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TCU vs. Cal: 5 Things We Learned

The Horned Frogs will enter their first bye week with a 2-0 record after Saturday’s thriller with the Golden Bears.

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

TCU went down to the wire with California this past weekend in the rematch of the epic 2018 Cheez-It Bowl. While there were far more points scored this time around, Horned Frog fans rejoiced as their team emerged with a 34-32 victory over the Golden Bears to remain unbeaten on the season. TCU will enter a bye week before hosting SMU on Sept. 25.

Here are five things we learned from Saturday’s Cheez-It rematch in Fort Worth.

1. Zach Evans is THAT DUDE

The five-star running back showed TCU fans why he’s such an exciting prospect Saturday afternoon, carrying the ball 22 times for a career-high 190 yards and scoring on a 51-yard touchdown run before the end of the first half that helped the Horned Frogs mount their comeback. Evans has been extremely efficient since arriving in Fort Worth, averaging 8.0 yards per carry through TCU’s first two games after totaling 7.7 yards per carry in 2020.

Head coach Gary Patterson said after the victory that he’d like to limit Evans to roughly 12 carries per game, but given what the standout sophomore has produced already, capping his touches may be easier said than done. Evans will look to continue rolling against SMU.

2. Max Duggan still has some growing pains

The junior quarterback turned in a resilient effort against the Golden Bears on Saturday, recovering from an ugly start to throw for three touchdowns while rushing for one more. Duggan finished 17-of-31 for 234 yards while running for 71 yards on 19 carries. His one turnover was a bad pick-six that led directly to a California touchdown.

While Duggan grew more confident in the short-to-middle area of the field, his deep balls were inconsistent, something that will have to improve with wide receivers like Savion Williams, J.D. Spielman, Taye Barber and Quentin Johnston at his disposal.

3. Noah Daniels needs to come back ASAP

TCU was without its redshirt senior cornerback on Saturday, and his presence was sorely missed. With C.J. Ceasar in the starting lineup once again, California quarterback Chase Garbers threw his way for most of the game, connecting on multiple deep routes that frequently left the Horned Frog cornerback in the dust. Ceasar finished the 2020 season strong, but Saturday’s matchup against the Golden Bears was not one of his best efforts.

Daniels was one of the highest-graded corners in 2020 before suffering a season-ending injury. Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson has performed well over the team’s first two games in 2021, but adding Daniels to the fold will solidify a secondary that struggled to cover deep routes against the Golden Bears.

4. TCU needs to increase the pass rush

Defensive end Khari Coleman was also out for Saturday’s game against California and Patterson said he could be back for the SMU matchup. With Coleman out, TCU struggled to put any pressure on Garbers, with linebacker Dee Winters and safety La’Kendrick Van Zandt recording the team’s only two sacks of the contest on blitzes.

Defensive tackle Terrell Cooper returned to the rotation on Saturday, while Coleman should be back sooner than later. But with players like Ochaun Mathis and Dylan Horton returning on the edge and stout defenders like Patrick Jenkins, Corey Bethley and Kenny Turnier inside, TCU has too much talent to not get after the opposing team’s quarterback.

5. Gary Patterson owns the Pac-12

TCU’s win over California improved Patterson’s record against Pac-12 teams to 8-0. The victory comes on the heels of a recent report that the Pac-12 seriously considered extending invitations to TCU and Houston before its commissioner released a statement that the conference would not consider expansion at this time.

The Big 12 got the best of the Pac-12 last week as well, with Kansas State taking down Stanford 24-7. Another interesting nugget to consider is that the current and future members (BYU, Houston, Cincinnati and UCF) combined to finish 10-1 this past weekend.