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Keys to the Game: Iowa State vs. TCU

The Horned Frog defense will look to set the tone early after surrendering a big lead to the Cyclones in 2019.

NCAA Football: Texas Christian at Iowa State Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

By the time TCU’s offense got rolling against Iowa State this past season, the damage from the Cyclones had already been done. The Horned Frogs totaled three touchdowns in the second half, but a 28-3 deficit doomed TCU from the start, and the Horned Frogs will be looking to set the tone early in their 2020 season opener this weekend.

Last year’s matchup saw TCU opt for a two-quarterback approach, with Max Duggan and Alex Delton both getting reps before Duggan took over with a strong second-half showing. While the Horned Frogs made the contest somewhat interesting after Duggan’s second touchdown pass to Jalen Reagor made it a 35-24 game, Iowa State finished the victory off with 14 unanswered points down the stretch.

TCU enters Saturday’s game seeking to open 2020 with a victory, while Iowa State will be motivated to recover from a bad home loss against Louisiana-Lafayette two weeks ago. Here are three keys to the game before the Horned Frogs and Cyclones square off.

Set the Tone

The Horned Frogs are at their best when the defense is dominating, forcing turnovers and creating easy scoring chances for the offense. That wasn’t the case in 2019, when Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy had arguably his best performance of his season with 349 total yards and four touchdowns. TCU finished 1-5 last fall when its defense surrendered 28 points or more, and head coach Gary Patterson’s unit could put the Horned Frogs in winning position with a high-level first-half performance on Saturday.

Protect the Ball

A huge momentum shift during last season’s matchup came in the second quarter, when O’Rien Vance sacked Max Duggan and Eyioma Uwazurike recovered the ball for an easy score, giving the Cyclones a 14-3 advantage. The Horned Frogs went 2-5 in games with two or more turnovers last fall, and with two young quarterbacks expected taking the field this weekend, protecting the football and winning the turnover battle will be crucial.

Be Creative

TCU’s first two offensive drives of the 2019 matchup with Iowa State were a shining example of what plagued the unit all season. The Horned Frogs ran zero passing plays on their first drive, a six-play drive that ended with a punt and an ensuing Cyclone touchdown, and the second drive was a three-and-out with three straight incompletions. With Jerry Kill and Doug Meacham (back) in the fold, expect TCU’s offense to show more balance and creativity against an Iowa State defense that typically ranks among the best in the Big 12.