The Frogs retained control of the Iron Skillet this past weekend with a 34-17 victory over the SMU Mustangs in Fort Worth. TCU was in control from start to finish in this one as this game could have easily been a bigger blowout had the Frogs capitalized on a couple of drives in the fourth quarter. With the Frogs officially heading into Big 12 conference play, this solid performance from both sides of the ball was good to see.
Chandler Morris: Chandler Morris has turned in back-to-back excellent performances under center for TCU. Morris completed over 70% of his passes for 261 yards and three touchdowns in a turnover-free game for the offense on Saturday. He was decisive, accurate, and made very good decisions about where to go with the ball. There were one or two throws where I thought he threw an uncatchable pass to an open receiver and just one play where I thought he made a bad read, but outside of that, Morris was outstanding.
Morris continues to impress me with how difficult he is to bring down in the pocket, escaping on a couple of plays where SMU defenders looked to have a sack. He was effective with his legs picking up 38 yards on six carries and benefited from some creative plays from Kendall Briles to take advantage of his mobility. The quarterback run game was a huge part of Briles’s offense while he was at Arkansas and while I do not expect Morris to be used in the same way KJ Jefferson was , I expect the trend of using the quarterback as a weapon on the ground to continue.
Morris did a great job of spreading the ball around with eleven different players catching a pass for TCU. This also is a compliment to the depth of weapons TCU has at receiver. TCU’s receiving corps was very top-heavy last year and the coaches did a great job in the offseason to fill the two deep with receivers that can be counted on to make plays.
This weekend’s game against West Virginia will present the best defense the Frogs have faced all year but if Morris and the offense are clicking like this, TCU should still put up plenty of points.
Running game and Emani Bailey: Emani Bailey has rushed for over 100 yards in three of four games to start the season as he went for 126 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries against the Mustangs. That was the most carries he has had in a game this season, a good sign for a back adjusting to his new role as the workhorse. His touchdown run on Saturday was a thing of beauty as he read the blocks from the offensive line and made both a linebacker and safety miss in space on his way to the endzone.
The run blocking from the offensive line was solid on Saturday, a good sign ahead of a matchup with a solid front seven from West Virginia. The line of scrimmage was consistently reset by the TCU offensive line in a positive direction, providing Bailey with enough space to do what he does best, make defenders’ angles look silly.
The defense and especially the secondary: The TCU defense was outstanding on Saturday, holding the Mustangs under 20 points and generating two turnovers in the process. The secondary especially had a great day, SMU quarterback, Preston Stone did not have many options down the field. Neither interception from the TCU defense on Saturday was a result of an errant throw or a tipped pass, both were a result of great coverage and nice plays made on the ball by Bud Clark and Josh Newton. Stone was held under 50% completion percentage by the secondary in what was their best game of the season so far.
Despite missing Johnny Hodges due to injury, who had been having a productive season rushing the passer, the TCU defense was able to rack up three sacks on the day. Nambdi Obiazor, especially, had a very good game with a sack, eleven tackles, and a pass break up. Obiazor is TCU’s most versatile linebacker as a converted safety as he showed on Saturday he can be a plus player in coverage, run defense, and the pass rush.
Jared Wiley: Getting Jared Wiley to return for another year at the collegiate level has to be the most underrated off-season event for the Frogs this year. Wiley has been the most consistent receiver for the Frogs this year while still making a large impact as a blocker. Wiley had the first multi-touchdown game of his college career on Saturday with five catches for 37 yards and two touchdowns. In a year where the Frogs had a ton of turnover at the wide receiver position and were trying to acclimate a new starting quarterback and offensive coordinator, Wiley has been a phenomenal point of consistency and reliability in 2023.
Drops: It seems one promising drive every game is killed by multiple drops in the opponent’s territory. This time it was the drive right out of halftime that was limited to a field goal due in part to drops on a hot route against a blitz and a swing pass trying to get back yards after a holding penalty. Outside of that, the TCU receiving corps was solid in the drops department and the drive still resulted in a field goal, but drops have been too consistent of a theme to start the season.
Closing out the game: TCU had two drives in the fourth quarter following SMU turnovers that gave them a chance to put the game away for good and came up empty on both occasions despite reaching the SMU twenty-eight-yard line and the SMU seven-yard line. The drive following Josh Newton’s interception was especially frustrating since TCU started on the SMU 10, ran a jet sweep on the first play despite the success TCU had the rest of the game simply handing it to running backs, and ran a fake field goal attempt that was dead from the start due to a high snap. The Frogs had two golden opportunities to end the game but failed to capitalize on either one. The offense was very good on Saturday and has been good this year but it feels like they have missed opportunities in every game whether it be due to drops, penalties, or red zone mishaps. A truly complete game from the offense should be the goal this weekend against Western Virginia.
Defending outside zone: The one complaint I had with the TCU defense this past Saturday was struggling to defend the outside zone run. Having Johnny Hodges in the lineup would certainly help with this as he has been very good against the run this season and is a big part of communication across the defense but the Frogs still could have defended the run better. SMU running backs averaged almost five yards per carry against the Frogs this weekend, the most success any team has had on the ground against TCU. Big 12 teams will see that the outside zone is a potential weapon to use against the TCU front and Joe Gillespie needs to have an adjustment ready to go. The most inexperienced position on the defense is at defensive end and outside zone ends up attacking the defensive end in the 3-3-5. Frog ends need to do a better job being prepared for double teams and holding their ground so that the linebackers will be free to make the tackle.
Play of the Game
A creative play design to find your most consistent receiving threat in the red zone?! More of that, please.