The Horned Frogs don’t have much time to prepare for Louisiana Tech, but really, the schedule isn’t all that much different than a normal game week for the players. The coaches, on the other hand, will have their hands full with Skip Holtz’s offense, a unit that plays two QBs, has a beast at RB, and brings a familiar face back to The Carter.
Let’s take a look at La Tech.
In our Q&A that will post later this week, Steve Helwick called the Bulldogs’ offense “death by a thousand papercuts”.
Now, that’s counter to what we heard from Gary Patterson to some degree, who called La Tech’s offense “explosive” and talked about the screen game and how they stretch the field horizontally to open up the vertical passing game.
The Bulldogs are without their number one wide receiver and number one running back, both who opted out for the remainder of the year. That leaves room for some young guys to step up, and a familiar veteran to get more involved. Senior Isaiah Graham, a former TCU Football player for one season, stands to benefit most from receiver Adrian Hardy’s absence, while running back Israel Tucker, who exploded for 161 yards and two touchdowns in relief of previous starter Justin Henderson. Even with Tucker’s big game, though, the Bulldogs are dead last in Conference USA when it comes to running the football, averaging just over 100 yards per game and 3.0 yards per carry.
They make up for a lack of a ground game with a really complex screen game, using the short passing system to move the ball down the field effectively and efficiently — hence death by a thousand papercuts.
Generally, the saying goes, “if you have two quarterbacks you don’t have any”, but that’s not necessarily true when it comes to La Tech. The Bulldogs have a pair of pocket passers who are both effective in their system, leading the program to C-USA’s third best passing attack at over 230 yards per game. Luke Anthony is the “main man”, throwing for over 1300 yards on the season with 15 touchdowns and just five INTs. Aaron Allen is young but more than capable and flashes some serious star power.
In total, La Tech averages over 31 points per game on the strength of their passing game, with Smoke Harris and Cee Jay Powell leading the team in receptions and Griffin Hebert a scoring threat with four touchdowns through the air.
The Horned Frogs ***should*** be able to score on the Bulldogs, who allow over 32 points per game. They don’t get to the quarterback often, with just 14 sacks in eight games, but they pick off opposing QBs with regularity, hauling in nine interceptions and taking two all the way back. When they don’t pick you off, though, there’s opportunity for big plays — opponents average over 7.5 yards per attempt and over 250 yards per game. Opponents gain over 416 yards per game, nearly 90 yards more than the Dogs.
Where they shine is on third and fourth down, where they limit opponents to under 48% and 56% respectively.
Freshman Tyler Grubbs leads the team in tackles from his linebacker position, and forms a dynamic duo with redshirt senior Trey Baldwin. Milton Williams lives in the backfield with 11 TFLs and 4.5 sacks, both team best marks. BeeJay Williamson leads the team with three interceptions, and Ezekiel Barnett and Cedric Woods have two apiece.
This is an aggressive group that isn’t afraid to come for you, and seems to live off of those 50/50 plays. Built to contain, slowing Duggan in the ground game and forcing the Frogs to throw it around seems to be the recipe for success, so watching how the cornerbacks matchup with Quentin Johnston, Derius Davis, and Pro Wells will be interesting. Keep an eye on #30, true freshman Cedric Woods. It will be interesting to see if Kill/Meach go after the young DB.
Gary Patterson was clear in his Tuesday press conference that La Tech will give the Frogs all they want and all they can handle. This is a really talented, really well-coached unit that is more than capable of hanging with the “big boys” on Saturdays. They will be well-rested, having last played ten days prior, and well prepared — TCU didn’t start thinking about the Bulldogs until early Saturday evening. This won’t be a pushover.
That being said, the TCU defense is playing lights out, and without La Tech’s top receiver, I think even the injured Horned Frogs’s secondary should hold their own. Dee Winters, Khari Coleman, and Ochaun Mathis need to be huge Saturday night — Winters will have a tough assignment defending the pass and Mathis and Coleman need to get to both pocket passers and make it easy for the defensive backs to hold up.
I expect to see a couple of turnovers forced by an energetic, angry defense, and just enough big plays in the passing game to allow the running backs — fresh off of a turnover filled affair last week — to go off.
TCU 31, La Tech 20.