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Three up, three down: a pair of redshirt freshman shine, Duggan has to run for his life

A lame factor about the opposing team makes my down list for the second-straight week.

Darwin Barlow takes a carry against Kansas State. He rushed for a career-high 56 yards in the game.
Courtesy of Ellman Photography via gofrogs .com

Things guaranteed in this life: death, taxes, and Gary Patterson owning the Texas Longhorns. Unfortunately, something else to add to that list is TCU struggling in games surrounding their matchup with the Horns.

Since 2012, the Frogs are now 5-13 in the weeks before and after the Texas game (shoutout to Jamie for digging that one up, I think). For some reason, TCU cannot seem to cash in on the momentum they gain from putting the Horns down.

Things were no different this year, and here are your three players or groups that upped their stock against Kansas State and three that made us clench our teeth.

Three up:

1. Darwin Barlow

The Frogs are loaded at running back. Coach P and the players all say the same thing: “We’ve got five guys that can get it done.” Regardless, Barlow has been the most consistent for TCU this season, and it was only more obvious on Saturday.

On the Frogs’ opening drive, Barlow followed up a strong 8-yard rush with a burst up the right sideline for a career-long 28 yard gain. At the end of the play, the redshirt sophomore hit-sticked his defender out of bounds and stood over him for just a fraction of a second. To be honest, I thought the ferocious nature of that play was going to set the tone for a big TCU win.

Well, we all know now that it didn’t, but Barlow continued to make his presence known in the first quarter. On the ensuing drive for TCU, he had two more nice runs, including a 7-yard score that gave the Frogs an early 7-3 lead.

With 5:14 left in the first quarter, Barlow had 5 carries for a career-high 52 yards (plus the score). That’s a pretty dang good start. To my surprise, the talented back would get just three more carries for the rest of the game, gaining only four yards.

Barlow is averaging 5.5 yards per carry this season. He only has 119 total yards, but that is simply because of his lack of touches. I understand that GP wants to test the waters with his fountain of backs, but I would like to see Barlow get 15 to 20 carries per game going forward.

2. Blair Conwright

After redshirting his freshman year, the former three-star from Lubbock has been super reliable for the Frogs this season. He currently leads the team with 176 receiving yards while coming in second with 11 receptions.

Conwright’s adjustment to catch Duggan’s last-second touchdown pass against Iowa State followed by a strong, contested catch down the left sideline in the third quarter of the Texas game clearly earned him more targets.

Against Kansas State, the redshirt freshman led the game with six catches for 60 yards. While he lacks the size of a Quentin Johnston or the speed of a Taye Barber, Conwright’s ability to snag anything thrown his way has made him one of Duggan’s favorite targets.

Replacing Philadelphia Eagle Jalen Reagor is no small task, but it appears that a receiver trio of Barber, Johnston, and Conwright is forming in Fort Worth.

3. Josh Foster

Targeting is one of the most frustrating rules in college football. I know it needs to be in place, especially to protect receivers. On the other hand, I hate that it’s an automatic ejection.

When 2019 Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year Ar’Darius Washington was kicked out in the first quarter of Saturday’s game, things looked grim for the Frogs’ secondary,

In for Washington came Foster, who played primarily special teams in his 2019 rookie campaign. Though he did lead TCU with seven special teams tackles last year, replacing Washington is no small task.

Foster stepped up, though. Along with collecting three tackles, the sophomore came up with TCU’s biggest defensive play of the day, reading Will Howard like a book and making a leaping interception on the fourth play of the second half.

TCU then went three-and-out, wasting Foster’s great play, but it was nice to see an inexperienced guy step up.

Three Down

1. The Offensive Line

*In a Colin Cowherd voice* “COLIN, COLIN, COLIN…why does your three down section look similar every week?” Well, I don’t want to hear it. The TCU offensive line has protected the quarterback like a bunch of scarecrows this year, and it almost got Max killed on Saturday.

On paper, the stats aren’t THAT bad from Saturday. The Cats recorded three sacks and two QB hurries. That seems like quite the improvement from the six sacks that Iowa State recorded against TCU or the five QB hurries that Texas racked up.

Don’t let the stats fool you, though. Duggan was running for his dang life for most of the game on Saturday. On the Frogs first drive of the third quarter, the signal caller got rocked while trying to hit Johnston on third down. This led to Patterson sitting Duggan for a couple drives, which practically gave the Wildcats seven free points.

Even on the final play of the game, with FIVE linemen and Daimarqua Foster there to block just four KSU pass rushers, Duggan was forced to rush.

Of course, it doesn’t help that TCU is starting just one guy who started in 2019 AND that center Esteban Avila went down midway through the game. Regardless, the line has to be better. Austin Meyers said after the game, “We aren’t playing as a unit.”

That might be a good place to start.

2. Matthew Downing

Look, I really like the guy. He seems like a super good dude who is clearly really talented. Patterson said that the Georgia transfer was on his grind during camp to be ready to play for Max. I’m thankful for that.

With that being said, the dude is not ready for Big 12 football. At least, he’s not ready to play Big 12 football with the local church choir playing offensive line.

Downing wasn’t bad against Iowa State, but his lack of mobility and conservative play in his 30 minutes of play is likely what lost TCU their season opener.

Things were downright ugly on Saturday, though. After losing two yards on his opening drive, Downing threw an abomination of an interception on his second possession. He stared Taye Barber down for four seconds before throwing it right to AJ Parker, who took it 37 yards for a house call.

To make things worse, Downing got blown up on a block while trying to prevent Parker from scoring.

The redshirt sophomore finished 2-for-4 with negative one (you read that right) yards passing on the day. He’s completed just 52 percent of his passes on the year (compared to Duggan’s 68.8 percent).

Bottom line: TCU is not winning ball games unless Max Duggan is under center.

3. The Kansas State Coaching Staff

Sensitivity within the Big 12 is not a new thing. Texas is notorious for losing their minds when anyone decides to put their beloved hand sign down. It’s no surprise that Kevin Durant went to UT, because they both struggle to handle criticism in the public eye.

On Saturday, it looked like maybe the Horns rubbed off on the Wildcats a little bit. Supposedly, Kansas State was frustrated with how loud and obnoxious the TCU student section was being. Because of that, they made a complaint and had the TCU Dutchmen mic muted.

Obviously, I wasn’t down there, so I don’t know what was being said. Nevertheless, that’s pretty weak. Get some thicker skin and deal with it.

Besides, how loud could 3,000 students have really been?