One side of the ball did all they could while fans pleaded for the other to get something going. This scenario hasn’t been uncommon for the Red Raiders lately, but on Halloween weekend the defense routinely tricked the TCU offense while treating viewers to a great performance. For the first time on the road this season, all three levels of the defense put in strong efforts. Here are the grades for each group.
Defensive Line: A-
TCU were never able to get the ground game going and the front four were a big part of this. Outside runs were stretched out and blockers were occupied nicely when blitzes were dialed up. No TCU running back had a carry over 11 yards and this was largely due to this group doing their job. When the Red Raiders brought pressure, the edge guys did a good job occupying blockers so that blitzers had a quicker route to the quarterback. The Horned Frogs opted for mostly quick, short throws, and their quarterbacks didn’t have all day to throw every time they wanted to take a shot deep.
Malik Jenkins had a great game for the second consecutive week and this group played well overall. They handled runs between the tackles very nicely this week but weren’t quite as crisp when pursuing the ball on outside runs. Tackling was also much improved this week. The longest TCU run was a keeper by the quarterback for a mere 12 yards. When a team keeps it on the ground 39 times and never breaks anything longer than that, the linebackers deserve tons of credit for handling the second level of the defense.
Defensive Backs: A
After being manhandled by now Washington Redskin Josh Doctson last season, the Tech secondary enjoyed a much more manageable receiving corps this time around. Until overtime, the Red Raiders didn’t allow a single pass of 20+ yards. Douglas Coleman made one of the plays of the game on an interception late in the 3rd quarter and Justis Nelson added several key pass deflections. Kenny Hill was so inefficient that the Horned Frogs benched him late in favor of unproven Foster Sawyer. With TCU throwing so many quick, underneath routes, tackling well was imperative and this unit was up to the task.
Overall Grade: A
Critics will point to three missed field goals from the Horned Frogs and say that this defensive performance wasn’t quite as good as the scoreboard indicates. In reality, this defense consistently stepped up and made crucial plays in the red zone to force those field goal attempts, and that’s a huge improvement. Total yards allowed are misleading here, too, as TCU averaged less than five yards per play. TCU converted just five 3rd down attempts in 15 tries and at one point punted on four straight possessions.
The defense has plenty to be proud of and should be confident heading into the home finale against Texas. This game will have huge bowl game implications and this defense will have another chance to impress.