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Three up, three down: missed tackles and mojo

I start with the three down for the first time ever *sigh*.

TCU receiver Taye Barber (4) comes down with a contested catch in the 2021 Battle for the Iron Skillet.
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You know things for TCU football are bad when former Horned Frogs get involved in the disappointments on Twitter.

Former TCU safety Derrick Kindred, who spent five years in the NFL, called the game, “one of the worst efforts in TCU history” in a tweet that has now been deleted.

Several other former Frogs, including Josh Carraway, chimed in on one of the all-around, most pathetic performances from a TCU squad in recent memory.

Though it was only an eight-point loss, the Frogs, frankly, got out-played. With that in mind, let’s go over my three up, three down for the week.

Three down:

1. The defensive line

My goodness, this unit has been downright horrendous for TCU this season. The defensive line had just one sack (Ochaun Mathis against Duquesne) entering the game, and that number did not change on Saturday.

In the game, the defensive line recorded just 10 pressures on SMU quarterback Tanner Mordecai, and five of those came from Mathis alone.

So yea, TCU gave Mordecai all day to throw, but that’s not even the worse part of the defensive line’s performance.

For most of the game, the Frogs looked like wet pieces of paper trying to stop the run, giving up 350 total rushing yards to the Mustangs. As a team, SMU averaged 6.7 yards per carry.

Running back Ulysses Bentley IV (dope name) rushed for 153 yards and a touchdown, while teammate Tre Siggers added 110 yards of his own. After his dominant performance against TCU, Bentley IV is now ranked as the top running back on Pro Football Focus with an astounding 90.0 offensive grade.

What may be even worse is that Mordecai, who probably runs a 5.10 40-yard dash, ran for 37 yards and a touchdown on just four carries. His 72.6 run grade on the game was leagues better than any he had produced all season, even against FCS-opponent ACU.

Not to take any names here, but the interior of TCU’s defensive line was by far the worst part of the worst part of Saturday’s performance. Defensive tackles Patrick Jenkins, Earl Barquet, Terrell Cooper, and Kenny Turnier combined for more missed tackles (5) than they did overall quarterback pressures (4).

It will take lightyears more than that from the TCU defensive line if the Frogs want to be competitive against Texas and the rest of the Big 12.

2. T.J. Carter

To be fair, T.J. probably had more on his plate than anyone else for TCU on Saturday, given that Patterson had him switching between cornerback and safety all game.

Sadly, though, Carter was unable to wake up a Frogs defense that looked asleep for most of the game, and he was actually one of the main culprits in one of TCU’s worst attributes against SMU.

By far the most glaring issue with Carter’s game was his inability to make tackles in the open field. Though he did record six tackles (third on the team), he also missed four, leading to an abysmal 28.2 tackling grade on Pro Football Focus.

TCU missed 20 tackles as a team.

To add to that, he and the rest of the TCU secondary failed to record a single pass breakup on the day (though Deshawn McCuin did intercept a pass).

On the bright side, though, Carter did not give up a catch on the two times he was targeted, and his coverage was, generally, pretty good (60.4 coverage grade).

Another thing to prop Carter on is that he did play 72 snaps in the game, which ranked second among any member of the Frogs’ secondary behind Tre Tomlinson (81).

3. Quentin Johnston

Wow. This one might hurt the worst. Quentin Johnston is one of TCU’s brightest young stars, but he just did not have it on Saturday.

Johnston was targeted five times and did not record a catch, though one was called for pass interference.

Though he technically didn’t have any drops, Johnston needs to be better for TCU’s offense to find rhythm, especially given that he has typically been a security blanket for quarterback Max Duggan with big play potential.

There are so many excuses for Johnston’s absence from relevancy on Saturday (pass interference, low accuracy passes, double teams, etc.); but if he is going to be one of the league’s top wideouts, he needs to work on his ability to gain separation so that he can have an impact in close, important games.

Not to mention, the sophomore also recorded a false start penalty. It just was not his day.

4. Honorable Mentions

Cornerback C.J. Ceasar was targeted six times, and he gave up four catches. On one of those catches, Ceasar was absolutely baptized for a touchdown by Jordan Kerley.

Safety LaKendrick Van Zandt missed three tackles while also giving up five catches on the six times he was targeted in the game.

Despite having an outstanding interception in the first quarter, linebacker Dee Winters missed three tackles of his own while also giving up three catches on the four times he was targeted.

See a pattern? The defense was pretty pathetic on Saturday.

Three up:

1. Taye Barber

After getting just four targets through the first two games, it looked like receiver Taye Barber was fading out of TCU’s wide receiver rotation.

On the contrary, Barber was one of the few Horned Frogs who actually balled out in the Battle for the Iron Skillet.

The sophomore caught all five of his targets (each of which went for a first down) for a team-high 114 yards and a score.

Needing an answer for SMU’s second-straight drive with a touchdown, TCU went to Barber on their second drive of the game, as Duggan hit the receiver for a 60 yard pass over the middle that would set up a touchdown two plays later.

Then, late in the fourth quarter, TCU put their trust in Barber again. Duggan hit Barber three times on the Frogs’ final offensive possession, with the last one being a 21-yard score that showed off the wideout’s ability to catch under pressure.

The touchdown was undoubtedly TCU’s most impressive catch of the year, and Patterson even called the reception “outstanding” in the postgame press conference.

Following a miserable, confusing loss to their crosstown rival, TCU will need to lean on veterans like Barber to get back on their feet.

2. Tre Tomlinson

TCU’s most decorated defender had somewhat of a slow start to the 2021 season. The junior gave up three catches for 98 total yards against California, begging the question of whether or not he’d be able to return to dominant form this year.

Tomlinson shut down those worries on Saturday. The cornerback was only targeted twice in the entire game, and the one catch he gave up was a screen that he blew up for a loss of three yards.

He also did a great job of having his teammates’ backs, recording six tackles while missing zero. Not to mention, he did all of this while tying with Dee Winters for a team-high 81 snaps on defense.

To put it simple, Tre Tomlinson is a lockdown workhorse, and he’s just as good as we all expected.

3. Zach Evans

There is not much to say about Zach Evans that has not already been said. The man is good at football, and the game looks too easy for him.

On Saturday, Evans took 15 carries for 115 yards for an impressive 7.5 yards per carry. He has now recorded two-straight games of 115-plus yards, both of which he averaged 7.5 yards per carry or more and both of which he averaged over four yards after contact.

The equation is simple: Zach Evans plus a handoff equals production. Every. Dang. Time.

What was perhaps even more impressive, though was Evans’ performance as a pass catcher. The sophomore had three catches for 70 yards and a touchdown.

Early in the second quarter, Duggan dumped a pass off to Evans, who took it 46 yards to the house with barely a touch from the SMU defense.

Evans then “proposed” with the football to TCU offensive tackle Andrew Coker after the score, which was just about the only good thing that happened for Coker in the game (I won’t even go into why. I’ve dogged on enough people already in this article).

The only thing that was concerning about Evans on Saturday was that he only got 18 total touches (15 carries, 3 receptions). Patterson mentioned that Evans’ fatigue was the reason he didn’t take the 4th-and-1 carry that Kendre Miller was stopped short on. In general, though, it feels like Evans needs the ball more.

If the Frogs give Zeke the looks he deserves against Texas, the Evans versus Bijan Robinson matchup on Saturday could be one of the best running back battles in the nation all season.