversion rate, but still only 4.33 points per opportunity, barely a half a point above last year’s 124th ranked 3.70 number. The QB Battle will rage on, but whoever is at the helm will have to start converting scoring opportunities into touchdowns; like Gary Patterson said post-game: “You can’t kick field goals in this league.”

4. SPREADING THE LOVE: Of TCU’s modest 284 receiving yards, 240 (84.5%) came from just three players: TreVontae Hights, who had a breakout game with 108 yards on 8 receptions (13.5 per), Jalen Reagor (71 yards on 5 catches), and Tevailance Hunt (61 yards on 3 catches). Now, this is a bit misleading, as Taye Barber had a tight leg and never really got involved in the offense Saturday night. Also, Reagor and Davis both had multiple drops on plays that would’ve boosted them into the lead on passing yards. Drops have been an issue in times past for TCU (2016 still haunts me), but fans should be encouraged that though there were QB struggles and kinks to work out, multiple high-ceiling receivers had opportunities to contribute on offense. That offensive multiplicity, should it continue to gel (and should some WRs get a handle on some drops), could prove especially lethal in the Big 12, where TCU’s defense has far outpaced its offense in terms of effectively showing and executing multiple looks to take advantage of opponents.

5. WHERE’S THE PRESSURE? Garret Wallow played great in his first stint as TCU’s main backer; he had 8 solo tackles and added a sack, to boot. But beyond Wallow and a nice chase-down by Ross Blacklock, TCU’s defense didn’t feel particularly aggressive, and when it did get aggressive, UAPB capitalized well; one of the Golden Lions’ longest plays was a wide open wheel route past a blitzing linebacker, and the Lions rushed for 101 yards mostly on the back of the HB dive past pressure. TCU has a stacked defensive line, but last night, only one member had more than 2 tackles (future NFL player Ochaun Mathis). In the 4-2-5, defensive linemen have to make tackles, and last night, it was the job of the safeties and LBs.

VARIOUS AND SUNDRY: Australian Punter and Twitter Favorite Jordan Sandy had a fine punting game Saturday; free of any issues or turnovers, and Sandy pinned the Lions inside their own ten pretty nicely on one punt. My only complaint is that you’d ideally like for your punter to not have 4 punts in your FCS opener, but Sandy kicked well... Third Downs were a tough spot for TCU Saturday night - the Frogs were 9-18 (50%) on third down, about on par with their 2018 offense, which ranked in the 100s nationally... Finally, penalties were not an issue last night; especially on the offensive side of the ball, it’s nice to see some experience and discipline paying off. As I mentioned above with drops, fumbles, etc... the more that TCU can do to avoid shooting itself in the foot, the higher the Frogs’ ceiling will be for this season.

What other stats or numbers caught your eye this week?