Slow starts have been an early trend for TCU’s football team.
The Frogs have scored a touchdown on their opening offensive drive just once this season. Falling behind early in games has been difficult to overcome in losses to SMU and Iowa State.
SMU jumped out to an early 15-0 lead, and Iowa State enjoyed a 21-3 lead in the first half, as each went on to victories without ever trailing.
Coach Gary Patterson knows getting off to faster starts is a must if TCU (3-2 overall, 1-1 Big 12) wants to have a successful run in conference play. TCU takes on Kansas State on Saturday in Manhattan, Kansas.
“You’ve just got to get your younger guys to grow up — it’s all about processing,” said Patterson, who is hopeful his team got better and healthier during its bye week.
“Offensively, we’ve got to come out of the chute earlier. When we come out quick, then we’ve played really well. It’s really important for us, especially on the road.”
Part of it is getting true freshman quarterback Max Duggan to start faster. Against SMU, Purdue and Iowa State, Duggan combined to go 10 of 29 passing for 49 yards and a touchdown in the first half.
In the second half of those games, Duggan was 30 of 50 for 423 yards and four touchdowns.
Maybe it’s simply Duggan finding a better rhythm as the game goes on, or possibly TCU running more of its hurry-up offense in those second-half situations. Patterson seemed to dismiss the notion that going into a hurry-up scheme more often is a solution.
“We don’t go that much faster,” Patterson said. “We’re still not even close to what we were in ‘14, ‘15. … It doesn’t have to do with just Max. You’ve got a lot of redshirt freshman wide receivers.
“If I knew the answer to the question, we would’ve fixed it already.”
Instead, Patterson believes there will be continued progress each game with more experience. He also pointed to the running game being essential to establish an offensive identity early in games.
TCU rushed for a season-low 108 yards on 33 carries at Iowa State. The Frogs had rushed for at least 200 yards in their first four games.
The good news for TCU is that K-State has struggled against the run, ranking ninth in run defense among Big 12 teams (188.6 yards per game).
“When we can run the football, it’s helped us ‘cause it opens everything else up,” Patterson said. “You’ve got to be able to run the football.”
Patterson didn’t take long when asked if he looked forward facing a smashmouth team such as K-State.
“Not if your players aren’t playing smash-mouth,” Patterson said. “We didn’t do a good job of that two weeks ago. That’s where Iowa State hurt us.
“You have to be more physical, especially when you get closer to November. That’s how you win championships. As we always say, it’s a big boy ballgame.”
The Cyclones finished with 189 yards rushing on 37 carries, including 102 yards by quarterback Brock Purdy, who also had two rushing TDs.
Patterson blamed missed assignments for Purdy’s success in the run game.
“If everybody did their job, it should’ve been minus-12 yards in the running plays he had,” Patterson said.
▪ Wide receivers Mikel Barkley and Taye Barber could return to game action this week, Patterson said. Barkley and Barber would provide more speed and outside options for the Frogs’ passing game opposite Jalen Reagor.
▪ K-State coach Chris Klieman said it’s “doubtful” that top receiver Malik Knowles will return to practice this week.
▪ TCU fifth-year senior Alex Delton is expected to play in his return to Manhattan, Kansas, Patterson said. Delton started the first two games of the season before being demoted to backup duties behind Duggan. But Delton has remained a team captain, and Patterson called him the “consummate teammate.”
▪ Kickoff for the TCU-Texas game on Oct. 26 in Fort Worth has been set for 2:30 p.m. It will be televised on FOX.