TCU dominated on the ground Saturday evening, with sophomore running backs Kendre Miller and Zach Evans combining for over 300 yards rushing as the Horned Frogs knocked off the Texas Tech Red Raiders 52-31 to snap a two-game losing streak. Despite the TCU defense conceding 560 total yards to the Red Raiders, head coach Gary Patterson and the Horned Frogs emerged from their first road game of the 2021 season with a victory.
Here are five things we learned from Saturday’s Battle for the Saddle
1. Kendre Miller could be the best RB2 in the Big 12 Conference
While TCU had two four-star running backs on the roster last season in Darwin Barlow and Daimarqua Foster, Miller was the ball carrier who shined when given the chance, averaging 7.2 yards per carry and totaling nearly 400 yards on the ground. With Evans exiting Saturday’s game with an injury, Miller picked up right where Evans left off, gashing the Red Raider defense for 185 yards and three touchdowns on only 12 carries.
TCU fully committed to the running game on Saturday, with Evans and Miller combining for 29 carries while senior Emari Demercado ran the ball eight times and quarterback Max Duggan totaled six carries. That’s 43 rushes to only 10 pass attempts, but the result was six rushing touchdowns and almost 400 yards on the ground. Whether or not that method of attack is sustainable remains to be seen, but Miller showed Saturday that he can carry the rock and handle the same workload as Evans as the Horned Frogs move forward.
2. The Horned Frogs attempted only 10 passes
TCU was without wide receivers Quentin Johnston and JD Spielman on Saturday, so the Horned Frogs leaning more on the running game made sense, particularly against a Texas Tech defense that has struggled mightily in recent games. Duggan was effective in limited throws, finishing 8-of-10 for 104 yards and one touchdown while connecting with Derius Davis on a deep ball over the middle for 42 yards.
While TCU will likely throw more when Johnston and Spielman return, expect the Horned Frogs to stay committed to the running game until Duggan can display consistent accuracy down the field.
3. TCU’s defense has all sorts of issues to figure out
SMU and Texas dominated the Horned Frogs on the ground, with Ulysses Bentley running for 153 yards and a touchdown before Bijan Robinson sliced through the Horned Frog defense for 216 yards and two touchdowns on 35 carries. TCU continued to struggle defending the run on Saturday, conceding 118 yards and three touchdowns to SaRodorick Thompson while allowing backup quarterback Henry Colombi to throw for 344 yards.
One bright spot has been cornerback Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson, who continues to show he’s one of the elite corners in college football. THT notched his second interception of the season, which resulted in a touchdown, and his efforts resulted in Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week honors. Collectively, however, TCU has shown no signs that the bleeding will stop on defense, even though Noah Daniels and Khari Coleman have returned in limited fashion.
Caleb Williams took over vs. Texas in place of Spencer Rattler:— Bleacher Report CFB (@BR_CFB) October 9, 2021
Williams: 16-25, 300 total YDS, 3 total TDs
Rattler: 8-15, 102 total YDs, 1 TD
Who will be QB1? pic.twitter.com/uKjaH3pj1X
4. TCU should prepare for two quarterbacks next weekend
The Horned Frogs will face Oklahoma on the road this coming Saturday. The Sooners nearly suffered their first loss of the season against Texas, rallying from a three-touchdown deficit to upend the Longhorns 55-48. The comeback included head coach Lincoln Riley benching starting quarterback Spencer Rattler, who struggled early and threw a bad interception, for freshman Caleb Williams, who shined with almost 300 total yards and three touchdowns.
TCU will already have its hands full with running back Kennedy Brooks, who dominated Texas with 217 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Who will be under center remains to be seen, however, and the Horned Frogs will have to be ready for both quarterbacks.
5. The Big 12 Conference continues and will continue to be a gauntlet
Unlike other Power 5 Conference schedules, Big 12 teams compete in a round-robin format where every team plays each other. That format has created serious competition and parity over the last few seasons, and that looks to be the case once again this year.
Baylor, which upset Iowa State earlier this season, continued its hot start with a dominant win over West Virginia, which nearly knocked off Oklahoma earlier this season. Oklahoma State is also unbeaten after taking down Boise State on the road and winning over Baylor.
Kansas State is winless in conference play, but the Wildcats almost upset the Sooners without starter Skylar Thompson. Texas, Texas Tech and TCU have all shown they can score plenty of points. Iowa State fought hard against the Iowa Hawkeyes, who have since risen to No. 2 in the country and have beaten another top program in Penn State.
Houston, Cincinnati, UCF and BYU, who will join the Big 12 in a few years, are a combined 18-5 this season. Cincinnati has risen to No. 3 in the AP Top 25, while BYU recently entered the Top 25 as well. Houston (5-1) and UCF (3-2) are both playing good football.
Putting Kansas aside (sorry Jayhawk fans), Big 12 football remains highly competitive and will continue remaining highly competitive in the future.