SMU is averaging 44 points a game. How TCU’s ‘suffocating’ defense can stop the Mustangs

Trevon Moehrig used one word to describe TCU’s defense following its 34-13 victory at Purdue on Saturday.

“Suffocate,” said Moehrig, the sophomore free safety. “That’s what we do. That’s what the defense prides itself on.”

It’s a small sample size but that’s evident early on this season. The Frogs have allowed just 209.5 yards of total offense in two games, but they’ve faced an FCS program in Arkansas-Pine Bluff and a Purdue team using a backup quarterback in his college debut.

A stiffer tests looms against SMU on Saturday. The Mustangs, who are off to a 3-0 start, make the trek from Dallas to Fort Worth for a 2:30 p.m. matchup at Amon G. Carter Stadium.

TCU has dominated the series of late, winning by an average of 31 points the last six times. But SMU has improved, courtesy of the NCAA transfer portal.

“I think I’ve seen they’ve added 20-something guys,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said. “They’ve changed their roster really.”

Former Texas quarterback and Arlington Lamar alum Shane Buechele headlined the overhaul this offseason. He’s provided a veteran presence under center, going 65-of-98 passing for 871 yards with five touchdowns and three interceptions.

Former West Virginia wide receiver Reggie Roberson Jr. is leading the Mustangs with 342 yards receiving and two TDs. Of those 342 yards, 226 have come on deep receptions (20-plus yards), which is the most in the country according to Pro Football Focus.

All of it has SMU ranked among the top offenses in the country, averaging 44.3 points a game and 550 yards of total offense. Patterson and his defense are preparing for it.

“We won’t play anybody the rest of the season that doesn’t have a guy that can’t run by you,” Patterson said. “The thing that bothers me the most is we didn’t play Arkansas-Pine Bluff very well on the fly-motions and everything. In the off week we worked really hard on that. Number one, Purdue did it but also we knew SMU was going to do it. We’ll find out if we fixed anything going into this Saturday.

“We’ve got to do a better job of play action and all the different movements. These guys do a lot of gadget plays; we started two years ago clear back to when [SMU coach Sonny Dykes] was at Cal. We keep a dictionary of gadgets.”

The good news for the Frogs is they handled anything the Boilermakers threw at them well. Purdue coach Jeff Brohm is known for his gadget and trick plays, but TCU allowed just 204 yards of total offense.

The Frogs shut down standout receiver Rondale Moore (three receptions for 25 yards), and senior cornerback Jeff Gladney came down with an interception when the Boilermakers tried to run a flea flicker in the third quarter.

“I read it,” Gladney said. “I saw him pitch it back. I just turned around and looked to see who I could help cause I didn’t have a man. There it went … pick.”

TCU has gotten off to a fast start in that department with four interceptions through two games. This is a program that didn’t record its fourth interception until the 10th game against Kansas State last season.

Gladney, one of the top cornerbacks in the Big 12, didn’t get his first interception until the regular-season finale against Oklahoma State last season.

Granted, most teams tend to stay away from Gladney, but he’s hoping Saturday is a sign that more are coming.

“It feels good to start early and just try to keep it going,” he said. “I’ve just got to make my plays when I get them. They don’t come over there that much.”

Moehrig has an interception in each of the first two games, and safety Ar’Darius Washington picked off a pass in the UAPB game.

Buechele threw two interceptions against Texas State last Saturday, and TCU will certainly try to force him to make contested throws on Saturday.

“They’re good players,” Gladney said. “We’re going to scheme them and slow them down like we usually do.”

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