TCU has lost two consecutive games after falling 32-27 against Texas this past weekend. The loss concludes a four-game home stretch to kick off the 2021 season, with the Horned Frogs beating Duquense and barely holding off California before falling against SMU in the Battle for the Iron Skillet. TCU will hit the road this weekend to face Texas Tech.
Here are five things we learned from Saturday’s game against the Longhorns.
1. Zach Evans may never see the workload fans want
Bijan Robinson carried the ball 35 times for 216 yards and two touchdowns on Saturday, dominating a TCU run defense that faltered for the second consecutive week. Evans was equally as efficient, but despite totaling 113 rushing yards and a touchdown, the five-star running back only ran the ball 15 times. Horned Frog fans may not see Evans top that workload moving forward, either, with TCU head coach Gary Patterson commenting recently that he wouldn’t want Evans to see a 35-carry load like Robinson.
Gary Patterson stated the obvious today that Zach Evans is likely NFL-bound after his junior season. TCU is trying to keep him fresh and healthy "not only for the 12 games this year, but also for the 12 games next year." https://t.co/bHkcV5moru— Drew Davison (@drewdavison) October 5, 2021
On one hand, Evans clearly has an NFL future and the Horned Frogs could be attempting to reduce his touches in an effort to keep him fresh for his professional career. On the other hand, Evans has been TCU’s No. 1 offensive weapon this season and capping his reps in order to protect his future could cost the Horned Frogs more wins this season. It will be interesting to see how many times Evans touches the ball against the Red Raiders.
2. Max Duggan’s inconsistency has hurt the TCU offense
Losing Quentin Johnston limited TCU’s ability to throw the ball on Saturday, but the Horned Frogs also dealt with more missed throws from Duggan, who was unable to find Evans for an easy completion early in the game and ultimately finished with 182 passing yards on 20 completions. On the bright side, seeing TCU integrate speed receivers like Taye Barber, Derius Davis and JD Spielman into the offense proved to be a positive.
TCU QB Max Duggan: "We can’t feel sorry for ourselves. Going in two weeks straight with a loss is going to suck, but nobody is going to feel bad for us." https://t.co/rsB3ALVCX2— Drew Davison (@drewdavison) October 4, 2021
But the story remains: through four games, Duggan’s inability to connect on critical late-down throws and deep balls has severely limited the overall offensive output. What’s more discouraging is that Duggan hasn’t made his usual impact running the football, mustering only 63 yards on 26 carries in the last two games. Duggan and Evans are the two players TCU has built its offense around and the team will continue to struggle if its junior signal caller can’t find his rhythm against Texas Tech and in games beyond.
3. We still haven’t seen this team at full strength
Defensive end Khari Coleman and cornerback Noah Daniels made their season debuts against the Longhorns, but both only played limited snaps as they continue working their way back into the fold. But the Horned Frogs were without Wes Harris once again, while starting left guard John Lanz exited with an injury during Saturday’s game. Perhaps most notable was the injury that Johnston suffered at the end of the first half.
TCU has the Big 12’s ninth-ranked defense early on this season. Frogs have never finished worse than 4th since joining league (top-ranked D in five of last nine seasons).https://t.co/K0xyrWUkbX pic.twitter.com/TBSGwaiAxw— Drew Davison (@drewdavison) October 5, 2021
TCU had its best performance of the season in terms of its pass defense, restricting Texas quarterback Casey Thompson to 142 yards on 12 completions with one touchdown and one interception. That was without safeties Deshawn McCuin or Bud Clark, TCU’s top two free safeties on the depth chart. The Horned Frogs were also without Corey Bethley once again, which has clearly made an impact on the run defense.
4. Dylan Horton broke out in a big way
The 6-foot-4, 250-pound senior and New Mexico transfer had his best performance with the TCU football team on Saturday, breaking off the outside for the only two sacks of the afternoon by the Horned Frogs. Horton was talked up a lot before the season kicked off and his efforts were key in helping TCU shut down the Texas passing attack. With standout defensive end Ochaun Mathis having only one sack in four games, Horton has provided ample support on the outside and should remain in the rotation upon Coleman’s return.
5. Gary Patterson said Quentin Johnston hyperextended his knee
This should be amazing news for TCU fans, who collectively held their breath when the four-star sophomore receiver went down against the Longhorns. The Horned Frog offense would suffer mightily without its No. 1 receiver, but a hyperextended knee means Johnston should hopefully be back in short time. The 6-foot-4 pass catcher has 12 receptions for 170 yards and two touchdowns through four games this season.