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MMQB: Frustration

TCU lost its second game of the season behind an abysmal second half showing from the offense.

West Virginia v TCU Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

The Frogs dropped their second game of the season after a second-half disaster where the Frogs were held scoreless. TCU looked lifeless for large stretches of this game and was the less physical team on Saturday leading to a defeating performance and a loss. Mental errors and an inability to score points from successful drives led to TCU losing despite outgaining West Virginia by almost one hundred yards. After two consecutive solid games against SMU and Houston, this game killed all momentum for the season.

The Good:

JP Richardson: JPR was one of the few bright spots on the offense on Saturday as he had 3 catches for 80 yards and a touchdown. Richardson was forcing missed tackles and trying to create some explosiveness in an offense that had none in the second half. He has been the most reliable receiver for the Frogs so far this season. The long touchdown catch on TCU’s first drive of the game was electric even if the game that followed was not.

The Secondary: The back end of TCU’s defense had a strong game against the Mountaineers on Saturday holding Garrett Greene to a completion percentage under 50% and only 146 yards with no touchdowns. Abe Camara had a solid game in coverage with an athletic play to break up a pass. Avery Helm has looked excellent since the Colorado game and that continued on Saturday as he was very good in coverage. Bud Clark was inches away from coming up with another interception on a play where he read Greene like a book and ran the route for the receiver. The secondary was very effective in pass defense even with a lack of a pass rush for most of the game and kept TCU in the game by making West Virginia fairly one-dimensional.

Run defense (for the most part): The run defense for the Frogs was fairly solid as well on Saturday. They were strong on runs inside the tackle as they have been all year and did a much better job defending outside runs this week than they did against SMU. Jamoi Hodge led the team with 10 tackles and Shad Banks played another strong game with Johnny Hodges still out with an injury. Namdi Obiazor continues to look like a potential star at linebacker with great speed and coverage skills. The goal line stand at the beginning of the fourth quarter was phenomenal and the Frogs held CJ Donaldson to 61 yards on 22 carries. The one weakness in the TCU defense on Saturday was the quarterback run as Garrett Greene picked up 80 yards and two touchdowns on twelve carries. Part of the issue was the pass rush not staying in their rushing lanes, allowing Greene to easily escape from the pocket and pick up chunk plays with his legs. Joe Gillespie drew up some effective blitzes that flushed Greene from the pocket but without a quarterback spy and with the secondary in man coverage, there was no one to contain. When TCU runs stunts or sends blitzes, there needs to be an adjustment made to account for mobile quarterbacks to either keep someone back as a spy or for the pass rushers to stay in their rushing lanes. Only letting up 24 points in a game where West Virginia consistently had excellent field position was a solid showing from the defense.

The Bad:

Offensive Line: The TCU offensive line got manhandled on Saturday. There is no other good way to describe it. A rushing attack that had been the heartbeat of the offense up to this point in the season was stuffed on Saturday. Emani Bailey, who ranked near the top of the NCAA in forced missed tackles coming into the game, was held to 55 yards on 19 carries, good for an average of 2.9 yards per carry.

Chandler Morris was sacked five times by the West Virginia defense and it could have easily been seven factoring in an intentional grounding call and Morris barely throwing out of a sack at the end of the game. Miscommunications were incredibly common as free rushers were constantly coming through the A gap. In pass protection, an offensive line’s first responsibility is to secure the A gaps as they are the fastest route to the quarterback. Multiple plays in one drive where a defense gets an untouched defender through the A gap is inexcusable. Execution was not there either as players were just getting beat in pass protection and there was little to no movement on run plays. The West Virginia front was simply more physical and better prepared and it shut down the TCU offense, especially in the second half.

Special Teams: Special teams were a mess for TCU on Saturday. 0-3 on field goals can’t happen. Whether the two blocked field goals were because of the offensive line getting blown up at the line or because the kicks had too low of take-off angles, you cannot have two blocked kicks in a game. Field goals have been inconsistent all year with a conversion rate getting very close to 50%.

The defense was constantly put in tough positions because of the excellent field position for the Mountaineers after punts. Absolutely yes, some blame should go to the offense for not being able to move the ball but West Virginia had THREE drives start on TCU’s side of the field, not due to turnovers, but after punts. I think Jordy Sandy is excellent at pinning opponents back and landing punts where he wants them. He also does a great job limiting returns on his punts with very good hang time. But he had two of five punts travel under 40 yards on Saturday and they were both in situations where a touchback was not a concern.

Returns were also an issue with one West Virginia punt hitting off of a TCU helmet and the Frogs were lucky that was not a turnover. Jojo Earle also dropped a punt that should have been left to go into the endzone for a touchback. The Frogs returned two kicks, neither of which made it back to the 25-yard line. The Frogs also committed a late hit out-of-bounds penalty on a punt, gifting West Virginia an extra fifteen yards. Special teams have to be better for TCU to win close games.

Second-Half Offense: The Frogs scored zero points in the second half. The offense gained a grand total of one yard in the third quarter. TCU had no answers once the running game was taken away. Chandler did not play his best game, missing multiple go balls down the sideline with throws that were yards overthrown. There were also misses in the short areas that are generally his strength. The pass rush kept him uncomfortable all game and he was not confident while reading the field. He and his receivers were just not on the same page at all in the second half.

Kendall Briles had no answer for how to generate yards without the running game. There was a lack of creativity with bland play calling and formations. RPOs are generally a huge part of the TCU offense, but with the rushing attack being ineffective, RPOs were also in turn ineffective. All three touchdowns happened on big plays, not necessarily sustained drives. The special teams should have done a better job on field goal attempts, but field goals are failures in college football. TCU has not done a very good job this year converting good drives into touchdowns and this game was no exception. In fifteen games last season, Griffin Kell attempted nineteen field goals. Through five games in 2023, Kell has attempted thirteen field goals already and would be on pace for 39 in a fifteen-game season. Offensive creativity was lacking and the Frogs could not move the ball without the running game.

Lack of energy: Perhaps the most disappointing part of the game on Saturday was just a lack of energy the entire second half. It was a night game against a good in-conference opponent and the crowd was fairly silent the whole second half. This was not the fans’ fault either, there was just no energy from the offense in the second half. The defense played with some fire, especially on the goal line stand, injecting a little bit of life back into the stadium but the lack of success on offense was defeating. This was very reminiscent of the 2021 home game against West Virginia where it felt like the life was sucked out of the stadium.

Play of the Game:

JPR starting the game off with a bang.