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MMQB: So Close

TCU’s comeback effort fell narrowly short on Saturday, dropping the Frogs to 4-6 on the year.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 11 Texas at TCU Photo by Chris Leduc/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Frogs’ comeback attempt fell just short on Saturday, dropping TCU to 4-6 on the season with a 29-26 loss to the Longhorns. It was a tale of two halves for the Frogs as they were outscored 26-6 in the first half but stormed back in the second half, outscoring UT 20-3 down the stretch.

The Good

Second Half Fight: Going into halftime, there was not a lot of energy in the stadium. Texas had scored two touchdowns in rapid succession thanks to a TCU interception and the Frogs were down twenty points, having not yet scored a touchdown. The Frogs could have easily come out flat in the second half and let the game become the blowout that many people expected it to be. Instead, we saw a great second-half performance from the Frogs who played with high energy and effort despite the huge deficit to a top-ten team in the nation. The offense played turnover-free football and the defense held a very potent offense to just three points in the second half. There were some missed opportunities and the game will ultimately be remembered as a loss, but the second half against Texas was the best half of football the Frogs have played all year, especially considering it came against a top-ten opponent. Josh Hoover played very well in the second half, finding Savion Williams and JP Richardson for touchdowns and scoring 20 points in the fourth quarter. Hoover was effective pushing the ball down the field with completions of 46 and 42 yards to Jared Wiley and Williams respectively. The Frogs could have easily had four touchdown drives in the fourth quarter had they converted on a first and goal that resulted in a turnover on downs. This was a solid performance from Hoover and the passing offense, especially in the second half. TCU has not had a great season this year and the Frogs could have accepted the loss at halftime, but the fight the Frogs played with in the second half speaks to the character and competitiveness of the team.

Savion Williams: Savion Williams had the best game of his collegiate career on Saturday, showcasing the high ceiling that he has as a receiver. Williams finished with eleven catches for 164 yards and a touchdown and picked up seven yards on one rushing attempt. We saw a little bit of everything from Williams against Texas as he showcased all the parts of his versatile skillset. Williams showed off his athleticism on deep routes down the field, shiftiness after the catch, solid route running, and strong hands to make contested catches. Part of TCU’s issue on offense this year has been the lack of a go-to weapon on critical downs. Red zone offense and playcalling on third downs have been two large areas of concern for Frog fans and I think a big answer to both of those problems should be having more faith in Savion Williams to win on the outside and make clutch catches. TCU needs to find ways to manufacture one-on-ones for Williams when they need a big play. The Frogs saw their opponent do just that to seal the game on Saturday when Steve Sarkisian forced the TCU defense into a one-on-one matchup for AD Mitchell through their formation with the game on the line and it resulted in a big play. I’m not saying Savion is on the same level as Mitchell as a receiver just yet, but Williams can be the go-to receiver for the Frogs in have-to-have-it situations.

Special Teams: TCU special teams played a very solid game on Saturday outside of one punt that went off the side of the foot of Jordy Sandy. Sandy was solid outside of that punt, twice pinning the Longhorns inside the 20-yard line. Griffin Kell made two field goals in two attempts including a 56-yard bomb in the first quarter and made all of his extra point attempts. Kickoff return took touchbacks! Ideally, the Frogs would have a good return unit with an electric returner, opening up the possibility for an explosive return for good field position but TCU just doesn’t have that luxury this year. The UT game was an acceptance of that fact and thankfully, the Frogs settled for the 25-yard line instead of trying in vain to produce a big return and ending up with worse field position. JP Richardson produced some good punt returns on Saturday for the Frogs and appears to have locked up that job for the rest of the season. Positive returns on punts was a step in the right direction as in past weeks, TCU returners had just taken fair catches no matter what to try and prevent a muffed punt at all costs. Special teams was a plus for the Frogs on Saturday.

The Bad:

Missed Opportunities: There were three key missed opportunities on Saturday from the Frogs that if any of them had gone the other way, TCU probably wins. The first of which was probably the most gut wrenching, that being the fumble after the interception by Millard Bradford. Bradford made a great play on the ball on a go route down the sideline as a middle field safety, reading the eyes of Ewers and showing off the range to make the interception. If Bradford hangs on to the ball, the TCU offense has great field position and ideally at least gets three points out of the drive. That would be a six point swing in TCU’s favor considering UT kicked a field goal after the fumble to get the ball back.

The interception thrown by Josh Hoover towards the end of the second half to give Texas the ball back was the second missed opportunity that came back to haunt TCU. UT had just gone on a thirteen play, five minute long drive to score a touchdown and the TCU offense had the chance to respond before halftime. Since TCU got the ball after halftime, this was a prime opportunity for the Frogs to score twice without giving UT the chance to respond. Instead, the Frogs turned the ball over on the first play and Texas promptly scored a touchdown before the half to extend the lead to 20 points going into the break. It is difficult to beat a top ten team as is and it is even more difficult when you give up two possessions in one half.

The third missed chance was another chapter in the constant battle that has taken place this season between TCU’s offense and scoring in the red zone. Toward the end of the third quarter, the Frogs offense got the ball inside the Texas five yard line, and ran four plays from within the five yard line, but could not find the end zone. The play sequence was run to Emani Bailey for a loss of a yard, run to Emani Bailey for three yards, failed goal line fade to Savion Williams, empty formation on fourth and two with no good options resulting in an incomplete pass. The first down run to Bailey was fine. He has been your best offensive player this season and getting him touches in the red zone is generally a good idea. The second down run was a confusing call, considering the next two play calls. The next two plays being drop back pass plays tells me that TCU wasn’t trying to just get closer to set up another run or a goal line formation play action pass. The Frogs watched an inside run play fail on first down and ran a very similar concept the very next play expecting a much different result. Yes, the run gained yards and moved the Frogs up to the two yard line, but throwing fades and drop back passes from the five yard line versus the two yard line does not make much of a difference.

Two costly turnovers and a drive that stalled out on the opponents’ two yard line was the difference in the game on Saturday.

Play Calling Tweaks: The TCU offense had a great second half performance against a solid Texas defense but there were a few easy fixes moving forward that should be made. The first change needs to be to find a way to manufacture touches for Emani Bailey. The Texas defense was always going to be a tough matchup for the Frog rushing attack and it was going to be tough for Bailey to have a big game on the ground. Kendall Briles and the coaching staff need to find a way to get the ball into Bailey’s hands on screens or on regular passes out of the backfield. A great example of a play that would work well was the screen that Texas ran for their running back, Jonathan Brooks that resulted in a 73 yard gain. Bailey has good hands and has shown the ability to be a threat in the passing game and the Frogs need to take advantage of that and get him the ball in space even when the running game is not having a ton of success. If the Frogs never ran the split zone play action pass to Jared Wiley in the flat ever again that would be excellent. I love me some Jared Wiley targets and I think he plays a big role in this offense, but throwing him the ball behind the line of scrimmage and asking him to make DBs miss in order to gain yards is asking for a negative play.

Outlaw goal line fades. That’s all I have to say about that.

The last complaint I have with the offensive play calling came from the first quarter on TCU’s second offensive drive. On TCU’s first drive from scrimmage, they got into third and very long, stalling the drive. On their second drive of the game, they faced third and four, their first third and very convertible of the game. This play should be one of TCU’s best, if not TCU’s favorite third down play call. Something they really feel good about against UT’s third down tendencies, a concept they feel confident that Hoover can read out and make a good throw on. The play that TCU called was inside zone. Emani Bailey was tackled for a loss by the nose tackle. Not great.

Pass Defense: TCU’s pass defense did not have a great game on Saturday. The pass rush was a nonfactor with no sacks and very few pressures. The loss of Johnny Hodges to injury did not help as he allows for more creativity in pass rush concepts, but the pocket for Quinn Ewers was too clean on Saturday. The TCU secondary also felt like it was hanging on for dear life at times. Texas has a very talented group of receiving weapons and the secondary could have used some help from the pass rush, but the Frogs needed to be better on the outside.

Play of the Game

Savion with a nice run after the catch and a crazy hurdle gets play of the game.