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Stats O’ War: Week 3 Notes and Numbers

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The Frogs improved to 2-0 in West Lafayette; let’s talk about numbers.

NCAA Football: Texas Christian at Purdue Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

We made it through the bye week, friends, and after a slow start, TCU came out of their bye week in style. The technical term, I believe, is “crock-potting”: the act of using a slow heat that takes a while, but in the end, leaves your opponent thoroughly cooked. The Frogs beat the Boilermakers 34-13, bringing TCU to 6-2 against the Big 10 in Gary Patterson’s tenure.

We still have plenty of questions, we still have plenty of opportunities for improvement, but for now, let’s enjoy the win by wandering through the box score to see what we can find.

1. RUSH RATE: The Frog rushing attack had a stellar night: 346 yards on 58 carries, for an average of just under 6 yards per carry. Most of that came against a battered and thin Purdue defense in the second half, but it’s still nothing to sneeze at. The Frogs only attempted 24 passes (29.2% of total plays run), which is a little misleading when you factor in the second half clock management approach, but is still skewed in the wrong direction: as I’ve said before, the Frogs are rushing too much, and 58 rush attempts to 24 passes doesn’t feel like a new-and-improved downfield offense has arrived. TCU rushed on 21 of their 33 first half first or second downs (early downs), a stout 63% of those plays. Inside the opponent 40 (scoring opportunity), TCU rushed on 13 of 24 plays, just over 50%. As a result, TCU held the ball for 40 minutes this game, but only scored 4 TDs.

The Frog offense had a sneakily mediocre game, outside of grinding the Purdue run defense into a fine powder. Max Duggan had a QBR of 21.6, well below average, with a 7/18, 70 yards night, averaging 3.9 yards per attempt. That’s... not great, especially when you consider that 34 of those yards came on two passes on the same drive. Duggan (and Delton, in his limited minutes) still suffered at the hands of their WRs, but the passing game is lagging - so, of course the Frogs are running this much against a bad Purdue rush defense; you’d like to see them take more opportunities to iron out the passing game before Big 12 play starts, but hey, a win is a win.

2. THIRD DOWNS: Speaking of mediocre, TCU was 6-18 (33.3%) on third down conversions, and 8-18 (44.4%) on third and fourth downs. The Frogs ranked in the middle of the pack last season on third downs (40% success rate), despite the 11th shortest average third down distance, and so that 6-18 number rings especially troublesome. The Frogs had 5 first half scoring opportunities and came away with only 13 points, 2.6 per opportunity, which is a full point lower than their abysmal 2018 (124th nationally with 3.7 points per opportunity). They rectified some of that in the second half, going 3/3 on scoring opportunities, averaging 7 points per.

You love to see TCU go for the conversion twice - 4th & 1 on the Purdue 39 and 4th & 1 on the Purdue 32, but neither of them ended up mattering; in the former, TCU stalled and punted instead of kicking a FG from the 32, and in the latter, they ended up kicking a FG anyway. So, the expected points swing didn’t manifest, but an aggressive 4th down attack might be hints of some improved offensive decision-making on the season.

3. RONDALE LESS? Apologies, but I had to do it. Touted by some* as “the best WR TCU has ever faced”, Rondale More came into the game with a target on his back. Couple that attention with the rhythmic shakeups that accompany starting a different QB, and Moore couldn’t get going - especially with Innis Gaines using his length and physicality to disrupt Moore’s routes. The Frogs held Moore to a pedestrian 25 yards on 3 catches.

*randos on twitter

4. EARS PINNED BACK: Part of the reason that Moore couldn’t get targets was that backup QB Jack Plummer (5.8 QBR) spent most of his time avoiding the rush. The official box score tallies 3 sacks for TCU, 6 TFLs, and 0 QB Hurries, but watching the game, you saw a disruptive defensive line. Garret Wallow (10 tackles, 7 solo, 4 TFL) was a havoc machine, taking advantage of an at-times outright confused offensive line and shooting gaps. To Plummer’s credit, he amassed 181 yards, a good chunk of which came against TCU’s second unit. It’s great that TCU has found a pass rush - hopefully they will continue this performance and be equally, if not more so, disruptive as the season continues.

I’d be remiss in this section to not specifically note how dominant Ross Blacklock was; taking a double team most plays, he still found his way into the backfield, even when - especially when - TCU ran the tite 3-man front.

5. EXPLOSIVE PLAYS: Finally, we come to the hallmark of Purdue’s offense, the way they win their games: explosive plays. In my preview Thursday, I mentioned that Purdue’s explosiveness was their lethality - all 11 of their touchdown drives heading into week 3 had involved a play of at least 19 yards. Against TCU, 2 of Purdue’s 3 scores involved their only 3 big plays of the night. A Brycen Hopkins 38 yard reception set up a Purdue FG (props - it was 53 yarder), and Amad Anderson Jr. caught a 54 yard touchdown pass. Other than that, there was one more Hopkins 20 yard play. TCU, as they should have, stifled an explosive offense with some personnel issues.

VARIOUS AND SUNDRY: Jordy Sandy had a fine night, although he had to punt far too often: long of 49, averaging 39.5 yards, but including a punt from the 37 he stuck on the three yard line.... Same goes for Johnathan Song, who continued to be perfect this season; it’s surprising, given his accuracy thus far, that TCU opted to punt from the Purdue 32 rather than test out Song’s leg.... Disappointing to see Tre Hights sit out the second half; he had a monster first game, but no receptions versus Purdue... The Drops haven’t stopped. Both Delton and Duggan suffered from a TCU WRs dropping catchable balls, but both have some responsibility. After the game, Coach Patterson mentioned that Duggan needed to learn how to throw a changeup, not just fastballs... Turnovers plague no more? TCU’s lone turnover came on a fluke WR mistake on a hotly-thrown ball, and the defense limited the damage. Otherwise, TCU didn’t put the ball on the ground once, a clear improvement from their 7 fumble FCS opener.... Finally, penalties were a bit sloppy; TCU had 6 for 55 yards to Purdue’s 2-20 (excluding TCU taking the delay of game on purpose); most of TCU’s penalties came on the offensive side of the ball.

What other numbers caught your eye this week?