For the second straight week, the Frogs battled back from a three-score deficit against a top-25 opponent and came out victorious. The Frogs scored 28 unanswered points and shut out the Kansas State offense in the second half on their way to a 10 point victory. Adjustments on the defensive side of the ball were again incredibly important and again a certain safety was subbed in more in the second half providing energy and big plays for the Frogs.
Bud Clark: That safety was of course Bud Clark who came in and made an interception in a big spot for the second straight week. Clark jumped an out route that the Kansas State quarterback threw too late forcing a turnover deep in Wildcat territory. The TCU defense has not forced a ton of turnovers this season and playing a safety with obvious skills to make plays at the catch point could be a solution. Clark has been a sparkplug for the team the past two weeks and should see a significant uptick in playing time. Clark has demonstrated that he is one of the best coverage safeties on the team and should continue to be on the field even when Millard Bradford returns from injury. Bradford is very good in coverage as well and that duo seeing time together on the field could take the defense to another level.
Max Duggan: Max Duggan is tough. TCU fans have known this for years as he has played through multiple injuries during his time at TCU including a broken foot during the 2021 season. On Saturday, Duggan showed competitive fire once again, willing to run through contact to pick up an important first down late in the game and hanging in the pocket and making accurate throws in the face of unblocked defenders. Duggan had an excellent game on Saturday finishing with 280 yards and 3 touchdowns with a completion percentage of 65%. Duggan was accurate to all areas of the field but especially in the intermediate passing game. A perfect through to Derius Davis on a dig route led to the games first points as Davis was able to make the catch in stride and outrun the KState secondary for a touchdown. Another example was a third down completion on a glance route to Geor’Quarious Spivey in traffic. Jared Wiley was also a recipient of a few nice throws over the middle from Duggan as the Frogs spread the ball around on Saturday. The Mad Max revenge tour continues.
Running backs: The rushing attack was very effective for the Frogs on Saturday as both Kendre Miller and Emari Demercado averaged over 5 yards per carry against the Wildcat defense. Miller was especially dominant with 153 yards and 2 touchdowns on 29 carries demonstrating his elite balance once again with a multitude of missed tackles. There were plenty of times where Miller met contact in the backfield but was able to bounce off of it or spin out of it and pick up a solid gain. Demercado’s improvement as a runner has quietly been one of the driving forces behind TCU’s explosiveness on offense. Demercado has been an excellent pass protecting back for TCU the past few seasons, leading to him seeing the field on third downs. In the past when Demercado was brought in, teams could prepare for a drop back pass without worrying too much about stopping the run as Demercado was almost exclusively used for pass blocking. Now, with Demercado demonstrating that he is a capable runner that can punish on the ground, offensive coordinator Garrett Riley is able to disguise his play calls better as Demercado can be used to pass block for a deep shot or to gain tough yards on the ground. Demercado’s versatility as an offensive weapon has allowed the coaching staff to be much more creative in their playcalling and play sequencing.
Adjustments again: Another week, another dominating second half performance from the TCU defense. Defensive coordinator Joe Gillespie again responded to a strong first half from an opposing offense by shutting out the Kansas State offense in the second half. Will Howard is a very different style of quarterback than Adrian Martinez and the entry of Howard into the game threw the TCU defense for a loop in the first half. KState was able to get ball carriers into open space repeatedly and take advantage of missed tackles by TCU defenders. Deuce Vaughn was especially effective in the first half and Gillespie responded by taking TCU defenders out of one on one coverage on Vaughn. Gillespie also responded to the replacement of Martinez with more of a pocket passer in Howard by dialing up more blitzes as they did not have to worry as much about the quarterback run. The Frogs’ ability to adapt to opposing offensive gameplans has been excellent this year and this game was no different.
Jared Wiley: Jared Wiley’s emergence as a very reliable threat as a receiver at tight end has been another underrated component of TCU’s offense this year. Much like Demercado, Wiley brings versatility to the TCU offense as a strong run and pass blocker as well as receiving threat. When Wiley is in at tight end and Demercado is in at running back, the Frogs have the option to go into a max protect call and take a deep shot down, run the ball with Demercado behind a strong run blocker in Wiley, or simply run a straight drop back pass as Wiley has demonstrated that he is a weapon as a receiver. Wiley had 5 catches for 74 yards and a touchdown on Saturday and continues to be a big part of the TCU offense in multiple ways.
Two back sets: The Frogs used two running back personnel more than they had all season on Saturday as Trent Battle was on the field with Emari Demercado and Kendre Miller often. This seemed to give a boost to a rushing attack by giving the KState linebackers different looks and adding an element of misdirection without having to use jet motion. Two back sets are also another way for the Frogs to get into max protection for deep shots without making it super obvious. Battle, Miller, and especially Demercado are all capable pass protectors and with two of them in at running back, TCU could get into max protection while still having the threat of running the ball. This year’s offense features much more variety and innovation that succeeds in keeping defenses off balance compared to some of the more outdated offenses the Frogs have run in the past and the increase in two back sets was another example of that on Saturday.
Trevius Hodges-Tomlinson: THT had arguably his best game of the season on Saturday with an interception and a couple of tackles as well. Hodges-Tomlinson was excellent in coverage against a solid KState receiving corps led by Malik Knowles. He was rarely targeted and one of the only catches he gave up arguably should have been called offensive pass interference for a push off on a back shoulder fade to Malik Knowles. His interception was an excellent play where he jumped an in route and picked off Will Howard in Wildcat territory. Hodges-Tomlinson is an excellent open field tackler and that was no different on Saturday as he made multiple plays on ball carriers at or behind the line of scrimmage. Hodges-Tomlinson received national recognition, being named a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe award this week and his performance on Saturday certainly deserved the recognition.
Injuries: Injuries suck. There were a number of KState and TCU players that went down on Saturday which no one ever wants to see. Hopefully, none of those injuries were long term and those players can get healthy soon.
First quarter/first half: Most of the first half was not very fun for TCU fans. The defense had no answers for the change at quarterback for Kansas State. The linebackers were asked to play man coverage on slot receivers and running backs and struggled mightily. Deuce Vaughn ripped off a long touchdown run where he was largely untouched. The offense sputtered a bit after the Derius Davis touchdown catch and special teams. Kansas State kept the ball out of the hands of Max Duggan and the TCU offense in the first half by controlling the clock and forcing a couple of short drives ending in punts. The first half was the exact formula for Kansas State pulling off the upset in Fort Worth. Thank goodness for halftime adjustments.
Dropping 8 on third and long: For the most part, Joe Gillespie has done a great job playcalling and coaching the defense in game this year. One area for improvement is his tendency to get conservative sometimes on 3rd and 4th down and long. This was not just an issue in the Kansas State game as for example last week on the 4th down and long in the first overtime for Oklahoma State, TCU dropped 8 into coverage and Spencer Sanders was able to find a hole in the coverage over the middle for a first down. Oftentimes, aggressive blitzes have forced the opposing offense into those unfavorable situations and on these crucial downs, TCU will drop 8 players into coverage with just the 3 down lineman rushing the passer. The strength of the TCU defensive line is not it’s 1 on 1 pass rush ability and the strength of the linebackers for TCU is not pass coverage. Both of these issues are hidden in part when linebackers blitz and a stunt is run on the defensive line try and generate pressure and give man coverage assignments to defensive backs. Blitzing has worked well for the Frog defense and Gillespie needs to trust it on crucial downs.
Play of the Game:
Duggan to Johnston bomb cleared for launch.