Now they have to travel to Fort Worth — a place they haven’t on at since 2013 — to take on the TCU Horned Frogs, a team that has beaten them four of the last five years. The Longhorns need to get a win to maintain the pace in the race to make the Big 12 Championship game.
Burnt Orange Nation: The TCU offense has been paced this year by the ground game, ranking No. 12 in the country, splitting the work between Darius Anderson and Sewo Olonilua. How has TCU used the two skill sets successfully this year?
Frogs of War: That’s a great question and something that Patterson actually spoke about earlier this week (in response to Sewo’s trainer saying he isn’t being used correctly by the coaching staff). Anderson is the better, tougher runner — the guy that can hit a hole, accelerate, and take defenders with him down the field. Sewo is a guy that can do so many different things — split out wide, play in the slot, operate like a tight end AND run the football, that it’s hard to just line him up in the backfield. He can get you a hard yard, but prefers to bounce things outside rather than try and run off tackle and the like. I think most TCU fans would like to see Anderson get more touches in the running game — he’s only averaging 14 rushes per game this season, and that number should be in the 18-20 range in my opinion, and to get the two senior backs involved in about 30-35 plays each week. The strength of this team on offense is obviously the running attack, but if they can get more consistent through the air, it will definitely make it easier sledding on the ground for two very good players.
BON: Quarterback Max Duggan has played well this year and had a great game on the ground against Kansas State, looking more like a dual threat. With the success Kansas had with the RPO against Texas, do we expect to see more of him on the ground Saturday?
FOW: If you can tell me what Sonny Cumbie is planning to do on any given week, well, you’ll be far ahead of what we know. The biggest complaint of the fanbase has been the play calling in 2019 — it just doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. Something works and we go away from it, whether it’s the running game, tempo, or more designed runs for Duggan. There’s not a lot of movement in this offense, not a lot of play action or RPOs. It’s as vanilla as vanilla gets. And I don’t feel like they are watching film from their opponent’s last game to get an idea of what worked against them in order to adjust what they will do the next week. I am not sure if they don’t think the players can handle being variable because of lack of experience or what, but I don’t expect the offense to come out and do anything different than what they’ve done so far, which is start the game with tempo, stop when it works, bring in Delton as soon as Duggan engineers a scoring drive to completely kill the momentum, stop running Darius once he hits the 100-yard mark, and call designed QB runs on plays that would otherwise have wide open receivers. Oh, and the passing plays will all be drawn up to hit a guy either three yards behind the line of scrimmage or 30 yards downfield. And none of them will be for Jalen Reagor.
Now I am sad.
BON: One thing we can generally assume about a Gary Patterson team is that they’ll be sound on defense and once again TCU finds itself close to the top of the country, sitting at No. 11 in total defense, in spite of losing talent in the offseason. How has this team managed to keep the level of production defensively in spite of the losses?
FOW: I... have no idea? The Frogs are generating little to no quarterback pressure, haven’t turned over an opponent in Big 12 play, and have looked overmatched at linebacker most of the season. Oh, and the offense is of little to no help on most weekends. And, yet... here we are, with a top-15 defense. Gary Patterson is a damned magician and we don’t appreciate him enough. It helps that Ross Blacklock and Corey Bethley are beasts on the interior line and that Jeff Gladney remains one of the best cover corners in the country, but if we don’t get the level of play we have come to expect out of safety Innis Gaines and a little bit of something from the defensive ends soon, expect the Frogs to start dropping down the rankings on that side of the ball. Garret Wallow has become the de facto leader of the unit, but the junior linebacker is still vulnerable to falling for play action or missing when he goes for a big hit instead of a tackle. He needs to be elite this weekend against Ehlinger if the Frogs are to have a chance. This is a big week for the defense to actually show up and be difference makers as opposed to just doing their jobs.
BON: What is one matchup you’re watching on Saturday?
FOW: I really want to see what happens when unstoppable force Sam Ehlinger meets immovable object Garret Wallow in the middle of the field. The UT QB and TCU LB are likely to become very familiar with each other Saturday afternoon, and they are going to look like a Spiderman pointing at Spiderman meme when they do.
BON: What’s one thing that worries you heading into Saturday? One thing that makes you confident?
FOW: I really need to see Jalen Reagor be used like an elite wide receiver this weekend. It worries me that the Frogs have yet to figure out how to get him involved, even against bad teams. I am also worried that we will continue to try and make Alex Delton happen at QB. I am confident that TCU will show up to play against Texas though, and that if we are bad people will talk more about these new uniforms than the game and that might be okay.
BON: What is your prediction?
FOW: You are going to score points. We can’t stop running quarterbacks. The only thing I have hoping is that the duct-taped Texas defense allows the Frogs to move the ball effectively on the ground enough to stay in it. Frogs fall 34-20. Sigh.