Night game. Expanded stadium. Cut grass. Crisp uniforms. Full crowd. FCS opponent. Duggan dimes. Frog win. Football back.
What else could you ask for?
The Horned Frogs returned to the football field against the Duquesne Dukes on Saturday, and it was glorious.
Regardless of who TCU was playing, it was great to see the Frogs playing a real opponent in a real game in front of a real crowd for the first time since November 29, 2019.
With that in mind, my three up, three (this week only two) down series is back; so let’s see who improved their stock with TCU Football over the weekend.
1. Max Duggan
With the infamous Sony Cumbie off to Texas Tech, it felt like you could tell a real difference with the way the TCU offense operated on Saturday, and that was most evident with quarterback Max Duggan.
Duggan looked cool, confident, and in-control as the Frogs called for a pass on 10 of their 13 plays on the opening drive.
The junior completed six of theses passes, with the most impressive coming on a 4th-and-5 situation midway through the possession.
Duggan stood strong in the pocket, waited for the play to develop, and hit receiver Quentin Johnston for 10 yards to keep the drive alive.
Despite the game being against an FCS opponent, it felt like Doug Meacham and Jerry Kill trusting Duggan to make that throw on fourth down represented a shift in the tide in the lackluster, boring offense we’ve seen from TCU since 2018.
Duggan finished the day 14-for-19 with 207 yards and a late-first half touchdown to receiver JD Spielman.
The third-year signal caller’s one mistake came on a missed read over the top in the second quarter.
Receiver Taye Barber said on Tuesday that he consoled Duggan following the play and that he was glad the quarterback was getting to learn from his mistakes early.
Higher-level opponents to come will tell us more about just how far Max Duggan has come, but for now, Frog fans have to be excited about what they’ve seen.
2. JD Spielman (plus the whole receiving core)
Because of an injury that sidelined him after the third game of the 2020 season, many people forgot just how good wide receiver JD Spielman was at Nebraska before he transferred to TCU.
Third all-time in receptions (170) and receiving yards (2,546) for the Cornhuskers, Spielman showed off a little of that elite wideout ability with a nasty 16-yard touchdown on Saturday.
After catching a screen from Duggan, Spielman broke through four tackles on the way to the endzone for his first touchdown in the purple and white.
Not enough can be said about how valuable Spielman’s experience (sixth-overall year) and speed will be for this TCU offense.
The Frogs’ receiving core as a whole is about as stacked as can be this season, and that was on full display against the Dukes.
Ten different receivers caught a pass in the game, with senior Derius Davis leading the way with 57 yards receiving and sophomore Quentin Johnston leading the team with four total receptions.
LSU-transfer Marcel Brooks also made his first two receptions as a wide receiver in the game, finishing with 16 yards overall.
3. Dee Winters
Plain and simple: this guy is dang good at football.
Replacing Garrett Wallow is no joke, but the 12 starts that Winters has under his belt heading into this season has the junior prepped to do a pretty great job.
Winters led the Frogs in tackles on Saturday with seven, four of which were solo and one of which was for a loss.
More impressive, though, was the way that Winters seemed to just be everywhere, reading the field well and making the right decisions consistently.
Patterson has said consistently throughout the offseason that he feels good about Winters and that his main focus has been filling the other linebacker position.
Like Spielman, Winters’ abilities both in his play and in leadership will be key alongside young linebackers like Wyatt Harris and Jamoi Hodge.
Three (two) down:
1. CJ Ceasar II
I’m going to keep this section short, because the Frogs looked near flawless for the most part on Saturday.
Listen, man. I hate to keep putting Ceasar on the burner. He’s probably a good guy who works really hard.
In fact, Patterson said last week that Ceasar looked better than any other corner at the beginning of fall camp.
BUT, the Dukes’ one big play on Saturday came on a 37-yard pass on which Ceasar got spun around and Duquesne receiver Cyrus Holder made a great snag.
If TCU can’t get Noah Daniels back at cornerback, it could be another long year of Big 12 receivers making Ceasar salad.
2. Quentin Johnston
This isn’t harsh criticism. Quentin looked largely great on Saturday, and there is not TCU player that I’m more excited about this season.
Nevertheless, Duggan had a specific deep ball to Johnston late in the second quarter that got broken up by the Duquesne defender.
The play was undoubtedly pass interference, but it is those exact moments that I want Johnston to make tough plays that I know he CAN make.
Once again, I’m not roasting Q, but I just want him to grow into an all-time TCU receiver, and plays like that are the ways to do it.