FORT WORTH, Texas — TCU couldn’t waste its Big 12 opener, not with teams like Iowa State, Kansas State and Texas among the Horned Frogs’ next three games. TCU had to beat Kansas on Saturday, and they didn’t have to look dominant doing it.
The fact that the Horned Frogs (3-1, 1-0 in Big 12) did look dominant in the 51-14 win over the Jayhawks (2-3, 0-2) was a bonus.
It was over by halftime, with TCU up 38-0. By then Kansas had 39 total yards on 24 plays. Quarterback Carter Stanley was sitting on 21 passing yards and a couple of kind deflections away from two interceptions. The KU defense had given up a 17-play scoring drive. The KU special teams had given up a 73-yard punt return to Jalen Reagor.
The perfect stark contrast in the box score? At halftime TCU was a perfect 10-of-10 on third down. Kansas was 0-for-6.
In truth, this is probably how it should have gone down. After all, TCU’s defense was expected to be better in 2019 now that it was healthy going into the season. The Jayhawks are still a work in progress, though there has been progress in the first four games under head coach Les Miles.
But TCU’s defense threw cold water on that hope and progress. The Horned Frogs needed that after giving up 41 points and losing their precious iron skillet to their rivals from SMU a week ago. And after some questionable play-calling late last week for the Horned Frogs, their play-caller, co-offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie, dedicated the Horned Frogs to the run game early and often, exploiting a Kansas run defense that was ranked No. 100 in the nation entering the game. And when you consider that TCU’s run offense was No. 15 in the nation before Saturday, that was the right call by Cumbie. TCU had 319 rushing yards for the game.
TCU running back Darius Anderson led the way with 115 yards on 18 carries and one touchdown. Sewo Olonilua added 39 yards and a touchdowns. Backup running back Daimarqua Foster put up 66 yards and a score in the second half. Reagor, one of the league’s top wide receiver, had just one catch for 15 yards, but also had the punt return for the score.
The Horned Frogs started Max Duggan at quarterback and he delivered a solid showing, completing 8-of-11 passes for 100 yards and 2 touchdowns. It was such an efficient outing, and TCU was so far ahead, that head coach Gary Patterson chose to slide Alex Delton behind center midway through the second quarter, and the results were basically the same (he threw for 186 yards). Michael Collins even got to play a bit in the fourth quarter and ended the game with a touchdown run.
If anything, Patterson and his staff were afforded the chance to play many of their back-ups and third-string players and give their starters a break. TCU had 10 players run the ball and 11 players catch at least one pass as TCU had 625 yards in total offense. The Horned Frogs are now entering a stretch of Big 12 play that includes the Cyclones, who remain a Big 12 championship game contender despite some spotty play; the Wildcats, who were ranked under first-year coach Chris Klieman going into Saturday night’s game with Oklahoma State (watch it on ESPN+ and Big 12 Now. Subscribe here); and the Longhorns, who are idle this weekend, banged up and will roll into Fort Worth on Oct. 26. By then we’ll know a lot more about TCU’s pecking order in the Big 12.
As for Kansas, well, I’m not sure anyone has oversold the Jayhawks. But after averaging 402.0 yards per game on offense in its first four outings, I think it’s fair to say that many expected more from the Kansas offense, even if it was against the defensive wizardry of Patterson and the Horned Frogs. Stanley was static most of the game, throwing for just 84 yards and a touchdown. Pooka Williams changed directions on several runs and it hardly mattered as he ended up with 12 yards on 8 carries. Velton Gardner actually had the better game, rushing for 61 yards on 4 carries, though one of those carries was a 45-yard touchdown run. For the game, the Jayhawks had 159 total yards. The Jayhawks need to get better at sustaining offense and scoring points. They finally came up with 14 points in this one, courtesy of Gardner and a TD pass from Stanley to Williams, who did have three receptions for 33 yards.
The Kansas defense requires serious attention right now, too. The raw numbers going into the game don’t look bad — 20.5 points allowed per game and 374.2 yards allowed per game. But aside from those 48 points in that brilliant road win over Boston College, the Jayhawks have averaged 18.3 points per game on offense and 19.3 points allowed per game on defense. The margin is razor-thin. The Jayhawks can’t afford mistakes. That’s what Miles will preach this week and every week until that margin widens.
But don’t count on that the next two games, as the Jayhawks host Oklahoma next Saturday and go to Austin in three weeks.
All TCU did was provide Kansas with a taste of things to come.
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