TCU's Offensive Line Is the Key to Getting the Team on Track
There's still a long way to go in the 2013 season, but TCU is looking very un-TCU-like through three games.
The Horned Frogs are off to a rare 1-2 start. The last time that happened was 2007, when Gary Patterson's team lost back-to-back games in September against Texas and Air Force. (For what it's worth, that team finished the year 8-5.)
There's talent on this TCU roster to compete for a Big 12 title, but so far, this is a team that hasn't been able to put it all together. No game has symbolized that inconsistency like last Thursday's 20-10 loss to Texas Tech.
You can't pin the loss on one thing. Quarterback Trevone Boykin looked uncomfortable, more so early in the game, and the defense uncharacteristically missed a lot of open-field tackles. But TCU's lack of discipline along the offensive line was especially concerning. Of the 13 penalties TCU had against the Red Raiders, seven were false starts (though it should be noted that five were by offensive linemen; one by running back B.J. Catalon; and one by wide receiver Brandon Carter).
O-line was a concern for TCU heading into the season with the departures of Tayo Fabuluje and Michael Thompson. But it needs to be an important part of turning things around offensively for the Frogs.
For as jumpy as the O-line was against Tech, it was equally good in run blocking. TCU was able to pick up over 200 yards on the ground against the Red Raiders. TTU did a superb job in open-field tackling, but the holes for the running backs were there.
Patterson took responsibility for the offensive struggles during Monday's Big 12 coaches teleconference, explaining that it was part play-calling, part execution. In a way, though, TCU's offensive approach wasn't all that ineffective. On plenty of occasions, Boykin would throw a quick pass to the outside and let receivers make plays in one-on-one situations. That would open up running lanes inside later.
In fact, there was barely any defensive line presence by TTU on the weak side of the line when Catalon swept in for a 17-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.
The problem was the Frogs kept digging themselves into holes through penalties. TCU has averaged 11 penalties a game in two losses. Not surprisingly, a lot of drives have stalled as a result.
Is that a problem TCU can fix? Sure, but how quickly it can is the real question—as is pass protection. Boykin scrambled a lot against Texas Tech, partially because he was actually being chased and partially because he looks like a player who feels the need to make a big play every time.
Maybe Boykin settles down with time, but this team can ill-afford to lose another quarterback to injury. Boykin's tendency is to run with, shall we say, not a lot of regard for his body. That's not to say his running ability can't be a part of the offense, but distributing the ball is equally important.
He needs to be able to do that to get into a rhythm. That starts with discipline and protection up front.
Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for Big 12 football. All quotes obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise. You can follow Ben on Twitter @BenKercheval.
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