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MMQB: Defensive Disaster

The Frogs miss out on bowl eligibility after letting up 69 points to Oklahoma last Friday.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 24 TCU at Oklahoma Photo by David Stacy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Frogs lost their final game of the season this past Friday, falling to 5-7 on the year and missing out on earning bowl eligibility. TCU let up a whopping 69 points and over 600 yards of total offense to Oklahoma. It is tough to win football games when your opponent scores 69 points, much less on the road against a top-fifteen opponent.

The Good:

Josh Hoover Settling In: TCU started off very slow on offense. Their first two drives resulted in punts and Hoover started 3-9 on those first two drives. The Frogs then had a stroke of good luck from an OU muffed punt and that seemed to spark Hoover and the offense as they would go on to score 49 points the rest of the game with Hoover completing 29 of 39 attempted passes the rest of the game. The Frogs started the game taking shots down the field and Hoover missed a few of those throws by multiple yards.

Credit to the coaching staff for recognizing the need for Hoover to get in rhythm and calling shorter, confidence-building passes before going back to throws down the field. Hoover finished with 344 yards and four touchdowns through the air along with one touchdown on the ground. He did have one pick that was an off-target throw, but that ball would probably not be thrown if the game hadn’t already been decided.

The conditions were not in Hoover’s favor either. It was a cold, windy day in Norman, Oklahoma, not ideal weather for any quarterback but Hoover showed off the arm strength with throws that cut through the cold air and mostly maintained a tight spiral through the wind. Hoover also demonstrated great resilience to start slow and still find a way to get back on track and play a very good game overall, even when playing in a very hostile environment.

Frog fans should be very encouraged by what they saw from their Freshman quarterback on the road at Oklahoma this weekend.

Emani Bailey: Emani Bailey is far and away the offensive MVP for the Frogs this season. Bailey had another great game against the Sooners, racking up 150 yards and a touchdown on the ground on 21 carries, good for an average of 7.1 yards per carry. Bailey also picked up a touchdown through the air on a screen pass where he made a couple of nice cuts on his way to the endzone. Bailey finished with four catches for 24 yards and a score. It was great to see the Frogs find ways to get him the ball outside of just straight handoffs.

Bailey has shown the ability to be a pass-catching threat and this was the best job the TCU coaching staff has done this year taking advantage of that ability. Bailey was also very strong in pass protection which was key against a defense that likes to send creative pressures and blitzes with their linebackers. High priority should be placed on trying to keep Bailey for one more year on campus before he inevitably departs for the NFL.

Jojo Earle: Jojo Earle was a player many had circled as a breakout candidate for the Frogs after he committed to TCU as a transfer from Alabama. While he hasn’t had quite the year many expected him to, this game was a showcase for the talent that earned him the offseason hype. Earle had his best game of the season with four catches for 94 yards and a touchdown. Earle’s ability to create separation through good route running has never been in doubt and that was fully evident against OU as he was routinely wide-open creating easy throws for Josh Hoover.

What had sometimes been questioned was Earle’s hands as he sometimes struggled with drops at Alabama and earlier this season at TCU. That was not an issue against the Sooners as he made a couple of very nice catches including a diving catch on a slightly misplaced ball from Hoover. Earle also showed off the great top-end speed he possesses, accelerating well to turn a simple slant route into a big 48-yard gain for the Frogs.

This game was a great way to end the season for Earle and should create some momentum going into the offseason and into next season for Earle to be an impact player moving forward.

Jared Wiley: Jared Wiley finished his college career with a bang, catching eight passes for 39 yards and two touchdowns. TCU’s struggles in the red zone have been well documented this season and Wiley seemed like an obvious answer to fans as a big target who could make contested catches in the compacted space of the red zone. The Frogs took advantage of their red zone weapon against the Sooners, twice finding him in the end zone for scores.

It was great to see Wiley have a solid final game in college as he moves on to what will hopefully be a long and successful NFL career as a tight end who can make catches, pick up yards after the catch, and be a plus blocker.

The Bad:

The Defense: It was bad. It was very bad. The TCU defense let up 62 points on Saturday (seven were from the pick-six). Oklahoma is a very good football team with a potent offense but 62 points is awful. The Sooners could do whatever they wanted on offense. Gavin Sawchuk averaged 5.9 yards per carry on his way to 130 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. Dillon Gabriel averaged over ten yards per pass attempt.

Not ten yards per completion. Ten yards per ATTEMPT. The Frogs could not stop the big play as Oklahoma had completions of 59, 53, and 50 yards along with runs of 41 and 40 yards. While TCU did have two sacks, that stat feels a little misleading as it pertains to the Frogs’ pass rush because Gabriel had plenty of time to throw all game. TCU did try to blitz but had no success, largely due to the fact that their blitzes were wildly uncreative. Almost every time a TCU linebacker walked up the line before the snap, that player blitzed in the gap they were lined up in. There was no disguising where the pressure was coming from.

TCU also didn’t run any stunts. The Frogs simply relied on players beating one one-on-one pass protection to get pressure. TCU doesn’t have the personnel this year for this to be a viable strategy to begin with but even if they did have the personnel, why wouldn’t you want to make it easier on your pass rushers and disguise pressure or create confusion with stunts? One argument would be that you can’t defend the run as well when you run stunts but TCU wasn’t defending the run well even without the stunts. OU rushed for over 200 yards on Friday, its not like the lack of stunts was causing OU to be one-dimensional.

TCU coaches have said defensive struggles have come from youth at defensive line. This is partially true because the Frogs lost their two starters at defensive end from last year, but moving forward it is hard to see why high-profile defensive line recruits would want to play in a system where they rarely have a chance to truly rush the passer since TCU only plays three down lineman.

Additionally, OU was the latest TCU opponent to recognize that the Frogs play quarters coverage a vast majority of the time and take advantage of that. Deep posts were not defended well by the TCU secondary once again. Drake Stoops ate TCU alive on underneath routes because TCU’s safeties were so far off the ball, they couldn’t come down to defend him. This was an abysmal defensive performance all around especially when considering the high expectations that were placed on this unit that returned seven starters from a year ago.

Special Teams: Special teams were once again an issue for the Frogs. The Frogs tried their first fake punt of the season and it failed miserably. TCU again tried to return kicks with no success, averaging just 21 yards on kick returns due in large part to struggles in blocking. Major Everhart did a good return of 32 yards along with a facemask penalty against OU so I will give him credit for that.

I think Everhart can be a very good return man as he is an explosive athlete with breakaway speed and the ability to force missed tackles, but the Frogs have just not done enough blocking-wise this season to warrant trying to return kicks as opposed to just taking touchbacks. TCU also missed an extra point early in the game. What was supposed to be an area of strength this season has been a consistent issue for the Frogs this year.

Penalties: Yet again the Frogs committed more penalties and gave up more penalty yardage than their opponent. Winning close games is dependent on not making avoidable mistakes and TCU has consistently shot themselves in the foot with avoidable penalties this year.

Play of the Game:

Finding creative ways to get Emani Bailey the ball in the red zone? I like it.