TCU football has its best rushing attack since the LT days

TCU has its best rushing offense in almost two decades.

The Frogs are averaging 275.3 yards a game on the ground, their best mark since the 2000 season (275.6 yards). That 2000 team featured a 2,000-yard rusher in LaDainian Tomlinson, who is now enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Coach Gary Patterson isn’t surprised by the rushing attack’s strong start to the season, though, as the Frogs prepare for Saturday’s game at Iowa State.

“Nope,” Patterson said. “We have two running backs that are going to get drafted and probably two offensive linemen. We’ve had 40 NFL people come through here with all the guys we have the last two days. There’s another six today. There’s some pretty good players on this team.”

Patterson ended with a tongue-in-cheek comment, saying: “I know we’re only TCU. Obviously you can’t have but one or two.”

Yes, TCU has plenty of talent in the offensive backfield and co-offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie is playing to that strength. The Frogs are running 59.9 percent rushing plays through four games, the highest percentage since Cumbie arrived with the spread offense in 2014.

Seniors Darius Anderson and Sewo Olonilua are projected NFL Draft picks next spring and form a nice 1-2 punch. Anderson brings the speed, Olonilua brings the power.

Anderson is off to fast start with three consecutive 100-yard games. He leads the team with 483 yards rushing on 59 carries with five touchdowns. His 8.2 yards per carry average ranks sixth in the country.

Olonilua is averaging 5.2 yards a carry with 202 yards and two TDs on 39 carries.

Iowa State is well aware of TCU’s rushing attack. The Cyclones have fared well in run defense so far, ranking third in the Big 12 (115 yards per game).

But they haven’t seen one as powerful as TCU’s, which is ranked eighth in the country.

“Great rushing teams usually have two guys back there that are a little bit different and they certainly do,” Iowa State coach Matt Campbell said. “Both backs bring a little bit different challenge, but such tough, dynamic runners.”

Campbell went on to praise TCU’s offensive line that’s anchored by right tackle Lucas Niang, who could play his way into being a first-round NFL Draft talent, and left tackle Anthony McKinney, another NFL Draft hopeful.

“Usually when you’re talking about a really good running game, you’re talking about an offensive line,” Campbell said. “It’s a veteran group, a lot of guys who have played a lot of football for them. You can tell they’re playing with a lot of confidence on the offensive front.”

Outside of Niang and McKinney, TCU has bulked up inside to create more running lanes. Right guard David Bolisomi is 6-foot-6, 322 pounds; left guard Cordel Iwuagwu is 6-foot-3, 311 pounds; and center Coy McMillon is 6-foot-4, 295 pounds.

Plus reserves such as Austin Myers (6-foot-5, 303 pounds) and Wes Harris (6-foot-4, 295 pounds) see action.

For the O-line, it’s been a joy blocking and paving the way for the running game’s success.

“It’s amazing,” Bolisomi said. “Jet [Anderson] is a very, very good running back. Sewo’s a very, very good running back. Emari [Demercado] is a very, very good running back.

“All of those guys can make you miss. All the guys are very good at what they do, so it makes our job even easier as an O-line.”

More importantly, TCU has its best years when the running game is at its best. Of the 11 seasons with double-digit victories under Patterson, eight have come when the Frogs have averaged at least 200 yards rushing.

That includes the stretch of four consecutive double-digit winning seasons from 2008-11.

As Patterson said, alluding to the time of possession advantage with a strong running game, “In two out of four games we’ve had almost 40 minutes of possession time.

“It makes it a lot easier to play defense, I can tell you that.”

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