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Play to your strengths: Horned Frogs need to take control on offense vs. Oklahoma

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TCU head coach Gary Patterson suggested the Horned Frogs may feature their passing game against No. 4 Oklahoma instead of their ground game despite running for their most rushing yards in a game since 2016 last week against Texas Tech.

TCU v Texas Tech
Quarterback Max Duggan #15 of the TCU Horned Frogs hands the ball to running back Zach Evans #6 during the first half of the college football game against the Texas Tech Red Raiders at Jones AT&T Stadium on October 09, 2021 in Lubbock, Texas.
Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images

TCU snapped their two-game losing streak in emphatic fashion, toppling Texas Tech in Lubbock by 21, 52-31, on the strength of their ground game. The Horned Frogs’ 394 rushing yards were their single-game high since totaling 431 in a 62-22 win at Baylor in 2016.

However, that success may not be featured in the Horned Frogs upcoming game at fourth-ranked Oklahoma for a couple of reasons according to TCU Head Coach Gary Patterson: watchability and Oklahoma’s front seven.

“That’s not what the people want, so it doesn’t matter what I talk about,” Patterson said when asked about the running game becoming TCU’s offensive identity. “ We’re just going to find ways to win. These guys don’t allow you to run the ball because they load the box and play man coverage, so we’re going to have to be able to throw the ball to be able to move the football.”

Yes, the Sooners allow 91 rushing yards per game, tied for the third-fewest among Big 12 teams. Yet, Zach Evans, Kendre Miller, and the Horned Frogs injury situation are three reasons why TCU should continue to feature their run game in Norman on Saturday night.

Sophomore Zach Evans became the first Horned Frog since Lonta Hobbs in 2002 with four straight games with over 100 rushing yards, and he has covered the length of the football field in six of the last eight games with his 17-carries, 143 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns that all came in the first half against the Red Raiders.

Sophomore Kendre Miller ran for a career-high 185 yards and three touchdowns on 12 carries for the second 100-yard game of his career. He had touchdown runs of 33, 75 and 45 yards, the kind of big plays that fire-up teammates.

“It’s exciting to have these running backs that can run the ball because each one is as good as the next one,” sophomore offensive tackle Brandon Coleman said. “Especially for offensive linemen when you see the [running] back you’re blocking for is downfield for 10, 20, 30 yards or going all the way to the house. It’s very fun to have a backfield like that. It makes us all look good.”

TCU v Texas Tech
Running back Kendre Miller #33 of the TCU Horned Frogs scores a touchdown during the first half of the college football game against the Texas Tech Red Raiders at Jones AT&T Stadium on October 09, 2021 in Lubbock, Texas.
Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images

What doesn’t sound good at a surface level is TCU’s offensive injury situation. Patterson said Evans and quarterback Max Duggan are questionable to play Saturday while the team’s top receiver, sophomore Quentin Johnston, is “getting closer to playing.” Johnston watched TCU’s game at Texas Tech from the sideline in street clothes. That list doesn’t make it seem like TCU has the personnel available or at the very least at their full capacity to go pass-for-pass with Lincoln Riley’s attack, even if Duggan eventually ends up starting.

“Someone is going to have to play quarterback. I’m not going to play quarterback, and I’m not saying that Max won’t play quarterback, but we have to get ready to go,” Patterson said following his initial comments on Duggan’s health.

The running game TCU displayed against Texas Tech allowed Duggan to throw a career-low 10 passes, for an efficient 8-of-10 for 104 yards and one touchdown. Whether or not Duggan truly is as questionable to play as Patterson indicated, the Horned Frogs offense would move much more comfortably in front of 86,000 fans decked in crimson red with Evans, Miller, and the offensive line leading the way. If TCU’s offense plays to its strengths, who knows what could happen when facing a Sooners squad that has won five of its six games by just one possession.