TCU always seems to beat Texas and has come out on top of six of the eight matchups since the Horned Frogs joined the conference in 2012. The Iowa State Cyclones managed to get the best of TCU in their opener, but the heroics of quarterback Max Duggan in the second half nearly wrote a different story.
With all of that said, we need more insight into TCU to hopefully make some sense out of the matchup to do that, we welcome in Melissa Triebwasser (@TheCoachMelissa), managing editor of Frogs O’ War (@FrogsOWar), to get intel on the Frogs.
Burnt Orange Nation: The TCU offense looked like a completely different team when they decided to make the change to Max Duggan against Iowa State. What does Max Duggan bring to the TCU offense that was missing when he was out?
Melissa Triebwasser, Frogs O’ War: Duggan seems to have improved significantly since last season in both his accuracy and touch. When he’s putting balls in spots like he did last Saturday, he gives TCU fans a ton of hope. He’s also such a good runner and so great at taking advantage of mismatches and extending plays — he is a guy you have to account for in the run and pass play. Patterson said that part of the reason they made the switch last week is they wanted to use more of the quarterback run game against the Cyclones light front — but also because Max Duggan is a much better quarterback at this point than Michael Downing (who wasn’t terrible but isn’t the answer long term). He also just has that swagger and it factor — guys seem to love playing for him and with him. He’s got the juice.
BON: In years past, TCU has had a consistent ground game, but in their opener didn’t really get much going on the ground against ISU. Was this more a function of playing from behind or is this a new look for the TCU offense? What will the addition of Zach Evans do for TCU offensively?
MT: I don’t really understand why we didn’t see more out of the run game last weekend. I thought they ran the ball a lot better than they did in real time, but then you look at it and the leading rusher had 39 yards and they didn’t break the century mark as a team. Part of that is playing from behind, part of that is drive-killing penalties that set up a lot of first and second and long chances, and part of that is that the offensive line was bad and the Iowa State defensive front spent a ton of time in the backfield. Emari Demercado looked really good, but I want to see a lot of Darwin Barlow and hopefully at least some Zach Evans at Texas. We have heard how great both of those dudes have been in practice, so turn them loose.
BON: Perhaps the biggest question about the Horned Frogs offense is along the offensive line and the six sacks surrendered against Iowa State. What led to the struggles in the trenches for TCU?
MT: This is a pretty inexperienced line overall, with a lot of guys working with less than a full season of starts under their belt. But also, they have to be so much better than they were last weekend. Bad snaps, blown assignments, whatever the hell this was...
...it was a bad day for a front that most expected to be at the very least serviceable. Moving Coy McMillon back to center and freeing up some of the other guys to stick to their strengths helped in the second half, but they can’t afford a slow start Saturday. Even though the Texas line hasn’t generated a ton of pressure so far, if you fall asleep on them, they have the talent to change that.
BON: Iowa State managed to put together a solid offensive performance against what would normally be a stingy Gary Patterson unit. How were they able to find success against the Horned Frogs?
MT: Just bad communication and inexcusably missed assignments. You have a couple of guys at corner who don’t have a ton of run — Hodges Tomlinson is just a true sophomore and Noah Daniels is returning to the field in the first time for what feels like forever. But ultimately, the stars didn’t do their job. Garret Wallow has to mind his assignments and not get sucked in looking for the big hit. Trevon Moehrig and Ar’Darius Washington have to be ballhawks, the pass rush has to be relentless. In interviews this week, the players harped on poor communication and bad execution. Everything seems fixable, but if you don’t address it, Ehlinger is going to light them up a lot worse than Purdy did, that’s for sure. One bright spot? Dee Winters looks like he’s going to be legit next to Wallow at linebacker this fall.
BON: It’s hard to draw too many conclusions after one game, but based on your experience, what is a storyline you’re keeping an eye on?
MT: Well, to piggyback off the last question, it’s the defense. You have a pair of safeties who are being projected as first-round picks and an all-conference level linebacker in his senior season. They are supposed to be elite, and they were average in the opener. On paper, this is the best talent GP has rolled out in two decades, but small mistakes and missteps had them look like the JV last weekend. Iowa State is a good offense, but when you give up four plays of almost 50 yards or more... that’s not a Gary Patterson defense. Along with that, where the heck was Marcel Brooks in the opener? When he was on the field, he played angry — in a good way. Why wasn’t he on the field more? I don’t care how well he does or does not know the playbook — turn they dude loose and let him make plays.
BON: What’s your prediction for Saturday?
MT: This feels like one of those games where I think... well, TCU didn’t look great in its opener and Texas has looked unstoppable on offense... this is a Gary Patterson special where he rolls into Austin as a big dog and blows the doors off the school that constantly tells his players they aren’t good enough.
But, because that’s what I am thinking, it’s going to end up being like a 34-20 loss for the Frogs, isn’t it? I want this one, I will be honest. But it’s hard to pick TCU to win based on what we have seen from both teams so far this season.