Now THAT is more like it. A week after one of the most gut wrenching losses in recent memory, and one of the only losses period, the Horned Frogs defense - at least the first team - buckled down, the offense did more than their share and the Frogs escaped a packed Air Force stadium with a win. The final score will read 35-19 - a victory that landed us at 23rd in both polls- but anyone who watched will understand that it was never that close. Let's check the facts:
TCU Offense vs. Air Force Defense.
- We still have a QB and an Offensive Line that work. Unless I am mistaken, our offensive line featuring 4 first year starters, two of which nearly missed the game with flu like symptoms, didn't give up any sacks and will be beloved by laundry workers the world over for the cleanliness of Casey Pachall's jersey after the game. Although they never seemed to mention it in the pregame, Jeff Olson and James Fry were both pretty ill before the game started, and although they didn't play the entire game, they did just enough. And their backups were pretty good too. I saw a LOT of Eric Tausch at center early on in the game and I can't say the offense missed a beat while he was in. Ty Horn, Thompson's both Spencer and Michael, and Brady Foltz also saw decent PT. As for Pachall, nice little afternoon if I don't say so myself. 20/25, 206 yards and 2 TDs with no picks. At one point he was 11/11, which tied a second place TCU record set by Andy Dalton against Baylor last season. He was only 3 away from catching Jeff Ballard, but tossed a ball out of bounds outside the range of his receiver. We still have yet to see Pachall truly air it out - I believe the 21 yard strike to David Porter was among his longest completions on the day - but when you get results like this, I suppose there's no reason to fix anything. A pretty stout follow up performance against what we had all assumed would be a stout defense. After two drives the score was 14-0 and there was never the feeling that Air Force would ever be able to gain the upper hand. At 21-0, there was no doubt. At least 75% of that was due to Pachall. I've said it before but I'll say it again: We are in great hands at the most important position on the field for the forseeable future.
- No Ed Wesley, No Problem. Given, he wasn't exactly a mainstay last week in Waco, but going into the game knowing that Wesley did not even make the trip had to make everyone a little uneasy. Especially when you consider that last year against Air Force he was more or less the decisive factor in that blowout win. But while we all assumed Waymon James would be the one who would come in and be the difference maker this weekend, it looks like we need to take Matthew Tucker a little more seriously. 16 carries for 95 yards and 2 TDs, and it would've been more had the coaching staff not gone to Jercell Fort in the fourth quarter. Maybe it's the mohawk, but Tucker has looked night and day different than he did last season when he mostly seemed to come in on short yardage situations. All of last year Tucker had 793 yards for 7 scores; this year he already has 138 yards and 3. The TD number is what should really stick out, because with Wesley questionable it should easily hit double digits. The last time I can remember Tucker looking this good was against Utah in 2009. He should only improve, especially with two tuneup games the next two weekends. As for the rest of the crew, Waymon rushed 13 times for 55 yards and a short score and the aforementioned Jercell Fort had 4 for 14 in glorified mop up duty.
- About that #2 WR thing... Look, after all the drops the past year and a game, I'm not ready to anoint his return to greatness just yet. But Antoine Hicks. Holy HELL. As was brought up in the game thread, it may not be as big as the Clemson catch based on the situation, but my goodness what a grab. And he didn't stop there, finishing with 5 catches for 43 yards and an 8.6 yard average. It's impossible to know for sure what happened for him - perhaps getting left out late in the game last week was the final wakeup call he needed? - but if he shows even half of what he did Saturday for the rest of the year, we should be in great hands - ZING. As for the freshmen, no sign of LaDarius Brown quite yet, but it looks like the coaching staff is loving them some Brandon Carter and David Porter. Especially Porter, as he now has the highest touches/TD ratio on the team ahead of Luke Shivers, with 3/2. Of course, Shivers added to his total this weekend as well, making the best of his one grab for a short score on the goal line, but Porter, the former Desoto Eagle - district 11-5a, represent - has certainly made his mark. However, Carter is still clearly the top dog among that crew as he was targeted 3 times for 40 yards and a near score. He should be extremely exciting to watch and OU has to be secretly smarting for missing out on him, right? And, oh yeah, Josh Boyce held up as our #1 receiver for the second week in a row, hauling in 5 passes for 76 yards.
- Pachall Running the Ball. As lone spitblood female reader nursefrog pointed out, and what should be obvious to everyone else, after all we've heard about Pachall's running ability, there's a red headed QB winning games in the NFL right now with better wheels. To steal more from our valued commenters, it was put best by rottenarsenal when he said that watching Pachall run kind of reminds him of, "watching syrup ooze over pancakes." That's about the most apt comparison I can think of as well. Perhaps if he ever broke into the open field he'd really blast off. Perhaps if our coaching staff stopped running the damned short side option. But for whatever reason, it doesn't look like Casey is going to win many games with his legs right now. Of course, I'll take the alternative ten out of ten times, and this is mainly just me nit picking for the sake of having something bad to say about what was otherwise a standout performance. I'll overlook the fumble at the end of the first quarter, but that's definitely a situation where he should've thrown the ball away. Unfortunately it typically takes a young quarterback a long time to figure this out - check Dalton's early stats - but as quickly as Casey has come along, I don't expect it to take TOO long.
- Calling all Skye Dawsons. 2 catches for CERO yards. Fortunately Hicks, Porter and Carter were there to make us blind to that stat line during the game. But what is the deal? I still think there will come a time, perhaps as early as this week in what should be a laugher, where the coaching staff lets Casey air one out for Skye to run under. But he isn't exactly earning his spot on the depth chart at present.
Overall - A. Despite the two minor issues listed above, this was as good of a performance as we could've expected given the circumstances of last week. You always have to wonder how a young team with too high expectations will bounce back from a loss, and they did admirably. It was 21-0 with over 5 minutes to go before halftime and, despite the Pachall fumble which led to a FG, you never got the feeling that our offense was going to let us lose this game. That might have to be the case in several of our more marquee games this year. Fortunately they seem up to the task.
TCU Defense vs. Air Force Offense.
Just a disclaimer, gofrogs.com does not have the individual stats up for either game, so this will be a bit briefer than usual as I'm mostly going off of other reports.
- Johnny Fobbs stepped up. After totaling a big ole goose egg in the tackles department last week, our new Tejay Johnson stepped up with a team leading 9, including 7 solos. He consistently looked cognizant of the fact that he was playing football and actually seemed to enjoy making direct contact with other human athletes wearing different colors. These are all positives.
- No Tanner Brock, no problem. Going hand in hand with the Ed Wesley section above, Tanner Brock was the other expected starter not to make the trip to Colorado Springs. Fortunately, Cajun Sensation Kenny Cain stepped into the starting role and embraced his spot, racking up 7 tackles. Kris Gardner also saw time in the linebacker position opposite Tank Carder. As for Tank, perhaps the Rose Bowl made our expectations a bit too high? Not that he had a bad game - 5 tackles- but I think we need to accept that he's not going to make every single play on defense like seemingly did in Pasadena. The Curse of Musberger, just looks at Chris Simms. It's real. Deryck Gildon also saw some late game action
- Another walk on steps up. Apparently this thing skips a generation. Two years ago it was Tyler Luttrell filling in for Colin Jones. This year it has been Robert Deck on offense and, at least for one game, Jon Koontz on the defensive line. In what was easily one of the to plays of the game, on 4th and short early in the game, Koontz jumped the right tackle, didn't fall for the fake handoff and sacked Air Force QB Tim Jefferson for a turnover on downs. A 4th down stop in the first quarter may not seem like much, but you have to admit that you were a bit nervous at the time as the Falcons had made moving the ball on the Frogs D relatively routine. Fortunately they were called for a chop block - to which I yelled, "YOU CAN CALL IT ON EVERY F'ING PLAY" from my couch which scatted both the dogs and my wife - on the same possession which led to the 4th down situation. Pachall immediately marched the Frogs down the field for the opening TD and things took off from there. At the very least, we have a capable replacement when Stansly Maponga needs a rest.
- Have we found a permanent second CB? Greg McCoy has clearly solidified himself in the one spot, and while there were certainly questions about that after last week, the #2 spot was WIDE open. Enter Kevin White. Given, the Frogs secondary wasn't exactly stellar - gave up a score on ANOTHER trick play and 167 yards total to a team that has gone entire games without passing - but it would appear that White is going to be that guy going forward. In fact, until late in the game I cannot recall seeing Jason Verrett set foot on the field, and the Travaras Battle's only major contribution came on special teams. I have a feeling his position with the ones will be in flux the rest of the year, but for now, White seems to be the stop gap. Continuing in the secondary, Trent Thomas didn't necessarily stand out, but that also means he didn't stand out negatively. That's all you can ask of a first time starter.
- Stansly Maponga. All he does is force fumbles. It's all he does. And Braylon had a few stops of his own. This just in: He's still REALLY big. Of course, Air Force is the one game where our D-line starters likely averaged more than their O-line, so the results should've skewed in our favor.
- Secondary still needs improvement. Tekkerin Cuba has looked fine in his role at strong safety, and Fobbs stepped up, but there were a lot of times when it seemed like Air Force has WAY too much space to operate in the secondary. For one, we cannot get beat on trick plays. We just can't. Those are easy, easy points. I understand that nature of Air Force's offense sets those kinds of things up, but after last week these guys need to be a little more disciplined. I expect those guys will see that play as well as Kendall Wright's a lot in film this week.
- Backups, where are they? The overall stats are kind of jarring considering this one never felt out of hand - 416 total yards for Air Force against 410 for us. But through three quarters, the Falcons only had 283 and 9 points. Of course, the the starters chased Jefferson from the game in favor of Connor Dietz, who seemed to add a different dynamic to what the Falcons were trying to do, but our backups should never have made it that easy for them to score. Fortunately the backups we DID need - Cain and Gardner - did their part, but for a team as shallow in the secondary as we are, this is not something to be proud of. Kellen Moore watches this and smiles, in between feedings of Tina, that fat lard.
Overall - B+. The starters did admirably, and the secondary was much better than they were last week. I'm still extremely terrified to see what will happen when we play a pass happy team, but at least we have a couple of should be breathers to prepare before SMU comes to town. But we escaped with a win and without any broken ankles, so celebrations are in order.
- Ross was 5/5 on PATs and didn't have to kick a FG. Baby steps.
- Travaras Battle forced a HUGE fumble on a punt when Air Force was trying to claw back in after a TCU 3 and out early in the third quarter. The Frogs took the ball down the field and scored, pushing the score to 28-3 and for all intents and purposes turning out the lights on Air Force's chances.
- Also, Anson Kelton averaged a booming 50.3 yards per punt in one of his best performances in a while. Casey Pachall, however, should stick to his day job.
- Coverage teams weren't spectacular as Air Force averaged over 20 yards per kick return. Nits, they are meant to be picked.
- After last week's breakout, Greg McCoy was due to fall off a bit, but Waymon James didn't do much better. Frogs only averaged 12.5 yards per kick return, and punt returns were non-existent.
Overall - A. I thought this game might come down to field position and kicking. Fortunately this is one of the few times I'm glad to have been wrong. On the few early drives when we didnt' score, Anson Kelton put the Falcons in tough positions, and its good to see a guy like Battle playing his ass off on special teams despite losing his starting role on defense. And we CAN go an entire game without missing a PAT!
Final Thoughts: Clearly a very nice and much needed win. The offense looked as sharp as we hoped and the defense did the whole bend but not break thing - 416 total yards sucks no matter the result - long enough for the victory. Not sure how much Wesley or Brock you'll see this weekend - I say hold them out until SMU to make sure they are 100% fresh - but it's nice to know that their backups can play, and play well, in a pinch. Most of all though, the team seemed to suffer no drop off from their admirable play in the fourth quarter last week at Baylor, at least when the game still counted. As I said, you always have to worry about the mindset of a young team coming off a loss like that, especially when they are immediately going on the road again against a team that is supposed to challenge for a Conference title. Looks like the coaching staff got their minds right. Hopefully they can keep it up. Go Frogs.