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MMQB: Are We Back?

The Frogs snapped a two game losing streak with an excellent offensive output behind a breakout game from Josh Hoover

BYU v TCU Photo by Sam Hodde/Getty Images

The Frogs got back into the win column on Saturday with a blowout 44-11 victory over the BYU Cougars. The TCU offense had a phenomenal day behind a heavy dose of the passing attack with 59 pass attempts. The Horned Frogs’ defense had a great day as well with a defensive touchdown and an overall lockdown performance. This was the most complete performance the Frogs have had all year and a welcome sight after a tough two weeks.

The Good

Josh Hoover: The redshirt freshman made his first collegiate start on Saturday and was excellent throwing for 439 yards and four touchdowns on 38 completions and 58 attempts. There were plenty of encouraging parts about this start from Hoover but perhaps the most impressive thing for me was his pocket movement. The pass protection was very good, and Hoover made the protection look even better with decisive movements in the pocket to avoid pressure. Watching Hoover climb in the pocket while keeping his eyes downfield and finding open receivers late in the play was a thing of beauty. For a freshman to display that level of trust in his offensive lineman and look calm reading plays all the way through was impressive. Hoover found his third or fourth read a number of times for chunk plays on Saturday which made the play-calling look good. He found backside ins for ten to fifteen-yard gains multiple times which is something that is relatively rare to see from a college quarterback, much less a freshman making his first career start.

I liked Hoover’s confidence in his arm strength to make throws into tight windows down the field. Hoover had trust in the play design that what he was reading was correct and he had trust in his receivers to make contested catches. Hoover did have two interceptions that were both throws into tight windows that resulted in a negative play. When you have an aggressive quarterback who makes great throws with arm talent there will be times when that aggression results in negative plays. Turning the ball over twice is not great but the aggression from Hoover was a big reason the Frogs offense looked better than it has all season. It was encouraging that the coaches recognized Hoover’s aggression was resulting in positive plays much more often than not and did not shy away from play calling. Hoover played a great game and made the pieces around him look even better.

Emani Bailey: Emani Bailey did not have his biggest game stats wise in this one but had a very big impact in the passing game as a pass protector. Last year, Emari Demercado found his way onto the field on third downs because of his ability to be a positive in pass protection. Bailey’s performance on Saturday was very reminiscent of Demercado as Bailey took on linebackers in one-on-one blocks multiple times and delivered key blocks each time. Being a good pass protection running back is a heavily underrated skill to have, and Bailey showed that he is more than capable as a pass protector on Saturday.

Bailey still had a solid day on the ground in a more limited role with a pass-heavy game plan. He averaged over four yards per carry, totaling 61 yards on thirteen carries, and ran very hard as always.

Pass Protection: The TCU pass protection unit returned to early season form on Saturday, allowing no sacks and doing a good job keeping Hoover clean. Hoover was able to make the good pocket movements I talked about earlier because there were very few communication errors and the pocket was kept clean. This was the highest number of straight dropback passes that TCU has run all year and even without the cushion of RPOs the offensive line neutralized the BYU pass rush. Not much to say other than the offensive line had a day.

Savion Williams and JPR: The TCU receivers as a whole had a solid game against BYU and Savion Williams and John Paul Richardson especially stood out. Williams was a player many pegged to take over the WR1 role after the departure of Quentin Johnston to the NFL. While Williams had not been bad by any means, he had not had the statistical production some had predicted. Saturday was different as Williams had a great day with six catches for 77 yards and a touchdown. Williams made a number of contested catches over the middle, using his big frame to box out defenders and make catches through contact. The game against BYU was a representation of what the best version of Williams can be as a big physical receiver who is strong at the catch point and has good speed to keep defenses honest.

Richardson has been the most consistent receiver for the Frogs this season and had arguably his best game of the season against BYU with six catches for 104 yards and a touchdown. JPR was creating separation constantly and running very hard after the catch like he has all season. JPR was a weapon in the screen game, intermediate passing game, and deep passing game. The Frogs got some great performances from their receivers against BYU.

Field Goal Unit: It was very comforting to see the field goal unit have a perfect game on Saturday as Griffin Kell went 3/3 on field goals and 5/5 on extra points. Special teams has been fairly inconsistent for the Frogs this season but Kell and the entire field goal unit was very good on Saturday.

Defense: The defense was excellent for the Frogs on Saturday, letting up only eleven points and forcing two turnovers, and returning one for a touchdown. The pass defense shut down Kedon Slovis, limiting him to just 152 yards, under 50% completion percentage, and forcing an interception. The pass rush was a big factor as the Frogs got home for three sacks but were in the backfield causing issues far more often. Joe Gillispie had a good day dialing up some creative blitzes to create free rushers at the quarterback. The pick-six was partly a result of Shad Banks bearing down on Slovis at full speed after a nice delayed blitz call from Gillispie. Namdi Obiazor and Jamoi Hodge both had big sacks from their linebackers spots and Avery Helm picked up a sack on a nice corner blitz call. The aggressiveness from Gillispie was rewarded in part by a great performance from the TCU secondary. Josh Newton had another phenomenal game with a pass breakup and great coverage overall. Helm was very good in coverage as well on the other side and almost had the second interception of the day for the Frogs. Millard Bradford made a very nice play to jump a route to make the interception and take it back for a touchdown.

While the game script for BYU was pass-heavy because they were losing by double digits for most of the game, TCU did a good job stopping the run on Saturday. The Frogs did a solid job limiting big run plays as BYU did not have a run over 20 yards. Banks continues to impress with excellent closing speed and the ability to shoot gaps and make tackles in the backfield. Damonic Williams caused issues for the BYU offensive line from his nose guard spot and occasionally at defensive end when Gillispie changed up the rotations a bit. This was the TCU defense we expected to see coming into the season, a talented secondary enabling fun blitzes to help pass rush with a solid run defense.

The Bad

Drops: Drops were an issue again for the Frogs as they had five on the day by my count. The most glaring drop was on the fourth down conversion attempt in the red zone on a very well thrown slant route from Hoover. One of the interceptions from Hoover was essentially a volleyball set off the hands of a receiver on a throw that should have been caught. Drops were the one blemish on an otherwise great performance from the TCU offense.

Kick/Punt Returns: The return game on both punts and kicks has not been great for the Frogs this season. The coaching staff either needs to fix a major issue that is holding kick returns back or just look to take more touchbacks. The longest kick return for the Frogs on Saturday was 19 yards meaning every time TCU returned a kick, they ended up not getting to the 25-yard line. Touchbacks are fine, especially with the struggles TCU has had returning kicks.

Punt returns have been inconsistent with the Frogs being unable to find a consistent returner who can calmly catch punts and try and gain yards on the return. The Frogs nearly had another muffed punt on Saturday and are still searching for a go-to punt returner.

Play of the Game

Hoover with a bullet to JPR who showed off great balance and strength to break a tackle and find the end zone.