TCU got absolutely exploited on the defensive side of the ball by an SMU team that is known for making opponents pay through the air. But the most disappointing part of Saturday’s “effort” wasn’t the wide open receivers running down the field, but the complete and total inability to tackle against a bevy of Pony running backs that had nearly 200 yards in the first half — including over 100 by Ulysses Bentley.
TJ Carter was moved to cornerback before the game, and while he was solid in coverage, it led to communications throughout the afternoon. The Mustangs picked up yardage in chunks both on the ground and through the air, averaging over eight yards per play through the first 30 minutes, and took advantage of a holding penalty to open the second half that had the Frogs starting inside their own redzone and ultimately fumbling at the three to set the Ponies up for a score. Penalties were a problem all game, with the offensive line absolutely killing drives with holds, false starts, and utter collapses in the second half.
TCU is not [necessarily] a bad team, but they sure looked like one for much of Saturday.
Let’s dive in to our quick thoughts:
- Max Duggan is limited as a quarterback. You aren’t going to have guys more wide open than they were in the second half against SMU, but time and time again TCU’s quarterback missed the throws. Sure, some of the balme falls on the wide receivers (at least the drop in the end zone by Savion Williams), but at the end of the day, does anyone trust Duggan to consistently make defenses pay over the top? The two fumbles weren’t great either, and while I love the way he runs the ball, I don’t know if that’s enough to elevate TCU back to contention. He did throw some nice balls in the intermediate game, but he and the play caller don’t ever seem to be on the same page. As our friend @statsowar says, if you don’t have a QB to run your system, get a new QB — or change the system. Something has to give here.
- The TCU defensive line has problems. Ulysses Bentley is a really good running back, but the Horned Frogs allowed him to look like an All American in Fort Worth Saturday. The defensive line was atrocious against the run, allowing Bentley to eclipse the 100 yard mark in the first half and giving the Mustangs 352 total yards on the ground over the course of the game. Bentley finished over 150 and Tre Siggers soared past the century mark too. Bijan Robinson has probably gone over 50 yards just reading this.
- The secondary... is bad. Moving TJ Carter to cornerback, where he played for four years at Memphis, did not solve TCU’s defensive backfield issues. At all. Carter was fine in coverage, but the safeties absolutely fell apart when it comes to communication, allowing free releases and free runs to SMU wide receivers all damn day long. Tre’vius Hodges Tomlinson had a really nice game, but one man alone can’t stop this SMU passing attack.
- Really, the defensive effort was disturbing all day. I haven’t seen this poor of execution on that side of the ball in... I don’t know how long. When your head coach is known for defense, when it’s the thing we’ve been able to count on for two decades, it’s weird to see them look so lackluster and unmotivated, let alone unable to execute simple things like tackling. At halftime, Landry Burdine reported that Patterson said the defensive line practiced poorly all week and it was showing. You’ve got like ten guys that can play on that line. If the starters aren’t playing well, put someone else in there! And coming off of a bye week? C’mon, man.
- There were some nice pressures by linebackers and the secondary throughout the day, and when they pressured Mordecai — and got home — good things happen. TCU had three interceptions on the day, but turned those picks into just three points, despite Wyatt Harris taking the third one down to the 16 yard line. The Frogs left so many points on the board Saturday, and even when the defense put them in good position, the offense couldn’t finish the job.
- The offensive line couldn’t block three or four all day, and racked up penalty after penalty. It’s been a problem for several years now, and despite TCU putting multiple players in the NFL from that unit, it’s not working. Period.
- TCU put together a nice scoring drive late to cut the lead to one score, but the defense couldn’t stop the run when they needed to, allowing SMU to four minute drill their way to a win. A fitting way for this one to end.
- This is one of the absolute worst losses I can remember over the last decade. SMU is a good football team, but we made them look like world beaters. To get literally run over like that? Humiliating. The trench mob got drilled into submission on both sides of the ball. There was no fight, no pride, no intensity. This is a bad L, plain and simple, and the Horned Frogs deserve to have to hold it all week long.
In my frustration, I forget to include the good thing.
That good thing is Zach Evans.
Zach had a huge first half, eclipsed the 100 yard mark early in the second, but somehow finished with just 18 touches.
Zach is awesome, plays his tail off, runs hard, runs over people, runs through tackles, and cares.
He deserves better.