TCU hopes running back duo can help spark stagnant offense

TCU’s best drive against Texas Tech — a nine-play, 69-yard march that tied the game early in the fourth quarter — was a thing of beauty.

After a couple short gains by Trevone Boykin, he connected on a 22-yard pass to Cam White, who made an impressive shoestring catch to convert on third-and-8.

But then the Horned Frogs went to a steady diet of runs, including four consecutive draws up the middle. The first two by B.J. Catalon combined for 17 yards, followed by two for 10 yards by Waymon James. TCU’s offensive line had the leverage, and Texas Tech’s defense was leaving the middle wide open. After another short gain by Boykin, Catalon took it around the left tackle for a 17-yard, game-tying touchdown.

“We just kept getting the ball,” Catalon said. “We were warmed up, the offensive line was getting push and if you get the ball in some of our hands, I feel like we can make plays. If we keep getting the ball and keep getting push, we’ll be fine up front.”

That’s what TCU (1-2) hopes to do against SMU (1-2) at 11 a.m. Saturday at Amon G. Carter Stadium. A more pounding, possession-oriented offense that relies sparingly on the pass.

For the offense to be effective, Catalon and James need to touch the ball more than they did in the loss to the Red Raiders. The duo combined for 109 yards on 19 carries, both averaging more than 5.1 yards per carry.

Boykin rushed 20 times for a career-high 101 yards, but on 13 carries he was held to three or fewer yards. Plus, 42 yards of his rushing total came on two runs, including a 12-yard gain in the final minute with the game out of reach.

Since the loss, coach Gary Patterson has alluded to TCU’s game plan against Texas last season in which Boykin passed only nine times for 82 yards, but the Frogs outgained the Longhorns 217-86 on the ground.

“Trevone has to understand he’s got to use everybody else,” Patterson said during Tuesday’s media luncheon. “We’ve got some good players at running back and wide receiver positions. He can’t try to do it all by himself.”

In the first half against Texas Tech, Catalon and James each had four carries for a combined 29 yards. Boykin rushed 10 times for 42 yards in the first half while completing 8 of 10 passes with an interception.

TCU has worked on scrambling drills to help Boykin better identify open receivers when he’s flushed out of the pocket. Patterson touted Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel’s ability to find the open man while scrambling.

A more established running game will help Boykin’s passing, too. That’s more than fine with Catalon and James.

“If we are to keep getting better, and our offensive line keeps doing what they’re doing, we can establish the run, which can also open up the pass for Trevone and the receivers,” Catalon said. “So we can have a complete game on offense. I feel like a running back does need to touch the ball some so he can get acclimated to the game and used to getting hit and things like that. So I feel like more touches for all the running backs will help out a lot.”

James, who is coming off knee surgery last year, looked more comfortable in his third game back. He and Catalon, along with Aaron Green, could lead the TCU offense out of its early doldrums. They wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Sometimes you can’t always have a finesse run. You can’t always outrun somebody or you can’t always make someone miss,” Catalon said. “Sometimes you have to take those pounding hits and deliver those pounding hits. That’s just a part of football. You’ve got to love to do those things.”

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