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What We Knew, What We Learned from TCU’s 33-23 win over Baylor

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I like beating Baylor, but the big questions about this team showed up en masse in Waco.

NCAA Football: Texas Christian at Baylor Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports

TCU beat Baylor on Saturday, 33-23. The Frogs are now 6-3 against the Bears since joining the Big 12 and hold a 56-53-1 all-time lead. In a season defined by a pandemic and a disgruntled fan-base, beating your oldest rival is a positive thing.

And in the first half it looked like TCU had solved some of its biggest issues: the offensive line blocked pretty well, the defense got tremendous pressure on Charlie Brewer, and special teams made a significant positive impact.

Here are some things that I knew heading into Saturday that I still believe after the game:

Max Duggan is a top 3 quarterback in the Big 12. The sophomore gave us yet another gutsy performance, making some great throws and running without fear. He’s brought stability to a position that has been a revolving door since Kenny Hill graduated.

Quentin Johnston has a chance to be TCU’s best receiver since Josh Doctson, or better. This might feel like a reach just five games into Johnston’s career, but the true freshman is already arguably TCU’s biggest deep threat and most consistent receiver outside of Taye Barber. He’s got 224 receiving yards and a touchdown on 12 receptions. It feels like he’s been criminally underutilized halfway through the season.

Trevon Moehrig is a beast. He had eight tackles, including one for loss, against Baylor and had two pass breakups. His second PBU was the biggest play of the day for TCU’s defense, as he batted away a Charlie Brewer pass on 4th and 2, giving TCU the ball back with a ten point lead when it seemed like Baylor had all the momentum. The Frogs ensuing possession was successful enough to run out the clock and close out the game.

The Frogs are stacked at running back. Darwin Barlow snapped off for 117 rushing yards and a touchdown, including a 74-yard scamper that resulted in an eventual TCU field goal. Zach Evans recorded his first rushing touchdown of the year on a smooth 30-yard run that looked completely effortless.

Daimarqua Foster looked good in limited time, although he came off the field in the 3rd quarter with an injury. Patterson mentioned after the game that he was “worried” about Foster, but didn’t give much more about the injury. When it came to crunch time, Emari Demercado came through for the Frogs and got the first down on 4th and 1 to seal TCU’s victory.

TCU’s offense is very streaky. The Frogs scored two touchdowns on their first three offensive possessions, before scoring just 13 points over the final 10 drives. Saturday’s issues were primarily play-calling related, as the line held up reasonably well for most of the day.

But here’s the thing. TCU only has six passing touchdowns through five games. Duggan had one on Saturday, but it was a pitch forward to Taye Barber who took it to the house thanks to his speed and some good downfield blocking from Johnston and Barlow. That’s not enough in a league where teams are consistently required to score 30+ points to win games. The Frogs continue to be plagued by poor play calling and an offense that doesn’t know what it is, and as long as that’s the case, offensive showings like Saturday (or the Saturdays before) will be what we can expect.

Big plays are still hurting TCU’s defense. TCU’s defense put together a very, very strong game on Saturday. 11 tackles for loss, 5 sacks, an interception, and at one point late in the first half Baylor had more penalty yards than yards of offense. The Bears had negative yards gained midway through the third quarter. And yet, a handful of big plays allowed Baylor to climb back into the game.

A 39 yard completion on 3rd and 15 down to TCU’s one yard line (Baylor scored a TD). A 16-yard completion on 3rd and 15 to keep a drive alive (the drive ended in a touchdown). A 30-yard pass from Brewer to Trestan Ebner on 4th and 3 (Baylor kicked a field goal). A 32-yard touchdown run from Craig “Squirrel” Williams.

Those four plays made up 42% of Baylor’s yards gained on the day. Eliminate two of them, or minimize them, and Frog fans are never worried on Saturday.

But those last two points aren’t to say that TCU didn’t show any improvement during Saturday’s game. They did. Granted, Baylor is very much *not good* but in a rivalry game it doesn’t really matter. So, what did we learn about TCU on Saturday?

The defense can get some pressure. Yes, Baylor’s offensive line has struggled mightily this season. That said TCU got tremendous amounts of pressure on Charlie Brewer throughout the day, even without stud DT Corey Bethley on the field. Eleven tackles for loss and five sacks shows just part of the picture. Brewer got knocked around, and his game suffered because of it.

Khari Coleman racked up two TFLs and a sack on Saturday, and he now leads TCU in both categories with 7.5 TFL and 2.0 sacks, most of which have come in the last two games. The true freshman looks like he’s going to be a force on the line for the Frogs for a long time.

The line is getting better. Were they perfect? To quote the Apostle Paul, “By no means!” but they did their best not to get Max Duggan killed on Saturday. TJ Storment has provided some stability at tackle and Andrew Coker had a good day. Austin Myers, moved to right guard, still struggled but he got some help from the running backs and Pro Wells when needed.

The injuries are starting to mount. TCU fears they’ve lost Corey Bethley for the season, on top of the already gone Wes Harris and Noah Daniels. Daniels’ replacement, Kee’Yon Stewart, injured his knee on Saturday and running back Daimarqua Foster went to the locker room in the third quarter and didn’t come back out. Fellow running back Kendre Miller was out with an injury and receiver JD Spielman missed his second game with an injury.

Are the Frogs getting more aggressive? TCU went for it on fourth down twice on Saturday, just a week after fans questioned TCU’s lack of aggressiveness on fourth down against Oklahoma. They were 1-for-2, with the first attempt simply a rehash of a failed third and short play.

The second play was a good read from Emari Demercado, and his first down run sealed TCU’s victory. Patterson was asked about the choice to go for it after the game and this was his response:

“I wasn’t necessarily happy on the play we called on the one we got stopped. We had success getting spread out and we bunched up. Fourth downs are gut. I judge fourth downs by what we do on third and shorts — have success you’ll usually get the same call on fourth. Got to get a lot better on third down, 1-2 on fourth. When its time, you’ve got to make plays.”

Maybe, just maybe, we can find hope in that comment. Patterson’s third down comment isn’t without merit either. The Frogs were just 2-13 on third down on the day. That has to improve.

So now we turn our attention to Texas Tech, who got absolutely drubbed by Oklahoma on Saturday night 62-28, wondering what will improve for the Frogs another week into the season, and how they’ll be able to utilize their strengths.