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TCU vs. Oklahoma: 5 Things We Learned

The Horned Frog offense picked up the slack without Zach Evans, but the defense remains a big problem in Fort Worth

TCU v Oklahoma Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images

With five-star running back Zach Evans and several other players sidelined with injuries, TCU saw quarterback Max Duggan push through his own pain for his best performance of the season, throwing for 346 yards and four touchdowns. Sophomore Quentin Johnston also turned in a spectacular performance, catching seven passes for 185 yards and three scores, but the defense let the Horned Frogs down once again in a 52-31 loss against Oklahoma.

Here are five things we learned from the Saturday evening matchup in Norman.

1. Quentin Johnston plays grown man football

Using his 6-foot-4 frame to his advantage, Johnston took advantage of the smaller Sooner defenders several times on Saturday, making Randy Moss proud with multiple catches over the back of his opponents and doing enough to be recognized on the ESPN broadcast.

It was a season-best performance for the former four-star receiver, who hadn’t caught a touchdown pass since recording two against California on Sept. 11. After missing the matchup against Texas Tech with a hyperextended knee, Johnston looked spry and explosive on Saturday, beating Sooner defenders on both short and long routes down the field. With Evans and fellow running back Kendre Miller battling injuries, Johnston will need to step up over TCU’s next few weeks if the Horned Frogs want to bounce back.

2. Max Duggan’s toughness should be commended once again

Duggan has dealt with injuries and health issues throughout his career, but the former four-star quarterback has always refused to come out of the game in critical moments. With news that a foot injury suffered against Texas Tech could linger for the remainder of the season, Duggan hasn’t shown any signs of faltering and his play down the stretch will be paramount for a Horned Frog football team looking to avoid back-to-back losses again.

What will be interesting to see is how much the foot injury will impact Duggan’s ability as a runner. Throughout his career at TCU, Duggan has shown breakaway speed and playmaking ability with his legs, but the Horned Frogs may lean more on their running backs and the passing game with Duggan sporting a bad foot. Duggan finished Saturday’s game with 45 rushing yards on eight carries and he’s been held to one rushing touchdown this season.

3. Injuries are continuing to pile up on both sides

TCU entered Saturday’s game without Evans as well as wide receiver J.D. Spielman and offensive lineman Wes Harris on offense. Kendre Miller earned the start, totaling over 100 yards and a touchdown before sustaining an injury of his own. Defensively, pass rusher Khari Coleman and cornerback Noah Daniels are continued to work on limited reps, but TCU was without linebacker Wyatt Harris and free safety Bud Clark.

Even worse, strong safety La’Kendrick Van Zandt and standout corner Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson were each knocked out with injuries. Four-star corner and redshirt freshman Keontae Jenkins filled in admirably, but starter C.J. Ceasar continued to play poorly and TCU’s defense was no match for the Sooners, who racked up 525 yards on offense. With six more Big 12 games to play, TCU will need to get healthy, sooner rather than later.

4. Ochaun Mathis turned in his best game of the year

TCU’s leading pass rusher had struggled to muster much entering Saturday’s game, totaling only one sack in five contests. But Mathis stepped up with a two-sack performance against the Sooners, finishing with seven total tackles along the way. With injuries depleting the Horned Frog secondary, generating a pass rush will be paramount for TCU moving forward.

5. TJ Carter could be TCU’s most significant defensive player moving forward

A main reason the Horned Frogs added Carter through the transfer portal was his plug-and-play ability. While Carter spent a lot of time at cornerback during his career at Memphis, he started this season as TCU’s weak safety, but he could see more time at corner with Daniels playing limited snaps, Tomlinson suffering an injury and Ceasar getting burned consistently.

Carter was tested on Saturday, getting called for multiple pass interference penalties as he attempted to track down Oklahoma wide receiver Marvin Mims on deep balls. Carter did lead the Horned Frogs with nine total tackles after recording 12 total tackles in the victory over Texas Tech. TCU’s defense has struggled to tackle as a whole, but Carter has been one of the lone exceptions and his play will be huge for the Horned Frogs down the stretch.