Gil LeBreton

August 30, 2014

TCU faster and better, but by how much?

Many questions remain unanswered after impressive season opener.

Quicker, stronger, better.

But the still-unanswered question for TCU on Saturday night was how much quicker, how much stronger and how much better are the Horned Frogs?

Scheduling the Samford Bulldogs to open the season was never destined to provide many answers. Thus, it was easy to look at TCU’s 48-14 victory and quarterback Trevone Boykin’s 320 yards passing and still wonder what exactly it all means.

“All you guys that had us on upset alert ...,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said, beginning his postgame press conference.

Upset alert? Who, what? Coach Paranoid had to be kidding. I hope.

The Big 12 Conference Frogs, as expected, dominated the FCS Bulldogs from the opening whistle. By the time Samford launched the late-first half drive to their opening touchdown, the Bulldogs were down 24-0 and had only 32 yards of total offense.

After halftime, the TCU defense, which appeared to be in midseason form, held Samford to 12 total yards.

Statistics, however, are a lot better to dwell upon after a home opener than X-rays. A year ago, the big story coming out of the Frogs’ first home victory was quarterback Casey Pachall’s broken arm.

“The thing is, we’re going to have the opportunity to keep getting better,” Patterson said. “Over the last two years, our problem has been that we were beat up.”

No one should have been surprised that Samford, even with 6-foot-6 Michael Eubank at quarterback, had trouble moving the chains against the TCU defense. The Bulldogs managed only nine first downs and 143 yards for the game.

Linebackers Mike Tuaua, Marcus Mallet and Paul Dawson all had their moments for the Frogs, as did others.

The night’s biggest microscope, though, was reserved for Boykin, fellow quarterback Matt Joeckel and the new, up-tempo TCU offense. It passed the test on several counts, but no one is ready yet to christen it Air Gary.

“For us it was a good win,” Patterson said. “We had too many penalties offensively. You can’t turn the ball over.”

TCU lost a fumble, and Joeckel threw an interception that was returned 55 yards for Samford’s second touchdown. But the coach was right. There were penalties that disrupted drives, blocks that were missed and option plays that appeared to be misread too quickly.

One problem area of a year ago was the offensive line. Its grade Saturday? Better.

But who knows how much better?

The leaner, sleeker Boykin seemed to be more confident throwing the football, as his stats — 29 for 41 with two touchdowns — attest. The junior from West Mesquite did a good job of swiftly getting the ball into the hands of his playmakers, notably B.J. Catalon, Trevorris Johnson and the receiving corps, led by Kolby Listenbee.

When a team runs 96 plays, though, it had better have a lot of playmakers.

Which is why it was somewhat puzzling that TCU waited until only 9:34 was left in the game to send transfer Joeckel into the game. Patterson indicated that that decision was left to the offense’s new co-coordinators, Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie.

“I asked in the first half,” Patterson explained, “and they said they weren’t happy with Trevone on some throws, and they wanted him to get some more experience with it. I asked and that’s what they based it on.”

With the second-team line in front of him, Joeckel appeared quite comfortable with the new offense. His first official throw was a textbook fade that Listenbee caught for a touchdown. The interception came on a bit-too-cocky throw to the right side that was perfectly read by Samford’s Jamerson Blount.

What’s it all mean for TCU in the weeks ahead? Patterson offered no clues.

He explained the reasoning behind starting Boykin by saying, “They were really close in the scrimmages. They were 31 of 40, one pick maybe.

“I still have a lot of confidence in Matt Joeckel.”

He should. It was only the first game.

And why show the Frogs’ next opponent, Big Ten Minnesota, any more than necessary?

Let the Gophers guess what’s coming. We share their lack of answers.

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