Calling the Texas Longhorns’ recent history against the TCU Horned Frogs “one-sided” would be an understatement.
Since TCU joined the Big 12, the Horned Frogs won four out of the five contests and out-scored the Longhorns 155-33 in the last four years. This year has the recipe to be different, with Texas coming off of a win over the No. 22 USC Trojans and TCU losing a heartbreaker to No. 4 Ohio State, but will it actually be different?
To answer those questions, Melissa Triebwasser of Frogs O’ War gave us her thoughts on how the matchup looks from the Horned Frogs’ vantage. You can follow her on Twitter (@TheCoachMelissa) or the site (@FrogsOWar).
Burnt Orange Nation: The biggest matchup for Saturday will probably be the Texas run defense against the talented TCU ground game. Darius Anderson had a monster game against the Ohio State Buckeyes, putting up 154 yards and two scores — including a 93-yard score. Texas is giving up just 109 yards per game, and held USC to -5 rushing yards. How do you think TCU’s running game matches up with Todd Orlando’s aggressive defense?
Frogs O’ War: It’s going to be really interesting to see how Sonny Cumbie and Curtis Luper attack the Texas defense Saturday — they had a great game plan for Ohio State that really exploited their aggressive front, but Texas has tape on that plan now. The two OCs were able to do a good job of using the short and mid-range passing game to open up lanes for the running backs, and Darius Anderson doesn’t need much of a crease to pick up big chunks of yardage. Of course, the X-Factor is Shawn Robinson — he has to be able to make plays in the passing game as well as with his feet, and after last week, Patterson made mention that he needs to run more.
The biggest surprise of the season has been the play of the offensive line - if they can match what they did against Ohio State, I think the trio of Anderson, Olonilua, and Demercado can have a solid night against the Longhorns.
BON: Shawn Robinson had mixed results against Ohio State, passing for 308 yards, but throwing teo interceptions. He opened the season with a 182-yard performance without a turnover, but has a 2-to-3 touchdown to interception ratio over the last two games. Which Shawn Robinson shows up Saturday for TCU?
FOW: Despite the two interceptions, it’s hard to come away from the game against Ohio State not thinking the Frogs have something special in Shawn Robinson. His poise was unbelievable for such a young player, and he never seemed shaken by the moment. Against Southern he had five touchdowns, and against SMU, he wasn’t asked to do too much once the Frogs got out in front. It will be interested to see how weather impacts the game — two of Robinson’s first four starts have been in terrible weather conditions, and it looks like we are likely to make it three of five this weekend. Robinson’s touch on the deep ball and his chemistry with the receivers has improved each week, and as long as he and Reagor are hooking up regularly, the TCU passing game is in good shape. If the o-line can give him time, I think he can have some success against a young — albeit incredibly talented — Texas secondary, working the ball down the field much in the way they did against the Buckeyes Saturday. Robinson has to cut down on his turnovers, and I do think we see him play a cleaner game this weekend, but I don’t see a 300-yard game for a second straight game.
BON: TCU scored on its second drive of the second half, extending its lead to 21-13, but then allowed Ohio State to score 20 unanswered points to take back — and ultimately win — the game. How do you think Gary Patterson and his staff can keep that from causing a hangover?
FOW: Four minutes. Just four bad minutes. The Frogs had a shovel pass pick six (something that Patterson said was as much the coaches fault as Robinson’s), a punter who just dropped the ball (for the second straight week, which is something to keep an eye on), and a screen pass go for 60. It was a comedy of errors that didn’t leave anyone in purple laughing.
But, one thing about Gary — he knows how to keep his team from getting too high or too low. And, I think the player’s 100 percent bought into his mantra that TCU was facing a three-game season before the bye — Ohio State, and then the two important ones — Texas and Iowa State. TCU’s goal is, and has been, to play for a Big 12 Championship. While beating the Buckeyes would have been huge from a national perspective, it would have meant nothing in the conference. And the players, every time they’re asked, made sure to remind reporters that they are focused on winning a conference title.
There are two things I really like about this team — they are a bunch of “we” guys that don’t seem worried about individual stats, and they don’t make the same mistakes twice. They are also pretty young, which can mean more mistakes, but also has the benefit of allowing things to slide off their backs a bit. I think the test of playing Texas in Austin will be the challenge here, not the hangover of losing to Ohio State.
BON: Safety Innis Gaines is a ballhawk, with six pass breakups and one interception through three games, in addition to his team-leading 18 tackles, and will be looked upon for support in the passing game. The size of Texas’s receivers create some matchup difficulties, but players like Gaines can lend a hand in pass relief. How does the coaching staff build a plan to take some pressure off of the secondary?
FOW: Well, Innis Gaines has been just about my favorite player on defense the last few years, and I have been picking him to break out for the last two. This year, it appears to be coming to fruition. What I love about the man they call Thump is not only his ability to lay the wood, but how hard he works to improve his all around game. Gaines has always been a big hitter, but his football IQ has evolved dramatically over the last six games or so, as he has become more of a leader and more confident in Patterson’s scheme. This defense is predicated on the line getting pressure on the QB and the secondary being able to hold up in one on one coverage, and having a guy like Gaines who can do so many different things on the back end of that is a huge difference maker.
Playing Texas and “x-factor” Sam Ehlinger (as Patterson called him this week) presents a different challenge though, and it will be up to GP and co. to find a way to contain Sam in the run game, while also not leaving the corners out on an island too long against the big Texas receivers. We could definitely see more of Gaines playing close to the line, but I don’t expect him to spy the QB. We have seen Gaines in coverage, we have seen him blitz, and seen him be successful in run support. And with corners Jeff Gladney and Noah Daniels coming on, that has freed Gaines up to take more chances.
What really needs to happen for the Frogs to be successful is for Ben Banogu and the rest of the front four to live in the backfield and put pressure on the quarterback. It makes it a lot harder to make a big play when you don’t have time, obviously — even Dwayne Haskins had trouble connecting over the top (though Ohio State had a few big plays getting the ball to receivers in space).
BON: Who’s one player you think could be the difference-maker for TCU on Saturday?
FOW: The guy that always seems to be the difference maker against Texas is KaVontae Turpin. He made the spark play against SMU, and him being bottled up by the Buckeyes absolutely hurt the Frogs. When Turp makes a big play in the return game or as a receiver, it seems the Frogs rarely lose. When he’s quiet, it’s a lot tougher for him to win. I am quite sure there isn’t a player Longhorn fans are more ready to see graduate than the diminutive water bug that has caused them problems for three years, but I am hoping he gets one more on UT before he hangs up the purple cleats.
Oh... and I feel like I should mention Garret Wallow. The true sophomore linebacker looks primed to make a big play, and this could be the week it all comes together for him. He has looked really good, but plays a little too hyped up. If he lets the game come to him Saturday, he could be a difference maker.