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MMQB: Joe Gillespie Masterpiece

In-game adjustments on defense were the real MVP

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 15 Oklahoma State at TCU Photo by Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Frogs came out victorious in double overtime after being down 17 points at one point in the second quarter to a very good Oklahoma State team. The defense started off slow but played their best half of football in the second half and the offense eventually found its groove after halftime too.

The Good:

Second-Half Defensive Adjustments: Really this could be extended to adjustments after Oklahoma State’s first two drives as defensive coordinator Joe Gillespie figured out the Cowboy offense. After the first two long touchdown drives, OSU did not have a drive of over 47 yards for the rest of the game. Their only other nonovertime touchdown was a 47-yard drive in the second quarter that started in TCU territory after kick catch interference on a punt. The running game was completely shut down as Dominic Richardson averaged just 3.3 yards per carry on the game. This success in stopping early down runs forced OSU into obvious passing situations on third downs allowing Gillespie to send stunts and blitzes to help out the pass rush. Jamoi Hodge and Dee Winters both had a sack on blitzes and Sanders had to throw the ball away multiple times due to the pass rush. The adjustment to be more creative in pass rush won the game for TCU as it bought the offense time to find a rhythm and shut down the OSU offense. Another adjustment made by Gillespie was to move Josh Newton around in the secondary on third downs. He would sub in Kee’yon Stewart to play true cornerback and move Newton to a slot corner role so that TCU could get away with playing man on the back end while the linebackers blitzed. When the pass rush flushed Sanders out of the pocket, he had nowhere to go with the ball and was forced to throw it away thanks to excellent coverage by the secondary. Gillespie called and coached a great game on Saturday.

Cornerbacks: Josh Newton, Trevius Hodges-Tomlinson, and Kee’yon Stewart all played well this weekend. Slot cornerback in my opinion is the second hardest position to play in football behind quarterback and Newton was excellent in that role against OSU. With the high number of blitzes being sent, Newton was often asked to play 1 on 1 man against a slot receiver and still excelled. He did give up 1 touchdown but even on that play, Newton was in pretty good position but the receiver made a great catch. Hodges-Tomlinson continued his streak of good performances in coverage and was as tenacious as ever making tackles in run defense. Watching THT fight through blocks from wide receivers to make tackles is a thing of beauty as he plays with so much energy and fight on every down. Kee’yon Stewart has battled through injuries during his time at TCU and it was great to see him play well in a big game much as he did in the Baylor game last year when he made an interception in the end zone.

Bud Clark: Bud Clark came to TCU as a highly touted 4 star recruit and was pegged as potentially the next star safety for the Frogs. On Saturday, Clark saw a much higher snap count in the second half and showed why he had such high expectations coming in. Clark had two pass breakups, an interception, and a tackle in open space playing fast and bringing energy to the TCU defense. The interception was game changing. If Clark doesn’t make that play Oklahoma State has a first down deep in TCU territory, field goal range, where the Cowboys could have extended their lead to two scores late in the 4th quarter. If Clark continues to play like this, the defense for TCU could take a huge step forward.

Quentin Johnston: QJ had his second huge game in a row finishing with 8 catches for 180 yards and a touchdown. Johnston had no problems creating separation against the OSU secondary and then making defenders miss in open space. Johnston’s spin move off the catch is as dirty as any move in college football as he consistently gains an extra 10 yards after catch. The coaching staff is finally finding ways to get their star receiver the ball and it is paying off in a big way. Johnston is playing like the best receiver in the Big 12 and potentially the country which should be terrifying for Big 12 defenses.

Running backs: Kendre Miller and Emari Demercado both played very well on Saturday as the Frogs rushed for over 200 yards against the Cowboys. Miller had 104 yards and 2 touchdowns including the game winner on 22 carries while Demercado was very effective on a lesser workload with 62 yards on 9 carries. Demercado has been one of the best stories for TCU this season as he has earned a significant role in the offense through tough running and excellent pass protection. Demercado is not afraid to take on blitzing linebackers and edge rushers 1 on 1 in pass protection and is very effective in doing it. Miller is a star and continues to dominate opposing run defenses. The running backs for TCU were a big part of the win on Saturday continuing what has been a great 2022 season for them.

Pass Protection: The offensive line faced a very tough challenge against the Oklahoma State defensive front which has been the strong suit of their defense this season. For the most part, they were up to the task on Saturday just letting up 1 sack the whole game. There were a few free rushers let through but Max Duggan had a fairly clean pocket to work. The game plan for the Frogs did not involve a ton of deep shots which was probably intentional to avoid letting the OSU pass rush hit home but the offensive line held up well when TCU did take shots. The offensive line has done a very solid job this year and this game was no different.

Griffin Kell: Griffin Kell had not been called upon much up until Saturday this season, but against Oklahoma State, Kell stepped up multiple times, nailing all of his field goal and extra point attempts. Kell was 3/3 on field goals with a long of 47 and 4/4 on extra points on Saturday, showing Frog fans he can make big kicks when it counts.

The Bad:

Screen game: TCU had been very solid in their screen game up to this point in the season, but the Cowboys largely eliminated that part of the TCU offense on Saturday. There were a couple of things leading to this inefficiency in the offense as yes Max Duggan made some off target throws on screen passes but other factors were at play as well. On screen plays, playside offensive tackles should do everything in their power to stop edge rushers from getting upfield immediately off the snap. The ball will be out quickly on screen passes so getting beat inside should not be a concern and the goal should be to prevent edge rushers from getting into the passing lane. Way too many times on Saturday, an Oklahoma State defender got deep into the backfield right off the snap forcing Duggan to lower his arm slot to try and throw around the defender leading to an inaccurate pass. Ball placement is incredibly important to the success of screen passes not only for the completion to occur but also to allow the receiver to turn upfield quickly after the catch. Yes, Duggan needs to make more accurate throws on screen passes but the offensive line needs to do a better job keeping passing lanes clear as well.

Angles/Awareness on Defense: The defense overall had a great performance on Saturday, but there was room for improvement in the paths TCU defenders took to try and tackle ball carriers and overall awareness of the ball. The first two touchdowns OSU scored were Spencer Sanders runs where the defense forgot that Sanders was a threat to run. The first run was a scramble where Johnny Hodges was covering a running back in the flat and didn’t see Sanders running. The second was a quarterback draw where multiple defenders whiffed in open field due to poor angles taken and late reaction time to the draw. Cowboy running back Dominic Richardson had a couple of big receptions on screen passes where the defense could have stopped him but took poor angles again. Sanders had a couple other runs where he gained extra yards from TCU defender mistakes along with a nasty pump fake that fooled Dee Winters. Sanders is a very good athlete and is very explosive with the ball in his hands but the defense will need to improve this before next week when Adrian Martinez and Deuce Vaughn come to town. Vaughn absolutely has the ability to embarrass defenders in open space and Martinez ran all over OU in Norman leading K-State to a win earlier this season. Containing them better than the defense did Sanders and Richardson early in the game will be key to a Frog win.

Play of the Game:

Give me the game winner for the play of the game. Electric.