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Quick Thoughts: TCU Football 34, SMU Mustangs 17

The Horned Frogs run away with Battle for Iron Skillet

Emani Bailey ran for 126 yards and a TD as the Horned Frog keep the Iron Skillet in Fort Worth
Photo by Sam Hodde/Getty Images

Cold Stone

SMU QB Preston Stone entered the game Saturday completing 63% of his passes with nine touchdowns, two interceptions, and had only been sacked once through three games. The TCU Defense made life miserable for Stone on Saturday, sacking him three times, hurrying him another four times, and picking him off twice while allowing zero passing TDs and a 46% completion percentage. A TCU secondary that got buried on the national stage in Week One has answered the bell since and had a huge with interceptions by Bud Clark & Josh Newton on Saturday, Avery Helm had multiple pass break-ups, Abe Camara had a key 4th-down PBU, Mark Perry was the second leading tackler for the Frogs, and the unit as a whole shut down a receiving corps and passing offense that came into the day with a lot of hype.

Tight Ends. Tight, Tight, Tight

It would typically be bad news for a team’s leading receiver to be a Tight End with just 55 yards on only two catches, but for the Frogs on Saturday it was a recipe for success. Chandler Morris completed passes 11 difference receivers, spreading the wealth to the deep arsenal of weapons at his disposal, but none had more impact than Tight Ends Chase Curtis & Jared Wiley. This TE pair accounted for all three of Morris’ passing scores on the day, with Wiley reeling in two and then Curtis putting the nail in SMU’s coffin with a 36-yard touchdown catch and run on 4th-and-2 in the final minutes of the game. Wiley has developed a rapport with Morris when the Frogs need a big conversion in short yardage or in the red zone, and after a pair of quiet games the pair linked up for a huge day.

Second Half Dominance

The Horned Frogs went into halftime with a narrow 14-10 lead after surrendering 9 play 75 yard touchdown drive just under three minutes to play before the break. Not only was the game very much in doubt, but the Mustangs appeared to have captured momentum. Not so fast my friends, TCU received the 2nd half kickoff and scored on three consecutive possessions, adding 13 points to the TCU lead as an Emani Bailey TD run served as an exclamation point on the essay about the talent gap between the squads on Saturday. The offense put up over 300 second half yards while not allowing a sack or giving away a turnover. But the real dominance after the halftime show came on the defensive end, with two sacks, a should-be clear safety that the refs somehow missed, two interceptions, and a drive summary that reads PUNT, DOWNS, INT, INT, TD, END OF REGULATION. That is how you squash an uprising and prevent the overmatched opponent from hanging around and building belief.

Red Zone, Dead Zone

TCU had five offensive possessions stall out in SMU territory on Saturday that did not result in touchdowns. Four of those got inside the 30 yard line, drives that must result in points every time and need to result in touchdowns more often than not. Instead TCU settled for made field goals on drives that reached the SMU 17 and 6 and had two turnovers on downs. TCU cornerback Josh Newton intercepted Preston Stone on the final play of the third quarter, weaving through traffic and bouncing off would-be tacklers to give the TCU offense the ball 10 yards from paydirt. TCU took advantage of this opportunity with a Savion Williams rush attempt for no gain, an incomplete pass, and a pass well short of the sticks that set up a botched field goal try that may or may not have been an attempted fake kick. The Horned Frogs hitting a wall inside the scoring zone has been a common refrain through the opening four games of the 2023 campaign under offensive coordinator Kendal Briles, that it may just be a weekly hurdle the Frogs will need to overcome