RB showdown, young players among things to watch in TCU-Kansas

Five Things to Know: TCU v. KU

Here are five things to know before the TCU Horned Frogs take on the Kansas Jayhawks.
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Here are five things to know before the TCU Horned Frogs take on the Kansas Jayhawks.

TCU has never lost to Kansas in football since joining the Big 12 in 2012. But it hasn’t always been easy for the Frogs, especially when they travel to Lawrence, Kansas.

TCU held on for a 24-23 victory in the last visit to Memorial Stadium in 2016, and also had to escape with a 34-30 victory in 2014.

So, even though TCU enters as a two-touchdown favorite with quarterback Michael Collins set to make his first Big 12 start, nothing is a given in this matchup. Here’s five things to watch –

Repeat performance?

As stated, this series has been closer than expected. But TCU seemed to turn a corner a season ago, rolling to a 43-0 victory in Fort Worth.

It was a remarkable day for the Frogs’ defense. KU gained just 21 yards of total offense, the lowest output by an FBS team since at least 1997. The Jayhawks also didn’t advance the ball past its own 43 and finished with minus-25 rushing yards.

TCU’s defense likely isn’t happy to slip to No. 2 in the Big 12 in total defense, and a strong outing against KU could get it the top spot back.

Secondary matters

TCU has battled a number of different injuries in its secondary, and continue to do so. Top cornerbacks Jeff Gladney and Julius Lewis are game-time decisions to play this Saturday after sustaining a right foot injury in the Oklahoma game.

Fellow cornerback Julius Lewis’ status is unknown for the game as well.

But the Frogs are expected to get starting free safety Niko Small back, a boost given Small’s experience and leadership on the back end.

As far as strong safety with Innis Gaines going down with a season-ending injury, Patterson said Garret Wallow will continue to work at strong safety as well as linebacker.

Containing Pooka

TCU recruited Kansas running back Pooka Williams Jr., and Patterson had a simple answer when asked about him.

“I think he’s a great player,” Patterson said.

With that being said, the Frogs will have to contain him on Saturday. Williams is having an impressive freshman season, averaging 7.0 yards per carry. He has 620 rushing yards on 88 carries with four touchdowns.

Williams is still searching for his first 100-yard game in the Big 12, and TCU allowed a pair of 100-yard rushers in the Oklahoma game (Kennedy Brooks, Trey Sermon).

Jumpstarting Jet

Speaking of running backs, TCU has to get its running game going against KU. The Frogs’ best individual rushing performance in Big 12 play was a 66-yard day by Sewo Olonilua against Iowa State.

Darius Anderson hasn’t gotten going in conference play yet, the latest being a six-carry, 32-yard day against Oklahoma. Anderson has seen his snap count diminish because of his struggles in pass protection.

“In the Texas Tech game we really struggled with that and he knows,” Patterson said. “He got better last week. It’s hard to check the run and pass if you’re not doing what you need to do with the protection part of it. That’s really where all of it stands.

“To play at the next level and do all that that’s what you have to do. I think he’s going to be really good at it, it just has to become important to him.”

Youthful eye

With a number of significant injuries continuing to pile up, TCU is in a position where younger players are getting more experience. It hasn’t been great, but Patterson mentioned a handful on his radio show Thursday night.

Defensively, Patterson had high praise for freshman defensive end Ochaun Mathis, saying he had potential to become the best pass rusher in school history, and freshman free safety Trevon Moehrig-Woodard, saying he could be the best free safety since Derrick Kindred.

Offensively, Patterson mentioned wide receivers John Stephens Jr., Ni’Jeel Meeking and Derius Davis. Davis returned a punt for a touchdown in the season opener against Southern, and could be the top option to replace since-dismissed KaVontae Turpin.

TCU coach Gary Patterson has kicked off returner KaVontae Turpin from the team. Turpin has been arrested multiple times for alleged domestic violence this year.

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