Jeramey Gillilan: Now both TCU and Texas Tech have taken the undefeated Bears to the wire in overtime, but came up short. Damn everything. Melissa what’s the overall mood with Horned Frog fans following that loss and how have expectations shifted/changed/evolved looking forward towards the last few games of the regular season? Specifically how are you all looking at the game this weekend in Lubbock?
Melissa Triebwasser: It’s been an incredibly frustrating for TCU fans, who came into the season feeling like the Frogs were pretty well stocked at every position outside of quarterback.
Well, we were wrong.
After starting so strong, the running game has been really hit and miss. The wide receivers have been incredibly drop-prone, and the best one we have -- Jalen Reagor -- seems to be missing from Sonny Cumbie’s game plan each week. The quarterback play has had some bright spots (Duggan is a flat-out gamer), but TCU’s passing game leaves something to be desired most weeks.
The defense has shown the ability to be a typical lock-down Gary Patterson unit, but has been plagued by injuries and oddly struggled to rush the quarterback consistently, which makes things tougher on everybody.
So, fans are disappointed, frustrated, etc... though I think had we beat Baylor last week, everything would have been forgiven.
I don’t know what to make of the state of the Frogdom heading into Lubbock -- there’s some hope for the future, and some excitement for the present, but folks don’t seem all that hyped to try and get to bowl eligibility. But, I do think the players are fighting to keep that streak alive and will be prepared and ready to play on the road.
JG: TCU opens up as a 3 point favorite in Lubbock. With both the Horned Frogs and the Red Raiders at the cusp of “win or die” in regards to bowl eligibility, how much do you agree with this line in favor of the visitors? What side of the ball gives you the most confidence against the Red Raiders? (Im going to reorder the following questions with whichever side you align with)
MT: Really? That seems a bit high. To me, this one feels like a toss-up. TCU really emptied the chamber against Baylor and it was an emotionally draining loss for the team and the fans. I think this rivalry still means something to both, though, and expect Patterson to have them ready to play despite being pretty gassed out after last week. The defense was excellent last week against Baylor, and I expect them to have another solid performance, building off of an improved pass rush and another week of experience for the five freshmen starting on that side of the ball. The offense needs to stay on the field, limit their three and outs, and not screw it up for a D that has been playing at a high level most of the last month.
JG: Okay so let’s talk about that defense. The TCU 4-2-5 is one of my favorite in college football. What does TCU do so well to be statistically one of the best in our conference? Who on the defense do we need to be paying attention to? Additionally, how are you feeling about Tech’s offense this year going up against the Horned Frog defense?
MT: This defense is predicated by strong safety and linebacker play, and the Frogs have some good ones there. Garret Wallow is one of the best stoppers in the league, and Trevon Moehrig has been a revelation at safety in year two as a starter. It would be irresponsible to not mention senior CB Jeff Gladney, who is statistically the best cover corner in the Big 12, and Ross Blacklock, who is a super human at DT. The second linebacker position and defensive end have been a revolving door in 2019, and the Frogs have two starting safeties out for the year, so the secondary and pass rusher are a week to week “we’ll see” affair. I like what I saw out of Ochaun Mathis at DE last week, and freshman Colt Ellison was really effective -- though they may choose to sit him and protect his redshirt.
I will be really interested to see how the Frogs’ attack the Tech O -- historically, GP has been exceptional stopping the run, and outside of Chuba Hubbard going nuclear in Stillwater, they’ve shut down most of the really great backs in the league all year. Now, Duffey presents a different problem altogether; we saw what he did against TCU last year in Fort Worth, and running QBs have gashed the Frogs several times already this year. Keeping him in the pocket will be the difference in this game.
JG: On the other side of the ball: Max Duggan has stepped up big in the absence of so many more, and truly I think he’s got a lot of potential ahead of him. What is it about Duggan’s game that you like and what gives you grief? Who alongside Duggan helps make this TCU offense roll… please tell me all about Sewo Olonilua. Additionally, how do you feel about the matchup against Tech’s defense?
MT: After last week’s game, Patterson talked about Max’s attitude and how you want to build around a guy that has a little attitude to his game. Duggan has a long way to go as a finished product at QB, but he plays with a grit, a toughness, and has a preternatural leadership quotient for a tru freshman. Guys play hard for him. His ability to run with the football, his toughness, and his improved accuracy (he threw an absolute dime to Pro Wells on the first drive of the game at the pylon that the Frogs’ tight end dropped right through his hands) give TCU a shot to win each week.
As far as Sewo -- dude is a freak. But as the season has worn on, he’s bounced more runs outside and gone away from running straight ahead, which has been frustrating to fans. That being said, any time he decides that he wants to pick up yards, he can. If he can get back to running like he did in the Cheez-It Bowl, he can carry the Frogs a long way these last three games.
JG: I’d also love to get your insight on the Patterson/Cumbie strife. Has the Texas Tech alum exhausted his usefulness at TCU?
MT: It’s been a weird season in that regard -- Patterson, who never throws his assistants under the bus, who never opens them up to media, who is loyal nearly to a fault, shocked everyone in the room when he sent Cumbie to the mic after the SMU game. He also gave him the kiss of death this week by talking about how he’s not looking to make any changes.
No one that’s watched TCU doubts Cumbie as a recruiter or as an offensive staff member, but most have grown tired of his predictable play-calling and lack of inventiveness. That, and the fact that he can’t seem to get Jalen Reagor the ball, have made it tough for Frog fans to stay on board the Sonny Hype Train. Last week was a perfect example -- first and goal on the three and the Frogs don’t score -- run for no gain, run for no gain, penalty to the one, run for -3, fade route to a sub-6’ WR, holding penalty, QB scramble, interception on a desperation heave.
Doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.
We have seen the TCU offense go to the same well with the same (ineffective) result time and time again. There’s no pre-snap movement, little motion, little play-action. Darius Anderson gets forgotten about. Mid-range routes don’t exist. The screen game is stale. Some of this is personnel, some of it is lack of execution, but I don’t think it’s unfair to put some of it on the play-caller as well.
JG: For TCU to win, _________________ has to have a big game.
MT: Paging Darius Anderson.
The senior running back hasn’t been getting a ton of touches, but he’s a guy that can wrack up yards in a hurry. Mathis and Wallow will also need to be effective in leading the defense and corralling the talented Tech attack.
JG: For Tech to win, they will have done ________________________ well. (I love these)
MT: Made Max Duggan throw the ball and getting Duffey loose on some long runs.
JG: How do you see things shaking out in Lubbock at 11am, aaaand how do we get there?
MT: Man, this is a tough one to predict. TCU did a lot of things well a week ago, but the offense’s ineffectiveness in regulation and the third overtime are concerning. I think Patterson’s crew comes out and plays stellar defense once again, and the offense does just enough. Anderson and Sewo combine for 200 yards on the ground and Max has a big run late to set up the game winning field goal by Jonathan Song to make it a 20-17 TCU win.
Big thanks to Melissa for taking the time out of a hectic weekend to give us some thoughts before Saturday. Give her a follow on twitter @TheCoachMelissa