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Quick Thoughts: Frogs squeak by Bears 34-32

TCU gets to 2-0, but it wasn’t easy.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 11 Cal at TCU Photo by Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

TCU moved to 2-0 on Saturday with a 34-32 win over Cal, and that score is indicative of exactly how close this game was. TCU played an imperfect game, but they did just enough to get the win.

Here are a smattering of my thoughts from the game:

Something isn’t right with the secondary

CJ Ceasar was beaten consistently on deep balls as Chase Garbers threw for 235 yards on just 11 completions in the first half alone. Tre Hodges-Tomlinson lost his man a few times deep too. There were several plays where safeties lost their assignments. This is not the secondary play TCU fans are accustomed to. Losing Tre Moehrig and Ar’Darius Washington at the end of 2020 is taking its toll right now.

The defense adjusted a bit in the second half

All that to say, TCU’s defense turned in a solid second half after an incredibly questionable first half. They held Cal to just seven points and XX yards - but Cal also dropped a few catchable balls to bail out TCU corners. TCU can’t continue to depend on receivers making mistakes in the coming weeks with SMU and Texas coming to town.

That, plus TCU’s entire defense turned its back on Garber multiple times, allowing the QB to rush for huge gains. Garber converted a 3rd and 13 with his legs on a drive that ended with a touchdown in the third quarter to give Cal a 26-21 lead.

He scrambled for 14 more yards, down to the TCU one, late in the fourth quarter as Cal trailed by a touchdown. The next play resulted in a touchdown run from Cal’s Damien Moore. Fortunately for TCU, Moore fumbled the two point conversion before crossing the goal line, maintaining TCU’s 34-32 lead with 4:09 to play.

The play calling was questionable

I don’t understand why you’d come out and be so creative against Duquesne, just to bottle everything up again against Cal. Yes, Cal’s defense is good, but asking Max Duggan to play to his weaknesses (passing deep down the sideline), with no pre-snap motion or routes over the middle makes me curious about who is actually calling the shots on offense (hint: it’s probably Jerry Kill). This leads me to my next point.

Why is it so hard to play to Max’s strengths?

We’ve seen for two seasons now that Max’s touch on deep balls isn’t the best. And yet, TCU’s coaches insist on throwing it deep time and time again, with little to no intermediate passing presence.

The drives where TCU played to Max’s strengths ended (mostly) in points. When they asked him to throw it deep over and over, they didn’t score.

Now I fully understand that Max missed on some open throws today, and he needs to improve there. But we’ve seen the same thing for 2+ years, it shouldn’t be too hard to game plan in a way that sets him up to be successful.

Zach Evans saved the Frogs

A 51-yard touchdown run right before the half made the score a lot closer than the first half felt. The former 5-star recruit showed why he was rated so highly, with 92 rushing yards on nine carries in the first half. He finished the day with 178 rushing yards, helping TCU hold on late.

The OL buckled against good competition

Blocking was an issue in several moments for TCU’s offense, as Cal sacked Duggan three times and forced him to leave the pocked on several more broken plays. They have to get better as TCU enters conference play, but they were sturdy today.

Quentin Johnston is coming into his own

The sophomore had 5 catches for 95 yards and two touchdowns on the day, and he was there when Max needed him most. His catch-and-run 45 yard touchdown to give the Frogs the lead in the 4th quarter was easily one of the most clutch moments of the day.