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Keys to the Game: The pass defense can’t be secondary

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The potent Ponies’ passing attack could present perilous problems for a porous TCU secondary.

Keys to the Game Melissa Triebwasser

Listen, I am really proud of that dek, so if you didn’t read the sub-heading, please go do so now. It’s fine, I will wait on you.

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Okay now that that is out of the way, TCU Football, fresh off of a bye week, looks to run their record to 3-0 in what is the 100th meeting of the Battle for the Iron Skillet. This isn’t your father’s SMU Football program though; the Ponies, at 3-0, present one of the most potent passing attacks that the Horned Frogs will face this season along with a pair of wide receivers that might be second only to Oklahoma when it comes to pure talent and pro potential.

And for good measure, a damn good tight end and a pretty good running back to boot.

Phew.

I was pretty bullish on the Mustangs initially, and then Rashee Rice had to go and fire me up. Rice is a nice player — a three star receiver out of NRH who is probably a little upset that he didn’t snag an offer from his hometown team. And he’s had a nice start to his season too, albeit against ACU, UNT, and La Tech. But for a lot of TCU fans, the best thing he did was get us to care about this game, as the younger generation has found fewer reasons to get fired up for a series that’s 17-3 in its last 20 in favor of the Frogs.

But the fans being fired up won’t get TCU in the win column Saturday, it’s going to take a lot more than that. Let’s fire up the Keys and see how the Frogs come home with a dub.

Park the Mustangs

This offense can really roll, and it starts with the passing game. Reggie Roberson, Danny Gray, and the aforementioned Rice are all really good players in their own right; in fact, esteemed NATIONAL FOOTBALL WRITER Shehan Jeyarajah had this scorching hot take:

Challenged: issued.

Now will it be expected?

We don’t need to rehash the failings of the secondary over the first two games of the season, but the fact is, far less talented receivers than what the Ponies can roll out there have had their way in the passing game. You aren’t going to lock this trio + Grant Calcaterra down, but you can maybe contain them. Just limit YAC and don’t give them anything over the top, and that’s enough to keep the Frogs in the game.

Let Zach Eat

Gary Patterson had his young running back on the equivalent of a pitch count through the early portion of his career, and the plan had been to ease him in this season. Until Cal happened.

Evans had a career-high 22 carries and became the de facto workhorse against the Golden Bears, as Doug Meacham and co leaned on their star back. That’s got to be the recipe Saturday as well, as Evans’ touches should approach 30 in total.

Look, the SMU defense is not very good, having allowed nearly 125 yards per game at almost four yards per carry to three pretty bad teams. Zach alone could — and should — surpass that per game average, and a heavy dose of Kendre Miller should help the Frogs eclipse the 200 yard mark. I also image Max Duggan will do some strategic running, and expect him to be successful in that area as well.

Speaking of Max...

Man, if Duggan and Q can finally click, the deep ball should certainly be there. While, in my opinion, Evans is the key to opening things up, if Max can’t connect over the top, his opportunities could be limited as well. Duggan has to find the touch and stretch the D, taking advantage of a wide receiving unit that could match the Ponies for production.

Duggan does so many things well and has moxey to spare, but he has to be successful before winning time or TCU could find itself in a big hole early, much like the last time these two teams met. TCU does not want to be playing catch up, and you know Sonny Dykes and SMU have no plans to take their foot off the gas if the opportunity arises.

Make the Skillet matter

I know there are still quite a few Frog fans that have a hard time getting fired up for this game. But thanks to Rashee Rice, we now have to defend the honor of TCU Football, Gary Patterson, and the entire city of Fort Worth.

I know that the game is early, that it’s going to be hot, that the Mustang fans are trying to red out section 121... but if y’all aren’t letting Rice and the rest of the Ponies hear it for four hours, well... I will be very disappointed in you.

Let’s have some fun and #BeatSMU!