Expect to see more of this version of GP on Saturday.
After Robert Griffin single-handedly destroyed the TCU Dynasty while simultaneously winning the Heisman when the NCAA abruptly decided to negate the results of the rest of the still young football season to give the award to this "fine young man" who they clearly did not see taunting the TCU crowd while getting pummeled last year and... was... was that a tear I saw on that sideline? Or were you simply preparing a nice guacamole and the onion prepartion got to your tear glands, RG3?... deep breath... TCU will look to regroup on the road in Colorado Springs against the US Air Force. Clearly playing football in that portion of the Rockies hasn't done TCU many favors, as the Frogs pulled out a 3 point squeaker two years ago and lost in OT two years before that. The Frogs won handily in 2005 and lead the overall series 7-2-1.
Clearly seeing the Falcons on the schedule is never time to breathe a sign of relief, especially when it comes this early in the year. But based on last week's disaster bowl, there's at least one glaringly obvious reason why we shouldn't start gathering the women and children and heading for the hills quite yet: The Falcons don't pass, and you can't get beat deep when the team doesn't pass. Victory cigars for everyone!!! At this time I need to make sure I'm not overlooking any glaring fallacies in that very, very broad assessment of their offensive scheme and... well, shit. Let's get all up in that ass, shall we?
TCU Offense vs. Air Force Defense. As we've beaten into the ground ever since the final gun sounded Friday night, Casey Pachall and our offensive line look like they're going to be fine. We beat that horse into the ground mostly because it was all we had to be proud of at the time, but we also did it because its true. Any physical setbacks Pachall may have had Friday were fortunately not sack related anddue to conditioning and heat, at least one of which should not be a factor at all in lovely southeastern Colorado at this time of year. However, it's looking more and more like the Frogs are going to have to make ends meet against the Falcons without star RB Ed Wesley, and may have to do so for some time. I haven't seen a solid explanation, but we do for certain know he has a nagging shoulder injury and should probably not have played at all against Baylor. While it's never good to lose a player of Wesley's caliber, it's a loss we should be able to weather with Waymon James and especially Matthew Tucker appearing to be rapidly rounding into fine form. One or both of those guys are going to need to have a big day in order for the Frogs to turn the season around. lyle's money is on Waymon. I can't say I disagree with him.
As for the passing game, someone not named Josh Boyce is DEFINITELY going to have to step up, or 0-2 is all but guaranteed for these Frogs. After teasing ourselves for a full season and off-season, I think we may have to finally admit that Antoine Hicks will never be the Antoine Hicks of 2009 ever again. He's the Benjamin Button of receiving careers, and it's absolutely mystifying as to why. During the Baylor game, when we were making our comeback, he was the only player not on the sidelines, pacing alone behind the bench with his helmet off. Perhaps he was walking off some sort of injury and getting his bearings back, but it did not make me feel good about his season going forward. I was also pretty confused as to why LaDarius Brown didn't get an ounce of PT when 3 other freshmen did, but considering the staff ran 6 freshmen into the game, I'd venture a guess that if he's as good as we imagine him to be, he would've been in the game in a heartbeat. Perhaps he just needs a little fine tuning. Skye Dawson looked good... the only problem is it was in the run game. Clearly Skye's speed advantage will always have him as an option on sweep plays from the wideout position, but I want to see the vertical Skye Dawson we saw in last year's opener. With the combination of Casey's mondo arm and a 3 score deficit, I felt for sure we might see that in the second half last week, but clearly that was not in the cards. Also look for Brandon Carter, David Porter and Cam White to see significant playing time again this week and be on the receiving end of a few Pachall zips.
As for Pachall - what should our expectations be? Like many of you, I'm so proud of the kid that I'm actually considering forgiving Brian Smith for his moment of idiocracy a couple of years back, but should I be? In hindsight, Baylor defense was the definition of not very good last week and, had the score been reversed, they'd be the ones getting massacred in the press. The only thing that worries me about Pachall is, when you read his press clippings, he's almost as proud of himself as we are of him. Is that just the steady confidence of a guy who is ready to make an impact on the college football world at large? Or is it the over confidence of a first year starter who is about to go into Russell Westbrook, "F it, I'm going to shoot us out of this game if its the last thing I ever do!!" mode? I personally believe it's the former, but as Patterson has warned us, Andy Dalton had a pretty nice showing against Baylor in his first year only to get trounced in Austin right after. Fortunately, Air Force isn't near the caliber that Texas team was, and Pachall is twice the QB Dalton was in his first year. I'm cautiously optimistic, but I'm by no means worried about Pachall in round 2.
As for Air Force's defense, it's not exactly easy to judge them based on one game against North Dakota, a 37-20 win. BUT, that said, they DID give up 20 points and 368 yards - an even 184 split - to the Dakota that doesn't even claim Mount Rushmore. Of course, I have to be fair and point out that it was 37-7 entering the 4th quarter, so it's certainly up for debate that the Falcons tapped the brakes a little bit, which is kind of ironic because when shelling a barren wasteland like Afghanistan - the middle east's answer to the Dakota Territories - our Air Force doesn't exactly show much restraint. Where's the killer instinct, flyboys? Of course I'm only kidding because, despite the final score, Air Force's defense made their mark on this game by totaling 6 sacks and 3 picks. Linebacker Patrick Hennessey led the team with 8 tackles, followed by Anthony Wright and Chris Miller with 7, with Wright recording one of the interceptions. They gave up 2 passing TDs, and another on the ground, but held the other ND to only 11 first downs.
I think Air Force's defense is going to be better than Baylor's. Ok, I know they are going to be better than Baylor's. But, as I said, it's impossible to know how much better they will really be without having played a true football game. As for TCU, we don't know who is going to step up in the receiving game and we're missing our #1 RB. At best I can arguably give TCU a slight edge. But in reality?
Edge - Push.
Air Force Offense vs. TCU Defense.
The short answer: Advantage Falcons.
The long answer: Advantage Falcons, but I'll be a little more elaborative. As I said earlier, Air Force isn't going to beat you through the air. Sure, they mix in a pass play every now and again when they think they've lulled you to sleep with their triple option tomfoolery, but it's not something they're going to rely on. And fortunately, it's not something they were very good at this past week as 10th year Senior Tim Jefferson passed 9 times, completed 4 and was picked twice. That's not very good, especially considering the competition, but one of Jefferson's 4 completions did go for 6. Of course, the Falcons CAN run the ball. Just a little. They may or may not have tallied 391 yards and 4 scores on the ground and scored on their first play from scrimmage on an 80 yard sweep. BUT, despite the big day on the ground, the Falcons fumbled the ball not one, not two, not even three, but FOUR times, losing one. Stansly Maponga, your move. The thing about Air Force is, based on their scheme, they're almost always going to have fresh legs running the ball, with backs Asher Clark, Wesley Cobb, Mike DeWitt and Jefferson all carrying the ball into the double digits. The Falcons even use something called a fullback, which I hear is a big white guy who isn't tall enough to be a tight end that runs the ball in desperate situations. Conditioning is going to be the key here, and Air Force, on the surface, holds the upper hand.
The big question, of course, is what should we expect out of our battered, humbled and humiliated defense? I'm not sure how we can begin to draw a comparison here. The problem is, we don't know these guys at all. We don't know Jason Verrett. We don't know Johnny Fobbs . We don't know Kris Gardner. We don't know Sam Carter. So we really have no idea how they're going to respond. And what HAPPENED last week? Is Chad Glasgow's absence that big of a loss? Did Jason Verrett, the guy the staff was raving about, forget how to play football during the week between off season practice and the season? And why weren't Elisha Olabode and Tra Battle involved? GP stated this week that Trenton Thomas will see a lot of action and Kevin White will be starting, but is that good for business or just a necessary move borne out of desperation?
Fortunately we DO know Greg McCoy and he got better as the year went on. And Tank isn't going to be quiet two weeks in a row. I'm not sure what Brock's status is, but if he plays, he'll sure as hell be head hunting. And Braylon showed some flashes, as did Maponga. Of course, the homer in me says we come out pissed off, play lights out, and walk away with a 14 point win. But I genuinely have no basis for that. The one thing I keep telling myself is, surely they can't play any worse? Not exactly the message I wanted to deliver here, but it's the best I have right now. Truth be told, I am damned conflicted. I want to say that, with our safeties being available to play a little more aggressive and our front 6 knowing what's coming 90% of the time, surely things will slow down a bit. But that's pretty ignorant of me because, after 5 years of games against the Falcons I should know a lot better than that. I should also know better considering we let Terrance Ganaway, a guy who Nevin Shapiro might've risked more jail time to put a bounty on after his pregame proclamations, run on us all night. I think we're going to give up points. It won't be 50, but it'll be the most points we give up until we roll into Boise. Having this many young guys on the field taking on a perfected triple option offense for the first time is going to be a much bigger task than we want to admit. I trust Patterson and Bumpas wholeheartedly, but I think even they know they have their work cut out for them. Air Force is going to get their yards, the question is will all of that yardage result in TDs or FGs?
Edge - Falcons.
Special Teams. Ugh. Air Force made their one FG attempt last week, a 45 yarder. I don't think we had any attempts last week, but I can't remember. Please don't refresh me in the comments. Greg McCoy absolutely blew up in the kick return game last week, and Dawson did well in the few punts our defense so considerately provided for him, although Air Force's Anthony Lacoste did well in this area as well. Punting the ball, Kelton didn't exactly set the world on fire with his 35 yard average, white Air Force blasted 2 for 49 a piece. We also both blocked a PAT. Calling another push feels like cheating, but as I have a feeling this game will come down to field position and field goals, those aspects cancel each other out.
Edge - Push.
Miscellaneous Bantering. Despite Air Force technically having the edge in this one based on my completely scientific breakdown, I feel good about our chances. Clearly the majority of our fans who still remain after that massive bandwagon fire of a week ago are in pure silver lining mode and looking towards the future, but I say screw that, let's do it this year. Or, DO IT NOW as the team motto states. My 11-1 prediction generated a few laughs, even from those TCU fans who are far more die hard than I could ever dream of being, but I'm sticking by it. I genuinely think we will be ok. Losing the Baylor game was awful, but it's better for these guys to get their nuts kicked in early rather than late. I'd actually say losing to Baylor probably gives us a better chance of winning tomorrow in a game that, relatively speaking, means a shitton more than the Baylor game ever could or should have. This team knows it is resilient, now they need to show that resiliency before the fourth quarter. You can't tell me a team with Matthew Tucker, Waymon James, Stansly Maponga, Tanner Brock, Tank Carder and Jeff Olson, guys who no doubt understand exactly what it is like to stand almost at the pinnacle of college football, were pleasant to be around this week. The pressure of running the tables for a BCS game is mostly off. The pressure of having the #1 defense for a third consecutive year is more or less dead at this point. All these guys have to do is go out and play their game, play the way the coaches tell them to. You worry a little about newer guys who probably don't remember that as recently as 2007 TCU was suffering through a 7-5 season, but I fully expect the coaching staff and veteran leadership to step in and get their minds right. It's not going to be pretty, and it's not going to be the typical Air Force cake walk we've become accustomed to when they come to Fort Worth, but when the final whistle sounds, the Frogs will be 1-1 and back in the saddle.
The Pick: TCU 31, Air Force 28. And yes, that's 5 TDs, 4 missed PATs.
Discussion Question: I thought about this a lot in the off season, but after last week's game it's really come to a head. So the Andy Dalton years were clearly unbelievable and inarguably the best 4 year run for a TCU squad ever. But they were also insanely spoiling and kind of emotionally numbing. By that I mean, we knew what to expect. Towards the end, we knew we were going to run 90% of our opponents off the field by halftime, and we knew we had to do that because we had to generate style points. And while it made for some entertaining offensive displays, it also made for some pretty damned boring football at times. So while it's very, very uncertain that we'll ever experience fan success like that ever again, isn't there something kind of exciting about the unknown with this new group? I REALLY hated losing to Baylor, but now that we've lowered our expectations for these guys, doesn't that sense of, "Well, I have no flipping idea what is going to happen the rest of the season," almost make this season and beyond more exhilarating from a fan perspective? Undefeated seasons are awesome and always preferred, but I have a feeling this could be the most emotionally involved season we will have ever experienced under Patterson. Am I wrong?