Three weeks in and TCU’s offense has an identity crisis.
Maybe its the shuffling of quarterbacks with Trevone Boykin taking over for the injured Casey Pachall. Maybe it’s the slow start of the receiving corps.
Whatever the reason, the Horned Frogs’ offense has been ineffective in the first half of the first three games, and twice the second-half turnaround wasn’t enough to prevent a loss.
TCU (1-2) ranks 92nd out of 123 FBS teams with 354 yards per game and is 81st in scoring at 25 points per game.
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In Thursday’s 20-10 loss at Texas Tech, the offense struggled to move the ball in the first half and was held scoreless. TCU rushed 21 times for 66 yards. Boykin completed 8 of 11 passes in the first half, but most went for short yardage on poorly executed screens in which receivers missed blocks or Texas Tech’s coverage was there to limit the gain.
“That’s one of the things we’ve discussed since Thursday,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said. “What is our identity on offense? What do we need it to be so we can be successful?”
Patterson said during Monday’s Big 12 teleconference that a combination of factors has led to the offensive struggles.
“I’m not going to throw coaches underneath the bus. I’m not going throw players underneath the bus,” he said. “We have some guys, as you saw on national TV, that have been on the edge as far as acting right. We need to have better leadership and we need to have better coaching, and that starts with the head coach and how we handle things.”
In the second half, TCU showed it could run the ball against Tech, driving 69 yards in nine plays (eight rushing) for the game-tying touchdown. Patterson intimated that he’d like to see a more run-heavy approach in the future, including TCU’s next game against SMU (1-1) at 11 a.m. Sept. 28 at Amon G. Carter Stadium.
“Obviously, the coaches always get blamed, but we’ve had two or three days of talking about things we need to do,” Patterson said. “We need to tweak some things and change some things around. We have to get some guys in position when we have people open that will catch the ball. I think the other night we could have run the ball a little more effectively and maybe had a better chance to win the ball game.”
With Boykin at quarterback, TCU would like to show a more dynamic offense, but that may require a run-first approach.
“We have a guy who can run around and do things,” Patterson said. “Main thing is I think we should have rushed the ball more. I think that’s been our history if you look at our model of how we’ve won. Everybody wants to score a lot of points, but the bottom line is we won the Rose Bowl 21-19. You’ve got to go do what you’ve got to do to go win. We threw the ball nine times last year and beat Texas.”
TCU was often stuck in third and long situations, many caused by 13 penalties. TCU is 87th nationally in third-down conversions, converting just 15 of 42. That makes it tough on the quarterback. Patterson said Boykin was “fair” against the Red Raiders.
“The same thing happened with Trevone last year,” he said. “When we didn’t throw interceptions, we won. When we threw interceptions, we lost. The biggest thing with Trevone, I would say, we need to do a better job in scramble drill. He doesn’t have to win the ball game by himself, and I think he tried to do too much the other night. We had people wide open, and he didn’t get the ball to them. Everybody needs to take a deep breath and needs to get ready to go.”
Patterson declined to give an update on defensive end Devonte Fields’ foot injury. The sophomore limped off the field in the fourth quarter against Texas Tech.
“No. I’m not talking about injuries,” Patterson said. “We have a couple weeks [off]. We’ll see how it all works out.”
TCU’s defense gave up a few more big plays against Texas Tech. But twice it was a matter of poor tackling, not a defensive back getting beat.
“We have to tackle better,” Patterson said. “We had a guy who tried to push [Texas Tech running back Kenny Williams] out of bounds that goes down the sideline for the first touchdown. You can actually tackle people. That’s what TCU defense has been built on — physical, great leverage, come at you all the time. I thought we played very well, but that was the one part of the game that we did not feel we were very good at. Tackling has got to be important.”
Seven of TCU’s 13 penalties against Texas Tech were on the offense, including a 15-yard personal foul by left tackle Aviante Collins that wiped out Brandon Carter’s 19-yard reception that would have given the Frogs the ball near midfield.
Six of the penalties were false starts by the offense. Perhaps the two costliest for the Frogs were two false starts when trailing 17-10 with under four minutes to go. The first came on third-and-10 after a Texas Tech timeout and led to a TCU punt.
What’s on your sleeve?
The undershirt Boykin was wearing against Texas Tech was used by accident, Patterson said. Kansas State fans are convinced Boykin’s sleeve had the Wildcat logo on it, but TCU said the logo was similar but not a K-State Wildcat.
TCU would not say what kind of shirt it was.
“It was pulled out of the bag by an equipment person,” Patterson said. “It wasn’t a Kansas State deal as far as we knew. It was in a box. [Boykin] was looking for something for his elbow, and nobody even looked at it. It was a mistake on our part, and it won’t happen again.”