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Football: Questions remain as TCU defeats Nicholls 41-6

The Horned Frogs are in the win column, but struggles persisted on both sides of the ball.

Nicholls v TCU Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

TCU football returned home and secured its first win of the season Saturday evening, defeating Nicholls 41-6 and moving to 1-1 overall. Despite the lopsided score, TCU struggled on both sides of the ball, with penalties and red-zone turnovers persisting while the Horned Frog offense was unable to consistently move the football. The Colonels committed several self-inflicted errors, dropping five passes and totaling seven penalties for 45 yards, many of which came on false starts and delay-of-game fouls. After recording 541 total yards against Colorado last weekend, TCU finished with only 442 total yards in the win over Nicholls.

TCU’s first touchdown came on special teams, with Trent Battle blocking a Nicholls punt attempt and Blake Nowell returning the ball 24 yards to the end zone. The Horned Frog offense stumbled out of the gate, however, punting on its first possession and coming up short on a fourth-and-8 down where offensive coordinator Kendal Briles drew up a 6-yard slant route to wide receiver Jack Bech, who was tackled short of the line-to-gain. After a three-and-out on TCU’s next possession, the Horned Frogs finally found the end zone of offense, with Morris scrambling for a 32-yard touchdown. Morris had an efficient outing on Saturday, rushing seven times for 66 yards while completing 26-of-30 passes for 263 yards and two touchdowns. Nicholls seemed to control the line of scrimmage in the run game, however, holding the Horned Frogs to 129 rushing yards on 37 carries (3.48 yard average).

A 30-yard punt return from JoJo Earle and a 23-yard jet pass to Jordyn Bailey set up a 14-yard touchdown pass from Morris to Jaylon Robinson early in the second quarter. The Horned Frogs started gathering steam as the quarter progressed, but after another strong drive highlighted by a 24-yard pass from Morris to JP Richardson, Morris was forced to exit the game after having his helmet dislodged on a scramble. Josh Hoover took over for one play and committed an egregious error, fumbling the ball and giving Nicholls possession inside their own red zone. The Colonels then used 13 plays to move the ball into TCU territory and kick a 40-yard field goal to get on the scoreboard. TCU closed the first half with another special teams gem, as Griffin Kell kicked a career-long 57-yard field goal. Kell, who went 2-for-2 on field goals and 5-for-5 on PATs, helped TCU take a 24-3 halftime lead.

TCU’s offense once again struggled out of the game to start the second half, going three-and-out on its first possession before Nicholls navigated another lengthy drive to kick a 47-yard field goal. Presented with a fourth-and-2 on its next drive, TCU attempted another cute play behind the line of scrimmage, but the Colonels snuffed it out and tackled Robinson for a 3-yard loss to retake the ball. TCU bounced back on its first full possession of the fourth quarter, as Morris connected on multiple passes including 16-yarders to Thompson and Emani Bailey as well as a 19-yarder to Earle, who would score on a 4-yard touchdown pass to conclude the drive. With Savion Williams and Dylan Wright sidelined for the game, it was Thompson who emerged as the go-to receiver, compiling eight receptions for 92 yards.

Several freshmen made plays on defense late in the fourth quarter, where safety Randon Fontenette delivered a huge hit and corner Vernon Glover snagged an interception to set the Horned Frogs up for a 41-yard field goal from Kell, who booted the ball through the uprights after multiple penalties, including an illegal block that took away a touchdown, killed a promising drive for the first unit. The Horned Frogs forced a fumble on the next Nicholls possession and sophomore safety Chace Biddle recovered to give TCU prime field position once again. The Horned Frogs failed to capitalize, though, with Hoover re-entering the game and throwing a bad interception directly to the Colonel defensive back. Nicholls moved the ball into TCU territory on its second-to-last drive of the game, but a pair of TCU defenders including freshman Markis Deal combined for a sack to end the possession.

TCU iced the win with a 34-yard touchdown pass from Hoover to Jordyn Bailey, who had three receptions for 61 yards in the contest. The Horned Frogs will travel for their first Big 12 game of the season next Saturday, when TCU will take on the Houston Cougars, who fell to transfer quarterback JT Daniels and the Rice Owls in a double-overtime affair last night.