The Frogs suffered their first loss of the season on Saturday in heartbreaking fashion to Kansas State 31-28 in overtime. TCU once again had to come back from a double-digit deficit in the 4th quarter to force overtime but lost on a game-winning field goal after failing to score in their offensive possession in overtime. Despite the loss, TCU earned an invite to the college football playoff and will face the number 2-seeded Michigan in the Fiesta Bowl.
Max Duggan, Heisman Finalist: Saturday’s performance in the Big 12 championship game was the biggest display of toughness I have ever seen in college football. It was very clear that Max gave it everything he had to try and win the game on Saturday, especially in the drive to tie it up in the 4th quarter where he rushed for 95 yards. The Frogs were behind the chains multiple times on that drive, including a 1st and 25 after one of the worst offensive pass interference calls I have ever seen. Each time, Duggan finished with 251 yards passing, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception along with 110 yards and a touchdown on the ground. A lot of attention will go to the final drive in regulation, and rightfully so, but I also want to give credit to Duggan for sticking in the pocket and making some great throws before getting drilled by the Kansas State pass rush, multiple times. One that sticks out was a 51-yard completion to Quentin Johnston late in the 3rd quarter where Duggan released the ball with a free rusher right in his face. Duggan led the offense to a decent day scoring wise despite a rushing attack that was inconsistent all game and pass protection not being very good. He was very accurate on deep balls especially, with multiple completions to QJ deep down the field, a good throw to Jordan Hudson that was called back on the offensive pass interference call, and a few nice passes that were dropped for what could’ve been chunk plays. Max has more than earned his invite to New York as a finalist for the Heisman trophy and should win the Heisman this season in my opinion. Duggan has led his team from a 5-7 season last year to a college football playoff appearance and an undefeated regular season. He has 36 total touchdowns, 3,321 yards passing, and over 400 yards rushing so far this season. #HE15MAN
Quentin Johnston: Johnston was dominant on Saturday once again for the Frogs, finishing with 4 catches for 139 yards on the day. His impact went beyond those stats, as he drew multiple pass interference penalties against the Wildcats. Johnston combines his immense physical talent with very solid technique in route running to create separation and put himself in position to take use his size to make contested catches. His ability to run the go route is especially impressive as he demonstrates refined footwork in stacking the cornerback on vertical routes to give his quarterback room towards the sideline to fit the pass. Johnston did have a fumble on Saturday after a catch, but his good plays far outweighed that one mistake and he was a huge part of TCU’s offensive success as usual.
Taye Barber and Jared Wiley: Taye Barber and Jared Wiley have served the very important role of being great safety blankets for Duggan when the Frogs need a conversion or a completion. Barber has arguably the best set of hands on the team and showed that off again on Saturday with a huge catch through a big hit from a Kansas State defender to convert a 4th and 10 to set up a field goal to cut the lead to one score. Barber’s ability extends just beyond being a safety blanket as he has great speed and route running ability to create separation and make explosive plays but his consistency and dependability were on full display on Saturday. I’d also like to take a moment to appreciate the excellent play design on his touchdown catch, as the Frogs motioned Barber from outside receiver into a condensed slot alignment to give him the leverage to beat his defender to the goal line. Wiley also has great catching ability and a huge catch radius standing at 6 foot 7. Wiley’s height allows Duggan to throw him passes that only he can catch and Wiley does an excellent job using his size to box out defenders and make those catches. Wiley did this multiple times on Saturday, finishing with 4 receptions for 28 yards including a great catch that he made from the ground after slipping during his route.
Shadrach Banks: Starting linebacker and Big 12 defensive newcomer of the year Johnny Hodges did not play against Kansas State due to injury, meaning that Shadrach Banks saw a significant increase in playing time against the Wildcats. Banks played very well on Saturday, leading the team in tackles with 10 total, including 1 for loss. Banks has tremendous athleticism at the linebacker position and has played very well when given the chance this year in this game and against Texas when Dee Winters was out for a half due to targeting. Banks has the size to be effective in the run game and solid fluidity and quickness to be effective in pass coverage as well (remember the 2021 bayLor game winning interception). The former wide receiver is still learning the position and has improved a lot over the course of the season and should be a big part of the defense moving forward.
Dylan Horton: Dylan Horton has been the most effective pass rusher all season for the Frogs and Saturday was no different as Horton had 2 sacks to go along with 5 tackles. His impact was bigger than just those two sacks however as he was consistently creating havoc in the pocket, making Kansas State quarterback Will Howard uncomfortable, contributing to some off target throws. Horton’s development into a very good pass rusher has been a very underrated part of TCU’s defensive turnaround as he is now up to 6 sacks on the year.
Goal Line/Red Zone Playcalling (outside of the touchdown pass to Taye Barber): Getting stopped at the goal line on two consecutive plays in overtime is going to haunt Frog fans for a long time. Kendre Miller is an excellent running back and has been incredible for the Frogs this season and probably scored on the 3rd and goal run in overtime, even though he was called short. That being said, the only consistent way the Frogs had picked up yards on the ground on Saturday was through scrambles and designed runs by Max Duggan. The Kansas State defensive line played very well and there just was not a ton of movement up front from the TCU offensive line. A QB sneak or QB power on either 3rd or 4th down would’ve been nice to see considering Duggan’s legs was how the Frogs got to overtime and down within the 1 yard line. Kendre Miller is awesome but taking the ball out of you Heisman finalist’s hands on two consecutive plays with the game on the line was interesting.
OLine: The offensive line has had a markedly better season than they did a year ago and have improved throughout this season as well. They are generally pretty effective in the running game at both zone and gap run blocking schemes. This game, unfortunatley was a tough one. Max was getting hit constantly this game as the Kansas State pass rush had a great game against the Frogs. The Wildcats only recorded one sack, but they were constantly in the backfield, forcing Duggan out of the pocket or getting quarterback hits just as Duggan released passes. Kansas State has a very good defensive line, including the Big 12 defensive player of the year at edge rusher in Felix Anudike-Uzomah but the pass protection has to be better for the Frogs to have success in the playoffs. There were multiple times that Kansas State was able to generate pressure by just rushing 3 and dropping 8 defenders into coverage. If a defense can generate solid pass rush while dropping 8 players into coverage, pretty much any offense is going to struggle.
Play of the game:
Max Duggan=Iron Man