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TCU 45, Duquesne 3: Quick Thoughts

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The Horned Frogs handled their business in the first game of the 2021 season.

Dee Winters celebrates a tackle late in the first half.
Melissa Triebwasser

How much can you learn from an opener against an FCS opponent? Well, if you look around the first full weekend of college football, things didn’t come easy for some teams against lower level competition, so at the very least, we saw TCU Football come out and handle their business in emphatic fashion.

Max Duggan looked sharp.

Coming into Saturday night, TCU fans wanted to see exactly what they got from their starting QB. He was accurate (14-19), efficient, and in control for the vast majority of the two quarters he played. He threw for a touchdown, ran for another, and outside of an interception in the red zone, made just about every right decision.

The Horned Frogs scored on their first three drives and five of the six orchestrated by Duggan. And those scores were touchdowns. That’s huge.

Hello, depth at wide receiver.

TCU looks to be a legit eight deep at wide receiver, with Quentin Johnston (4-38), Derius Davis (2-57) leading the way, and JD Spielman, Blair Conwright, and Savion Williams all looking like problems. Taye Barber had just one catch but it went for 34 yards, and Marcel Brooks and Quincy Brown both got involved in the passing game.

You love to see QJ get the bulk of the targets in a game where he was an utter mismatch, and though he and Duggan only connected on half of them, the connection seems to be there. Lots to be excited about in that position group.

If you want to pick nits, we have been hearing a lot about these tight ends, and they were not at all involved in the passing game Saturday.

Zach Evans is an absolute dog, but TCU won’t need him to be a one man show

After sitting the first two series of the game, Zach Evans came out as a man on a mission. Though he had just five carries on the night, he ran with purpose, energy, and got in the end zone. We know how good he is and can be, but it’s worth noting what great performances Kendre Miller (8-54 with a touchdown) and Emari Demercado (5-32 with his first career touchdown) added. Also great to see was the return of Daimarqua Foster, who played the bulk of the second half and was a true pain to tackle.

The offensive line looks much improved

It’s Duquesne, so let’s not get too excited, but the Dukes never got all that close to Max — and they shouldn’t. A clean pocket all night is exactly what you should expect in this type of game, but not many people came into tonight thinking that should be the expectation.

Credit where credit was due: they pass blocked great, they run blocked great, and they started the season on a great note.

Now do it against Cal, right?

The new look offense seems fun

So much play-action. So much pre-snap motion. First down throws. Deep balls. I am sure not every trick came out of the bag, but there’s reason to be encouraged by what we saw Saturday night as far as what Doug Meacham’s influence means for the TCU offense going forward.

If you look at the first three or four drives, I think we have a good sense of what the Frogs want to be this fall. And if they can continue to execute that vision, I am very excited about the potential of points.

Ochaun Mathis looks angry. That’s great news.

Mathis had three tackles, a sack, and a TFL, but really, his influence was so much greater than what showed up on the stat sheet.

The way he skulked around on the field and the way he looked at the Dukes... this man is on a mission and he is not going to be denied. I have a feeling the best is yet to come for Ochaun.

Dee Winters is ready to be the man in the middle

Winters was awesome Saturday, both in production — seven tackles and a TFL — and in leadership. He did a great job getting guys lined up pre-snap, reading the play, and reacting correctly. It’s always hard to lose a player the caliber of Garret Wallow, but Winters looks more than ready to step into his significan shoes. And I am really excited about what we saw out of Jamoi Hodge (4 tackles, 1 TFL) and Wyatt Harris (2 QBH) as well.

CB depth is a concern but THT and the safeties were great

Noah Daniels was on the sideline Saturday but didn’t see the field, and as long as he’s not in pads, there’s reason to be concerned about the depth at cornerback.

The Dukes, who lost their starting QB in the first quarter, could not move the ball through the air at all in the first half, but picked up some chunk plays late in the game, with CJ Caesar getting burned for a couple of big completions. Caesar came a long way last season and was great down the stretch, but fell back into some of his old habits Saturday night. With Daniels on the shelf indefinitely and Kee’yon Stewart out at least one more game, shoring up the other side of the field is probably the thing I am most worried about ahead of the Cal game.

That being said, Tre Tomlinson was absolutely dominant, picking up his first interception of the season and a tackle for loss, while not allowing a single completion.

He’s still good.

Special Teams was solid

TCU made their kicks, punted well the one time they had to, and Davis and Spielman were great in the run game.

For now, that looks like a strength.

The Horned Frogs handled their business. We shouldn’t take that for granted. Just ask Washington. We wanted to see a blowout and we got one — we saw a ton of backups including the fourth string QB. That’s good enough for week one.

Bring on the Bears.