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Keys to the Game: Mind the Gap

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If the defensive players just execute the game plan, the Horned Frogs should be okay Saturday night.

Keys to the Game Melissa Triebwasser

The Horned Frogs are a .500 team as we hit the halfway point of the season, and their remaining schedule is full of tough road games against solid teams — at Kansas State, at Oklahoma State, and at Iowa State, and a home date with Baylor that looks tougher and tougher by the day.

But before that, West Virginia comes to town, in a Homecoming matchup that feels like as much of a must-win game as you can have for a team in October of a season in which bowl eligibility feels more like a goal than a promise.

To beat the Mountaineers shouldn’t take moving mountains... this isn’t the best WVU team the Frogs have faced, but that rarely seems to matter in this rivalry. TCU needs to do their jobs and execute the game plan, and if that happens, hopefully they will end the festivities with a dub.

MIND THE GAPS

The Frogs defensive front has been as porous as a piece of swiss cheese, and the disappointing thing is that teams can run right at the line without having to fear a lot of resistance.

I know full well that I’ve never played the game and I don’t claim to be a schematic expert, but you don’t have to spend hours studying all-22 to see how easy it is to exploit the (lack of) gap defensive in the Frogs’ front six. It’s basic assignment football, and TCU isn’t executing it on the defensive side of the ball.

Patterson spoke about simplifying his scheme a few weeks back, and it seems to be the correct approach. The talent is there — take off the playbook governor and ask your guys just to play football. That’s a thing, right?

DON’T LOOK BACK

There has been much wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth this week as we lamented TCU’s decision to punt from the Oklahoma 38 down three scores but with the chance to build some momentum.

I happen to think it was a terrible decision; even on fourth and medium to long, you’re likely only giving 10-20 yards of field position back to the Sooners if you don’t convert, and the way Quentin Johnston was dominating, don’t you think he has a good chance to go up and make a play on a ball and get the nine yards the Frogs needed? Anyway, that’s not the point — my fear is, Gary Patterson didn’t go for it then because of what had happened early in the second quarter, when TCU failed to convert on fourth and two from the OU 30 down 14-7.

That was the right decision, and it wasn’t even a terrible play call, it just didn’t work. That’s okay! But you can’t tighten up when something that is indeed good goes badly and never do it again.

Unless it’s the Wild Frog, of course.

TURN UP THE HEAT

This defense isn’t going to be good in 2021, that’s too high a bar to reach. But they look so much more competent when the pass rush is clicking. With Khari Coleman looking healthier by the week, Ochaun Mathis has begun to break out, and had a career night against Oklahoma.

I expected to see a few more creative blitzes from GP in Norman, but as we said earlier, simplicity might be the key to success here. So, let Ochaun and Khari go crazy and hope the interior line can hold their own. Getting Doege behind the chains and having a man in his face will go a long way to a TCU victory.

FIND QJ

Zach Evans is TCU’s best player when he’s on the field, but Quentin Johnston is making his own case to that title week by week. What he did against Oklahoma was utterly insane: we’re talking Josh Doctson level dominance.

With Max Duggan hobbled by a broken bone in his foot and looking to run a little less, he leaned hard on his best receiver, and Q was there time and time again. It looks like Evans should be good to go Saturday, so if TCU can get both of their top weapons engaged — and include a healthy dose of Kendre Miller/Taye Barber/Derius Davis/et all... well, the offense should be able to outscore what the defense allows.