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Quick Thoughts: TCU Football 36, Houston 13

Horned Frogs earn convincing win in Big 12 opener

TCU v Houston
Emani Bailey powered the Frogs with 149 total yards and a TD in victory over the Houston Cougars
Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Lockdown Defense

Through 18 games with Joe Gillespie as Defensive Coordinator, the most frequent challenge has been creating pressure on QBs , however the defense has cause fits for athletic running quarterbacks and hassled Houston’s Donovan Smith all night Saturday. TCU brought Smith down for six sacks and forced two interceptions, while holding his completion percentage under 50% and erasing his dynamic running ability for four yards on 12 attempts. As a team Houston ran for just 55 yards on 2.0 yards per carry. While the defense again benefitted from some costly drops from Cougars pass-catchers, just as it did last week vs. Nicholls, the goal is to keep the opponent out of the endzone and the unit did its job on Saturday. The TCU defense held the opposing offense without a touchdown for the 2nd consecutive game, again only allowing a pair of field goals, while the only Houston TD came on a Matthew Golden kickoff return. Outside of kickoff coverage, the tackling was vastly improved across the board on Saturday. Notable sure stops from Abe Camara, Mark Perry, Shad Banks, Namdi Obiazor, added to an outstanding performance from Johnny Hodges (7 tackles, 1 sack, 2 tackles for loss) as the defense consistently stepped up when called upon, even when forced into tough spots. Houston finished the game 4-19 on 3rd & 4th down attempts (21%) including 0-4 on 4th downs; that’s winning football in winning time for the TCU defense.

Bailey & Bombs

While there was plenty to quibble with regarding play calling (see: a Jack Bech rush for minus-13 on first down inside the 30 yard-line that leads to a missed FG), but the game plan of feeding Emani Bailey and then taking shots downfield proved highly effective against a Houston defense that had few answers to these attacks. Emani Bailey was a true workhorse on Saturday night, taking 23 carries for 126 yards and a score on the ground while adding three receptions for 23 yards. When Bailey or Trey Sanders weren’t pounding the rock, QB Chandler Morris was hitting passes with distance, an aspect of the offense completely missing in the previous two games. Five different TCU WRs had receptions of at least 20-yards on Saturday, including dimes from Morris for TDs to Savion Williams and Warren Thompson.

Morris on the Move

With the success of the run game and the deep pass game, there was often space to run for QB Chandler Morris. Whether on designed carries, run-pass options, read options, or scrambles when the play breaks down, Morris was able to get loose for big gains and continues to look more like a confident runner every week. He finished the day with 12 carries for 53 yards, frequently picking up first downs while creating enough space to safely slide to protect from the big hits. When Morris’ wheels are working, it’s another weapon this offense can deploy to make life difficult on defenders.


It wasn’t all perfect for the Horned Frogs on Saturday night. Many of the ills that have plagued TCU in the opening two games were present in Houston. TCU committed seven penalties for 75 yards; Chandler Morris had two turnovers, including a redzone interception; Griffin Kell missed two long field goals; first half clock management allowed a FG in final minute in all three games this season; TCU converted a first down on just 6 of 15 third down attempts (40%). As these issues continue to linger, they may just be something for the Frogs to overcome each week, but in the games ahead there are teams more likely to punish the Frogs like Colorado did in Week 1. While it’s great to accumulate 564 yards of total offense, that performance should translate into more than just 36 points on the scoreboard.

TCU improves to 2-1 on the season and 1-0 in the Big 12, where it will sit atop the conference standings. The Horned Frogs will return to Fort Worth and Amon G. Carter Stadium to host the Battle for the Iron Skillet on September 23 at 11:00 AM on FS1 vs. the SMU Mustangs (2-1) which is coming off a nice 69-0 win over Prairie View A&M.