TCU Horned Frogs: 5 Lessons for the Season From the Baylor Game
So close and yet so far.
TCU roared back from a 24-point deficit on the road against rival Baylor to take the lead, only to see it all fall apart in the final minutes to lose by two, 50-48.
It was the first time TCU had allowed 50 points in a game since 2005, when BYU scored 50 (but TCU won that one on the road by a single point, also after a huge comeback).
Baylor QB Robert Griffin III showed why many consider him a dark horse Heisman Trophy candidate. He feasted on TCU's inexperienced secondary and got his revenge from last season's "fluke."
TCU coach Gary Patterson will be doing a lot of yelling at his team this week, but he should not be too hard on his team. There are a lot of good things (and a few bad ones) that this loss can teach us (and Patterson) about his team.
1. Greg McCoy Is Going to Have Some Great Kickoff Returns
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TCU CB Greg McCoy was the only returning member of TCU's secondary and had returned 15 kickoffs over the last two years.
In 2010, he returned only five, but he averaged about 33 yards per return.
In 2009, McCoy returned ten and averaged almost 36 yards per return.
Of course, the few number of returns resulted somewhat from the great success of the TCU defense, which only allowed opponents 12 points a game last season—greatly reducing the number of possible kickoff returns.
And while his last return against Baylor failed miserably, making TCU have a long field in which to win the game, he averaged 38.2 yards per return and had a long of 73 yards.
And if the TCU defense continues to be a work in progress, at least the Frogs can count on decent field position with McCoy returning the kickoffs.
2. The Offensive Line Is Inexperienced, but May Not Be That Bad
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With a young quarterback, TCU really needed its inexperienced offensive line to step up.
And while things did not always look the best for TCU, Casey Pachall (even with cramped up legs) had more than enough time on most plays, especially as he led TCU back on top in the fourth quarter.
Plus the Frogs rushed for 251 yards, which is above TCU's average last season.
However, the O-line really showed how much it is a work in progress in short-yardage situations, coming up short, especially on the goal line in the third quarter. TCU really needed those points.
In any case, one of the biggest worries going into the season ended up not being a huge concern after all.
3. The Secondary Improved Throughout the Game
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Last season, the TCU pass defense was nothing short of incredible, allowing less than 100 yards per game and achieving a defense pass efficiency rating of 94.92.
With only CB Greg McCoy returning for the Rose Bowl champs, it was obvious that this was a unit that might have some growing pains.
Baylor QB Robert Griffin III exploited those growing pains with devastating efficiency.
And while the secondary improved in the second half—and especially the fourth quarter—no part of the TCU team needs to improve more, especially with pass-happy offenses of BYU, SMU, Boise State and San Diego State on the schedule.
Facing a running team like Air Force next week should give TCU some time to regroup, but TCU could be in weekly shootouts if the secondary cannot improve.
And that would give Gary Patterson fits and nightmares, given that he would rather win 13-10 than 50-49 (or even 30-20).
Maybe he will need to convert a few of his speedy wide receivers.
4. Casey Pachall Is the Real Deal
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There was a lot of concern in some circles about whether new TCU QB Casey Pachall—and his arms full of tattoos—could ever replace Andy Dalton.
While Pachall is obviously still a work in progress, he showed determination and leadership in leading TCU back from the 24-point fourth quarter deficit—all the while suffering from cramps limiting his own great ability to run and scramble.
And while it would have been very nice and storybook for Pachall to actually get a win on the road in his first start, this was about as good as performance as anyone could expect out of him.
Sure, he started slow and stumbled now and them, but Pachall showed why he is a worthy successor to Andy Dalton.
5. TCU Could Lose Four More Games This Season
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A lot of folks figured that this might be a rebuilding year for TCU, given the departure of 27 graduates (over half of which made NFL camps).
A good portion of the team are sophomores or younger.
We knew there were questions at QB, O-line, D-line and the secondary, but we did not know which units would step up and which needed a whole lot of work.
Now we know that the QB is fine, the O-line isn't so bad, the D-line needs some improvement, and the secondary needs serious attention.
Looking down the TCU schedule, there appear to be six guaranteed wins, but TCU will need to step it up as it faces Air Force next week, a very hard October with games versus SMU, BYU and a road game at San Diego State, as well as the very so tough battle at Boise in November.
Moreover, Air Force is the only one of those serious opponents which does not feature a solid QB and a dangerous passing game.
And while TCU will not be facing another Robert Griffin III, Gary Patterson will need to do some serious reworking of his secondary if he wants to win these big games.