Monday, October 31, 2011

Game 8 Recap: BYU.

Apparently not all Mormons wear ankle length denim dresses.

Six minutes. Six minutes was all it took for TCU to put 14 points on the board and essentially scrawl their name in the win column. Yes, they would need just about all of their final 38 points to make this one official, but a third quick start in a row pretty much set the tone for the rest of the evening. Despite lulling themselves into complacency with a late 35-10 lead, the outcome of this game was never really in doubt. You can partially thank the TCU defense for their third impressive performance in a row; You can mostly thank Riley Nelson for playing football just like you'd expect a long haired Mormon that kind of looks like a lesbian to play. Yes, he had a nice night running the ball, but his two interceptions - and nearly a third and fourth - were CRUCIAL in keeping the momentum in TCU's favor. And just in case you think I'm targeting too much blame Nelson's way, you can also give credit to the BYU Punter developing leprosy in pre game because his hands must have literally turned black and rotted off without his knowledge based on his case of the fumbles. As always, if you want the more traditional, fact based, stat filled recap, check out the Star-Telegram or Purple Menace. Here is what I have to offer.

Casey Pachall did not have an outstanding night passing the ball. Actually, correction - Pachall did not have an outstanding night passing the ball based on what we know he's capable of. 13/23 for 147 yards and 2 Scores. Of course, it doesn't help pad your stats when the opposing team gives you fantastic field position based on their gaffes for a good portion of the game, but it's true his night will not set off any Heisman bells. However, he did exactly what he needed to do when called upon. When Skye Dawson was being covered by a LB on the second play of the game, he took advantage of the matchup and hit him wide open for a score, with a major assist from said LB who fell down on the play, another one of those little favors the Cougars did us. When Ed Wesley made a ballsy play on a punt return to set us up with solid field position right before halftime, Pachall dropped a perfect pass into Josh Boyce's hands to officially put the game out of reach.

But perhaps the biggest thing we should take into account about Pachall? For a guy who came into the season with potential character and maturity issues, he's handling this Matt Brown thing pretty well, wouldn't you say? It's pretty clear that, at least for one snap per goal line possession, Matt Brown is going to get a shot to run the read option and pick up an easy TD. We wondered if it would work as effectively against teams not named New Mexico and, at least for one week, it did. After giving Pachall the chance for half a season, it's clear that Matt Brown is more effective on his feet and that putting him in the game in option situations gives the team a better chance for success.

I wouldn't suggest that Pachall HAS to be on board for this to work, but the fact that he is certainly helps. You have to realize, being pulled in deep red zone situations is going to take away more than a few potential TDs from Pachall's stat line. And I don't think he could care any less. He's pumping his fist on the sidelines. He's one of the first to run out and congratulate Brown when he scores. He's talking to him on the sidelines between possessions, presumably discussing in game strategy, and, perhaps just a little, front row hoes. Pachall has quickly become not only a team leader but one of the more team first guys on the entire roster. Don't underestimate his positive outlook on the success of the team the past few weeks.

After the game, some amongst our fanbase suggested that, based on two games, the QB competition will be WIDE open come spring time. Coincidentally based on this information it has come to Spitblood's attention that after the game some in our fanbase said things that suggested they are complete dumbasses. This is a very VERY rough comparison to make, but would you suggest that Luke Shivers should be our starting RB because he scores on most of his possessions? Because, at present, this is what Matt Brown is to our offense: A talented runner who is going to score lots of a TDs because he only touches the ball in situations where the play is designed for him to score. That's by no means a knock on Brown because he is very good at what he does, but if he was the superior passer, he would be starting our games. It's not ironic that he has not attempted one pass in these goal line situations, although I admit it eventually happens to catch a team off guard. In the meantime, let's just be happy with our riches at the QB position rather than try to make something out of nothing.

Now that that's out of the way and I've buried probably the biggest takeaway from this game... uh... Jonathan Anderson, anyone? I wouldn't go so far as to say his performance came out of nowhere; He's a guy the coaching staff LOVES and he's seen snaps already this year. But with Tekerrin Cuba going down early with an injury, Anderson was unexpectedly thrust into the starting lineup in one of the biggest games of the season. With that kind of pressure, it's hard to know what to expect from a young guy without many meaningful snaps. I'd say a team leading SEVENTEEN tackles and one of the prettiest one handed picks you'll ever see made quite the statement, wouldn't you? And, truthfully, it should've been TWO picks. I can't remember with 100% certainty, but I believe it was the possession immediately before his pick that Anderson let a sure INT go right through his hands almost like he didn't see the ball. Apparently whatever Patterson "suggested" to him on the sidelines immediately following the play got through to him, because he was an absolute monster from then on. His 17 tackles were the most for TCU in 7 years, and one more than his career total coming into the game. With Cuba sitting out practice yesterday nursing that ankle and his status being that of the "gametime" variety, at least we know we're in good hands with Anderson should he need to fill in once again.

However, as I alluded to earlier, a big reason why TCU won this game is because BYU was more than willing to let them have it. The Cougars had 2 botched punt snaps and one blocked punt. All three of those screwups led to TCU points. Seriously, look at all 6 TCU scoring drives from Friday:

  • 2 plays, 61 yards, Pachall to Skye Dawson 48 yard TD pass - 7-0. BYU assistance: 15 yard unnecessary roughness penalty on first down.
  • 2 plays, 4 yards, Matt Brown 6 yard TD rush -14-0. BYU assistance: Fumbled punt snap.
  • 3 plays, 37 yards, Matt Brown 2 yard rush - 21-10. BYU assistance: blocked punt by Greg Burks.
  • 2 plays, 45 yards , Pachall to Boyce 33 yard TD pass -28-10. BYU assistance: Allowed Ed Wesley to return a low punt that should've been downed for 19 yards.
  • 4 plays, 38 yards, Waymon James 4 yard D rush - 35-10. BYU assistance: Fumbled punt snap.
  • 13 plays, 54 yards, Ross Evans 35 yard FG - 38-20. BYU assistance: Riley Nelson fumble, recovered by Jon Koontz.

Seriously, other than MAYBE the Ed Wesley return because he mostly just made a great, ballsy play, BYU DIRECTLY contributed to all of our points scored on the evening. I don't think I realized it at the time, but it's interesting that the Kenny Cain and Anderson picks did not lead to points. However, as Cain's was a "right place, right time" catch off a deflection in the back of the end zone which only gave TCU the ball at the 20 and the drive following Anderson's was killed by an illegal block, this makes more sense. Regardless, both of those INTs were HUGE for momentum, especially Cain's because BYU was driving to pull within 4 points during the first of TCU's several defensive nap times.

I don't want you to think that I'm using the above figures to disparage the efforts of TCU. In fact, I just wanted to demonstrate that being opportunistic enough to take advantage of these errors is the sign of a team that is figuring things out. But about those defensive nap times... That's a big thing that should concern us going forward. Don't get me wrong - BYU is a good offensive football team and, for one night in Arlington, TCU was simply better. This isn't the case of a good team finding a way to win and a bad team finding a way to lose - both teams played their asses off and TCU just happened to make more plays and take advantage of BYU mistakes. But look at the final numbers. BYU had more TOP, rushing yards, passing yards, total yards, first downs and converted more third downs and had fewer penalties. And some of these weren't even close. Removing sacks, Riley Nelson rushed for 120 yards. For a good part of the night he was everything that Robert Griffin still wishes he was. This wasn't necessarily a case of TCU being more lucky than good because you have to be good to put yourself in a position to create turnovers. But if Nelson has his same game and the BYU punter has his head on straight, this one could've turned into a severe nailbiter. I feel a lot better about November 12th than I did a month ago, but I'm by no means expecting a victory. We can't expect 3 turnovers and 3 special teams disasters to bail us out on the blue turf.

Enough of that negative BS though because, even though BYU had better overall numbers, they weren't THAT great. TCU came into the game giving up 346 yards of offense per game - 223 pass, 123 rush while the Cougars came in averaging 388- 232 and 156. But when the dust settled? BYU had 354 total yards - 215 passing and 139 rushing. The 24 first downs were a bit jarring, but a near 1:1 TD to first down ratio will be taken by most teams every time. And, as mentioned above, TCU had a short field on quite a few of their possessions thanks to the Cougars, so their offensive numbers were more than likely going to look better than ours. Teams will take winning the scoreboard over winning the stat battle every time.

For the evening, BYU really only had 3 "good" drives. The first was in the first quarter when, on third and 9, the Johnny Fobbs of old returned, getting beat by Ross Apo for a 42 yard completion deep in TCU territory. Fortunately the defense clamped down and held the Cougars to a three and out field goal. The second was on BYU's very next drive where they methodically drove the ball down the field on 9 plays for 76 yards and a score. Nelson did most of the work, completing all three of his pass attempts and rushing for 18 yards. Then things got PRETTY quiet until late in the game when BYU went on a 12 play, 78 yard TD drive with 5 minutes left in the game. After completing the 2 point conversion, BYU kicked the onside attempt out of bounds and TCU was able to run the clock out.

A few more scattered thoughts:

  • Jonathan Anderson was the clear cut MVP on defense, but offensively I'm not quite sure who to single out. Ed Wesley and his 59 rushing yards, including a 28 yard scamper to set up TCU's third score? Matt Brown and his 1:1 TD to rush ratio? Pachall for doing his part on and off the field? I'll think outside the box here and give it to Skye Dawson. You have to give Skye credit for keeping his head on straight after a ROUGH start to the year where he lost rank in the WR pecking order as well as his PR duties. Boyce had the better numbers Friday night, but I like Skye for treating each game as a new opportunity to prove himself and removing any past performances for the second week in a row. Besides, I'm pretty sure Boyce will have a few more opportunities win this award winning, yet arbitrary honor.

  • Not winning player of the game? Anyone on special teams coverage. TCU let Cody Hoffman rack up 167 yards in kick returns, including a 52 yarder that would've led to points had Kenny Cain not picked off the subsequent Nelson pass. And then, of course, there was the JD Falslev punt return for a score that made the game closer than it had any right being. Seriously, JD Falslev? Sounds like an Eastern Bloc - the real one - terrorist posing as a surfer in some crappy teenage action flick.

  • Ross Evans and Ryan DeNucci both action on kickoffs and managed to keep the ball inbounds. No touchbacks, though.

  • Major props should also go to Tank Carder and Devin Johnson for having big nights. As for Tank, it wasn't necessarily up to Rose Bowl Tank standards, but 9 tackles will do the trick and it's good to see him back in his element after a shaky first half of the season. And Johnson? In the preview I said the TCU defensive improvement couldn't be so simple as inserting him into the lineup, but maybe it is? 8 tackles, with 2.5 going for a loss and a sack is the kind of backfield disruption we'd been missing out of the safety position for much of the season. It's good to have it back.
And that's about all I have to say about that. A win is a win is a win, and it's nice to finish up the time spent with our cult friends on a 4-0 winning streak. Up next is Wyoming and, unlike the past couple of times we've visited Laramie, it looks like this could be played under those wintry conditions you always fear from such a trip. The Pokes shouldn't be a problem even if we played them in Siberia, but never underestimate that little extra home field bonus. For now, the Frogs are 6-2 with a perfect 3-0 Conference record and sit right on the cusp of being ranked again through 2/3 of the season. It should be a delightful finish.


Sir Wesley Willis said...

I also should've mentioned that TCU and BYU came into the game at opposite ends of the INT spectrum... and TCU won that battle, too.

RoughtonTCU said...

Did anyone else feel really good about our attendance? Maybe my optimism was clouded by my extremely drunk goggles, but I felt that a large majority of the fans present were wearing purple. At least a lot better than the 50/50 predictions I was hearing before I got there.

VikingFrog said...

Attendance was good. If everyone who was watching the Rangers game in the concourse would have shuffled in it would have been great. Better than I expected though. That place is lifeless though.

Also, for being such a damn expensive jumbotron, you would think they could get the colors right. Our purples looked like a deep blue on that thing. Maybe it's set up that way so the Cowboys blues are bluer or something, but it was kind of annoying being that we were playing a team who's colors were blue.

Sir Wesley Willis said...

Cowboys Stadium is the nicest stadium in the world, with the worst true gameday experience I'd argue. Even when its packed to the brim it doesn't get loud. Opening the roof just compounds that void. The Cowboys lose games at home because they don't have the talent, but it doesn't help that your crowd advantage sucks.