TCU drops Arkansas-Pine Bluff in football opener despite some offensive struggles

Gary Patterson assessing starting QB Alex Delton

TCU coach Gary Patterson named Alex Delton his starting quarterback.
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TCU coach Gary Patterson named Alex Delton his starting quarterback.

TCU left with more questions than answers about its offense following its opener against Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Saturday.

Quarterbacks Alex Delton and Max Duggan had their moments, with Duggan posting better numbers statistically, but the offense stalled more times than not against UAPB, an FCS program that had one of the worst defenses last season. The Frogs ended up with a 39-7 win over the Golden Lions.

“As I told them downstairs, we have to play a lot better,” coach Gary Patterson said. “There’s a lot of teaching. We have an off week, so that’ll give us a chance to fix everything.

“I can sit here and complain, but the bottom line is we really didn’t lose anybody. We won the ball game. We know what we’re going to work on. We got an off week, so here we go.”

Delton was 10 of 22 passing for 119 yards, while Duggan was 16 of 23 for 165 yards with a TD. Duggan also had a rushing score, and Delton led the team with 67 yards rushing.

But UAPB was hardly a confidence booster for TCU, as many expected going into it.

Delton started the game under center, leading the Frogs on a field goal drive. TCU had a first-and-goal from the 10 but couldn’t punch it in. Delton completed a 4-yard pass to Jalen Reagor on first down, but then had incomplete passes to Reagor and TreVontae Hights.

TCU kept Delton in the game for the second series, and he connected with Hights on a deep post route on the first play. But Hights fumbled the ball away trying to gain extra yardage at the UAPB 5-yard line.

Duggan took over at QB the next series. He showed poise for a freshman, connecting on his first two passes and leading what became an 11-play, 58-yard TD drive. TCU scored on a 1-yard sneak by Duggan.

On the next series, Duggan flashed with a 15-yard pass to Hights on a third-and-7, but TCU punted.

Delton returned for the fifth and sixth series of the half, and the Frogs started each in UAPB territory. But they went three-and-out and punted after starting from the UAPB 44, and settled for a 36-yard field goal by Jonathan Song after starting at the UAPB 16.

Duggan returned the final offensive series of the half with TCU taking over at the UAPB 36 with 26 seconds left. Duggan got the Frogs in field goal range, courtesy of two pass interference penalties by UAPB, and TCU went to halftime with a 16-0 lead.

TCU showed life to start the second half when Delton rushed for 54 yards on the first offensive play. But, once again, that drive ended with a field goal.

Another field goal drive ensued, although Delton didn’t get much help. Wide receiver Derius Davis couldn’t hang on to what would’ve been a TD on a third-and-7 play from the UAPB 21, as the Frogs settled for another field goal.

The Frogs scored a touchdown on Duggan’s first series of the second half. He connected with Reagor for a 37-yard score. Freshman running back Darwin Barlow scored a late TD on an 8-yard run.

But touchdowns were few and far between for the Frogs. They also fumbled it seven times, losing two.

TCU kicked field goals on five of seven red-zone trips. That continued a troubling trend from last season when TCU turned red zone trips into touchdowns less than half the time (16 TDs in 34 RZ trips).

“That was the place where I thought we have to get better,” Patterson said of the red zone struggles. “To be honest with you, they weren’t good at it in fall ball. We’re going to have to get a lot better down there.”

As questions mount for the offense, the good news coming out of the game — outside of the victory — is the defense had a solid showing. The Frogs pitched a first-half shutout for the first time since a 43-0 victory over Kansas on Oct. 21, 2017.

UAPB scored once when it had a short field following a muffed punt by Reagor in the third quarter.

TCU’s defense forced nine three-and-outs on UAPB’s 15 offensive drives.

Linebacker Garret Wallow shined and had team-leading 13 tackles, including a sack, at publication. Defensive end Ochaun Mathis had a promising start with 2.5 tackles for loss.

“It is a great experience for us as a team,” Wallow said. “I feel like we have a lot of growing to do, but that is what you want, to have room for improvement. I told my guys, I am proud of how you played tonight, but when you come to practice be ready to go and get better as a team for the next two weeks.”

Lewis injured

TCU senior cornerback Julius Lewis suffered an injury in practice last week, and missed the season opener. It’s believed that he will miss more games, although no official announcement has been made.

It’s another blow to a secondary unit that lost third cornerback Noah Daniels in fall camp. Lewis played in all 13 games last season.

Freshman Kee’Yon Stewart started in place of Lewis, and made a deflection on the first series of the game that led to an interception by safety Ar’Darius Washington.


TCU’s captains were Delton, Wallow, Innis Gaines and Cordel Iwuagwu.

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