There seems to be a general consensus on BR-2 TCU following their 23-17 victory over BR-38 Minnesota, a rarity in today’s world, especially after just one game and definitely after college football nearly blew up over controversy from last year’s College Football Playoff selection methods.
The consensus: “Meh.”
We saw why TCU is the second-ranked team in the nation but also saw why they could be easily bounced from that spot and tumble out of playoff projections. Adamant Horned Frogs supporters will point to two bad turnovers, a missed field goal and a handful of foolish penalties as reasons for the tight score, and argue those mistakes won’t come each week, but let’s remember that Minnesota replicated those errors as well. The Gophers racked up ten more penalty yards and also coughed up the ball twice in key spots. Additionally, it was one of the more poorly officiated games you’ll see all season, with the heavy majority of those calls going against Jerry Kill’s team, and they dropped countless passes including five on third down.
Minnesota is the only team in the nation that will play both TCU and Ohio State this season, two teams expected to jockey for a playoff spot. As a result, this game will be poked, prodded, dissected, and repeatedly mentioned in the argument for or against the Horned Frogs.
So, what did we learn?
1. Trevone Boykin needs to make the easy throws
The Heisman contender played well, squeezed the ball into some tight windows over the middle of the field and racked up 246 yards and one touchdown against one of the better secondaries in the country. He added 92 rushing yards on 18 carries, including a beautiful 19-yard shimmy shake touchdown run in the third quarter. But he made countless mistakes, including an ugly interception in the third quarter while the Horned Frogs were up 17-3 and looking to made it a three-score game. Boykin also missed a few wide-open targets.
“The two touchdown passes were the things that stick out to me,” Boykin said. “It was wide open guys and trying to get them the ball. It was just two inches or whatever you want to call it. It’s something that can’t happen if you want to try to win games and go on a roll like it tonight.”
2. Gary Patterson has some fine young linebackers
The Horned Frogs were without two key defenders on Thursday night. Defensive end James McFarland and linebacker Sammy Douglas were sidelined with injuries, with Douglas leaving in the first series. McFarland, who did not play a snap and was in street clothes, might be a defensive end but his presence has dramatic effects on TCU’s entire defense, particularly their front six. True freshman Mike Freeze and redshirt freshman Ty Summers stepped in admirably, combining for 14 tackles and were rarely out of position.
“I think they did a great job, a really great job,” junior defensive end Josh Carraway said about the youngsters. “Mike was out there battling the whole time and I couldn’t be prouder of him. He was just flying around and looked like he was a senior out there.”
Patterson is replacing six of his top seven tacklers from a year ago and, if Thursday was any indication, their defense should be just fine.
3. Dumb penalties will eventually cost them
There is no doubt TCU benefitted from a few very questionable flags against Minnesota (and one very questionable forward-progress non-fumble call in the first quarter) but they still had nine penalties of their own, including three false starts.
The most bizarre aspect of the false starts? The 54,000 in attendance made for a loud and raucous atmosphere but those three came when the crowd was deflated and all three forced them from back from short yardage situations.
4. Their receivers’ speed isn’t enough
Trevone Boykin’s wideouts might be the fastest in the nation, but as they learned against a disciplined secondary, that’s not always enough. Kolby Listenbee, also a track and field star for the Horned Frogs, recorded times of 10.04 seconds in the 100-meter and 20.6 seconds in the 200-meter last spring and used that speed to rack up 741 yards on only 41 catches last season (18.1 yards per catch). However, the senior speedster only caught one ball for nine yards and could never break free.
Boykin averaged a mere 5.86 yards per attempt and only 9.46 per completion, both of which were his worst marks since the Gophers held him to 5.61 yards/attempt and 9.55 yards/completion in their 30-7 win last September. His 26-yard completion to Desmon White in the third quarter, one that White nearly broke for a touchdown, was the only real speed-driven ball that Boykin and his wideouts connected on.