TCU moved to 2-0 this weekend with a comfortable 59-17 win over the Tarleton State Texans in Fort Worth. Tarleton made the jump to D1 football in the 2020 season but was by no means a guaranteed win. The Frogs avoided making the same mistake that Texas A&M, Notre Dame, and Nebraska all made on Saturday overlooking an opponent and took care of business.
Max Duggan: After a very underwhelming game for the passing attack against Colorado in week 1, Max Duggan exploded for 390 yards and 5 touchdowns through the air. Duggan started off in rhythm with a nice completion to Quentin Johnston on a glance route on the first play from scrimmage and never looked back. In past seasons, Duggan has struggled with touch but demonstrated a much better feel for velocity on his throws. One part of playing quarterback that is vastly overlooked is the ability to throw checkdowns accurately to where the receiver can immediately turn upfield and run and Duggan did an excellent job of doing that on Saturday. Duggan went through his progressions faster than he ever has during his time at TCU and was confident taking shots down the field when they were open. 15 different players caught passes for the Frogs on Saturday as Duggan and Sam Jackson did a good job of spreading the ball around too. This was a big step in the right direction from Duggan who projects to be the starter for the foreseeable future with Chandler Morris’ injury.
Jordan Hudson: TCU’s leading receiver on Saturday night was true freshman and former 4 star recruit, Jordan Hudson. Hudson finished with 5 receptions for 76 yards and a touchdown, demonstrating great chemistry with Max Duggan. One specific play stood out as Duggan was forced out of the pocket to his right and Hudson recognized the situation and made his way back towards the line of scrimmage to give his quarterback an easy target to hit on the move. Hudson also flashed great ball tracking ability with an over-the-shoulder contested catch on a go route down the sideline. You can never have enough weapons on the outside in the modern age of football and Hudson appears to be a very dynamic threat at receiver already.
Offensive Line: A key to the Frog’s offensive explosion on Saturday was that the offensive line, for the most part, did a great job giving Duggan plenty of time to make reads and deliver throws from a clean pocket. Additionally, when the Frogs played occasionally with more tempo there were no false starts or completely blown assignments. Pre Snap mistakes kill momentum and make trying tempo pointless and this week the offensive line showed they are up to the task if offensive coordinator Garrett Riley wants to mix in a more up tempo offense.
Pass attempts: The glaring weakness in the game against Colorado was the inability to move the ball consistently through the air. The new coaching staff clearly noticed this and used the game against Tarleton State as an opportunity to work on this problem. In past years, fans have complained about the reluctance of the coaching staff to use easier games on the schedule as an opportunity to develop the passing attack. Sonny Dykes and Garrett Riley showed no hesitation airing it out on Saturday as TCU quarterbacks threw the ball 34 times combined. Not only does this give the offense more of an opportunity to develop chemistry and timing but also shows confidence in the quarterbacks from the coaching staff. Playing with confidence and decisiveness is essential to playing well at quarterback and allowing Duggan to let it fly on Saturday was a great way to instill the right mindset heading into the bye week.
Josh Newton: The defense for the Frogs played well overall but Newton especially had a standout performance this weekend. Newton won the starting cornerback job across from Trevius Hodges-Tomlinson in camp and showed why against Tarleton State. He had an interception along with a nice pass breakup and made a few tackles as well. Beau Allen, the quarterback for the Texans, made a few very nice throws and was a former 4 star recruit originally enrolled at Kentucky. Allen, however, did not have much success throwing at Newton as he was very solid in coverage against a tall and athletic receiving corps for Tarleton State.
Students’ Section: Despite it not being a super high-profile matchup on Saturday, the students’ section was packed. TCU basketball proved how much of an advantage energy from the students can provide as the players fed off of it last season and the students’ section on Saturday definitely brought the energy. The students have been consistently showing up to games and filling out their section even if the rest of the stadium isn’t sold out and that trend continued on Saturday night.
Early Down Red Zone Play Calling: The play selection for most of the game was good for the TCU offense but it seemed like every early down play in the red zone was a basic inside zone handoff. The success rate of these play calls was very low and left the offense in obvious passing situations on third down. The play calling on those downs was excellent as we saw tight ends for TCU get targets in the red zone for the first time in what feels like all eternity. However, waiting until third and long to start getting creative in the red zone is not a recipe for success against better teams. I think it could be a case of the coaching staff not wanting to show too much of their red zone offense against Tarleton State and they have a better plan for future games. The Frogs have the talent at the skill positions to make things happen in the red zone with a number of big targets at tight end and wide receiver. Hopefully, Riley will take advantage and stray away from the somewhat bland play calling of years past.
Defending Go Routes: TCU’s defensive secondary had a few lapses against Tarleton State on Saturday as Beau Allen made a few good throws on go routes for chunk plays. The coverage was never bad or blown on these routes but an area for improvement during the bye week is the DBs working on taking advantage of the solid positioning they had when the ball was in the air. This issue showed up in the Colorado game at times as the Buffaloes were able to get a few chunk gains on go routes down the sideline. Luckily, the defense was very solid outside of this issue on Saturday following a dominant performance in Week 1 at Colorado. This issue is fixable as it isn’t so much of an athletic issue as it is an awareness of when to turn and play the ball.
The Frogs have a bye this next week before traveling across the metroplex for a much anticipated game against the SMU Mustangs. Why the SMU game was set to be played at 11:00 am I have no idea as this is the most anticipated Battle for the Iron Skillet in recent memory.