Ask the Enemy: Horned Frogs for Dinner
Our good friends over at Frogs O’ War answered our pressing questions before the big game Thursday! Thanks to Anthony for joining us, be sure to check out their content over @FrogsOWar on Twitter (X).
CCC: TCU came into this season with a lot to prove after the blowout in the national title. Prove that this wasn’t a fluke, the success was sustainable, and Sonny Dykes is building the Big 12’s new power. Much like Tech’s lofty goals, this season has fallen flat for the Horned Frogs. What’s gone wrong to date that’s led to the disappointing results?
FOW: In retrospect, it was a bit absurd to think TCU could lose a Heisman runner-up QB, the Thorpe Award winner, a First Round WR, a 2nd Round OL, a 3rd Round RB, and its top two sacks leaders as part of eight NFL draftees from last year’s team and simply reload without losing a beat. 2023 was always going to be a step back from the magical 2022 season, but the step has been far further back than could’ve been reasonably expected.
Another loss from last season was Offensive Coordinator Garrett Riley leaving to take the same role at Clemson, replaced in Fort Worth by Kendal Briles. The biggest thing that has gone wrong for the Frogs has been the inability to convert scoring opportunities into points. TCU ranks in the bottom-5 nationally in red-zone scoring percentage, converting just 15 touchdowns in 32 trips inside the opponent 20. While the new offensive scheme has been plenty successful at creating yards in the middle of the field, it turns into a pumpkin in short yardage and in scoring opportunities.
On defense the challenge, in addition to the offense often putting it in bad positions, has been a lack of dudes in the front six of this 3-3-5 scheme. Damonic Williams has done his job at Nose Tackle, but the edge rushers and linebackers have not consistently generated enough QB pressure. The secondary has mostly held up its end of the bargain, but the linebackers haven’t been fast enough to stick with RBs in coverage and have often lost contain, allowing athletic QBs to run free.
CCC: The last time we saw TCU, they were getting taken to task by Kansas State. The Wildcats ran over the Horned Frogs, and the offense stayed grounded. How does TCU regroup? What areas needed the most addressing after the bye week?
FOW: While there are plenty of strategy and execution topics to improve, the number one thing that needs to be addressed: motivation. It’s been an issue for this team right from the opening week embarrassment at the hands of Colorado, with Sonny Dykes calling the Buffs the more excited team to play. K-State OL Cooper Beebe pointed it out in an interview last week, noting that the TCU defenders were laughing on the field and had clearly given up while getting blown out. The Frogs need to show that passion, on-field leadership, pride, and gumption to go and take something from this season.
CCC: Two games, two very different results from Josh Hoover. What does he do best? And what can Tech expect from him? And how does TCU attack offensively with the inexperienced new starter?
FOW: TCU kept it simple in his first start, an incredible 400+ yard and 4 TD debut win over BYU, giving Hoover quick looks and punishing the Cougars for giving TCU receivers all the space in the world and begging Hoover to beat them. Once he settled in, he was progressing through reads, fitting balls into tight windows and even making things happen with his legs. TCU must protect Hoover for him and the offense to find any success; in Manhattan he was under duress all night and could never get into that groove. The Frogs will work in plenty of Emani Bailey in the ground game and if he is able to find success it should ease the pressure on Hoover, but Bailey has delivered huge games in losses too. If TCU is going to have a big day offensively, it’ll be because they kept Hoover clean.
CCC: TCU will be facing a Tech offense that has rearmed, pun intended, with Behren Morton’s return. What names do Tech fans need to know? What matchups do you like most for the Frogs facing the Red Raider offense?
FOW: While it was exposed by Shedeur Sanders to open season, the secondary has definitely been the strength of the TCU defense ever since, led by Josh Newton. QBs have rarely tested the All-Big 12 cornerback, so he only has one interception on the season, but when they do throw his way he is often forcing incompletions. Safety Bud Clark always finds himself around the ball, leading the Frogs in interceptions and pass break ups. Coach Dykes has also suggested there is a chance linebacker Johnny Hodges returns for the Frogs this week, which would be a huge boost, as he is a major leader on the field and would be key in containing Tahj Brooks and bothering Behren Morton.
CCC: Time to call your shot. Will the Horned Frogs earn the critical win, or will they fall in the West Texas evening?
FOW: A weeknight game in Lubbock during Halloween week with a near full moon, truly anything could happen. I expect this to be a close battle, but I’ll project a TCU win in a sloppy one. TCU is able to win the strength-on-strength battle between Morton’s arm talent and the Horned Frog secondary, while Tahj Brooks accumulates carries and yards that ultimately don’t produce enough points. With its back against the bowl-eligibility wall, TCU took the bye week to find some motivation behind this rivalry contest and emerges with a 31-24 victory to retain the Saddle Trophy.