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Kansas State 21, TCU 14: What on earth was that

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 10 Kansas State at TCU Photo by Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Since joining the Big 12 in 2012, TCU is 7-2 against Texas. However, in games leading up to, and directly after the game against Texas, TCU is 5-13. That 13th loss came today to Kansas State, 21-14, in absolutely baffling fashion.

TCU’s offensive line continues to struggle, and now they’re dealing with injuries. Esteban Avila and Andrew Coker both left with leg injuries on the day, and their replacements struggled right along with the rest of the line.

We’ve said all along that poor line play will get Duggan hurt, and today it did. Duggan took a massive hit in the second quarter, compounded by a big sack in the third quarter, which knocked him out of the game for two TCU drives.

In the time that Duggan was out, backup Matthew Downing managed 2-4 passing for -1 yard, including a pick six that was the deciding score in the game.

Now, we need to take a minute and connect the dots on some things, folks. I saw a lot of talk on Twitter today about how TCU doesn’t have any downfield passing game. Some people were taking that out on Max Duggan.

But, when your offensive line struggles to get your quarterback more than two seconds in the pocket before he has to run, your receivers don’t have time to 1) get downfield and 2) get open.

Yes, Duggan struggled to recognize Kansas State’s blitz on occasion today. Yes, Duggan had a few bad throws today. But this offensive performance lays at the feet of the offensive line.

Defensively, TCU once again was hurt by explosive plays. An 80-yard run from freshman quarterback Will Howard, making his first collegiate start, got Kansas State on the board first 3-0.

In the second quarter, a desperation pass from Howard to Deuce Vaughn connected for a 45 yard gain. Khari Coleman was caught in coverage on the play, and if you’re asking a defensive end to cover Vaughn you’re going to have a bad time.

Later in that same drive Howard connected for 24 yards to Briley Moore, and ran it in for a touchdown one play later to give Kansas State a lead they would never relinquish.

Penalties also hurt TCU again today. Ar’Darius Washington was called for targeting in the first quarter, and while TCU fans will debate about the fact that there was no helmet-to-helmet contact, by the letter of the rule it was targeting. Washington launched himself. I think the NCAA needs to review the targeting rule, personally, because Washington’s only play there is to hit the receiver like that, or he just concedes a reception.

Because the ejection took place in the first half, Washington will not miss any time in TCU’s next game, when Oklahoma comes to town in two weeks.

Tre’ Hodges-Tomlinson was called for pass interference on 3rd down, giving Kansas State new life that led to a field goal, and the offensive line put TCU behind the chains with multiple false starts.

There were a few bright spots for the Frogs on the day, too. Josh Foster recorded an interception as he filled in for Washington, while Corey Bethley and Ochaun Mathis recorded back-to-back sacks as the defensive line finally showed some life.

Overall, the second half showed that TCU’s defensive line is capable of getting pressure. Khari Coleman was close on a couple plays, and Howard was definitely uncomfortable in the second half. If that play keeps up consistently, TCU’s defense might correct some of their issues.

Max Duggan showed tremendous heart throughout the day, despite clearly being banged up. He threw for 154 yards and ran for 45 more, including a 3-yard touchdown on 4th and 3 to cut the deficit to seven. He’s a special kid.

We didn’t hear anything from Noah Daniels today because his coverage was impeccable. Kee’yon Stewart replaced Hodges-Tomlinson to start the second half and also looked good in coverage.

TCU now has a bye week before hosting Oklahoma on October 24.