Losing going into a bye week is never enjoyable for a football team. TCU experienced that following a frustrating loss at Iowa State two weeks ago.
The Frogs didn’t do anything well in that game. Offense, defense and special teams all struggled in a 49-24 loss. So it’s understandable that TCU is ready to return to game action in hopes of getting things turned in the right direction at Kansas State on Saturday.
“We’re just real hungry. It’s an important game for us to come back and get this win,” sophomore free safety Trevon Moehrig said. “All of us are preparing, getting our minds right. It should be an exciting game.”
It all goes down at 1:30 p.m. in Manhattan, Kansas. Here’s what to watch for —
1. Duggan’s development
True freshman quarterback Max Duggan has flashed at times this season, but has gotten off to slower starts than desired. Given his inexperience, it’s not too surprising but he and the offense have to get going earlier in games.
Duggan has played his best when the Frogs have gone into a hurry-up offense and that’s something they might have to consider going into if the slow starts continue.
As senior running back Darius Anderson said, “We can play fast just cause we practice it so much. We’re used to going fast, but I don’t think we have to go fast just in order to be successful.”
Anderson went on to say he felt a breakout game is coming for Duggan. When Duggan puts it together for an entire game, TCU should be able to hang with most teams in the conference.
“I feel it’s coming,” Anderson said. “He’s a really talented kid — smart, humble. He loves to work. I know it’s coming for sure.”
For the season, Duggan is 64-of-113 passing for 742 yards with nine touchdowns and no interceptions.
2. Delton’s return
Fifth-year senior Alex Delton returns to his old stomping grounds in Manhattan. He was a well-respected player and teammate in his time with the Wildcats, and that storyline remains true as a graduate transfer with the Frogs.
Delton started the first two games for TCU before losing the starting job to Duggan. But Delton remains a team captain and a favorite of coach Gary Patterson.
Patterson said Delton would play in this game too.
“He’s played in every ballgame,” Patterson said. “He’s been great here. He’s been a consummate teammate.”
For the season, Delton is 25-of-48 passing for 312 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. He’s rushed for 100 yards on 17 carries.
Delton appears to be the best option when TCU runs any plays from the “wildcat” formation.
3. Feed No. 6
Anderson is on pace to become TCU’s first 1,000-yard rusher since 2016. Kansas State, meanwhile, has one of the worst rushing defenses in the country.
So expect Anderson and the rest of the running back corps to be called upon often. Anderson has topped the 100-yard mark in three of the first five games, and is averaging 7.6 yards a carry.
This would also seem like a game where fellow senior Sewo Olonilua could find success too. Olonilua had a 100-yard rushing game at Purdue last month, but has rushed for just 59 yards on 23 carries in the last three games.
“When we can run the football, it’s helped us cause it opens everything else up,” Patterson said. “We couldn’t run the football against Iowa State. You’ve got to be able to run the football.”
4. Reagor on a roll
TCU has one of the most explosive players in the conference with Jalen Reagor, and he showcased that with a strong second half at Iowa State.
But the Frogs have to continue finding ways to get Reagor the ball, particularly early on. Patterson is hopeful the returns of wide receivers Taye Barber and Mikel Barkley will pave the way for more opportunities with Reagor.
“We’re trying to. It’s what the defenses allow you to do,” Patterson said. “If they’re going to stay over the top it’s hard to do those things. Iowa State put themselves in a situation three or four times where they didn’t to stop the run and we were able to advantage of it. When we get those shots we need to take advantage of it. It’s going to help with Mikel and Taye back. All of those guys are playing faster.”
For the season, Reagor has 186 yards receiving on 15 catches with three TDs. He’s also leading the Big 12 with 232 yards on punt return.
Asked about Reagor’s home-run potential, Anderson said: “I feel like it’s definitely coming for him. He has the same work ethic and still doing the same thing he’s always doing which is making plays.”
5. Limit the big play
Patterson compared facing K-State to playing a triple-option team. Possessions will be few and far between, putting a great emphasis on each drive.
That means the defense has to limit the number of big plays because there aren’t as many opportunities to comeback from a deficit.
“You can’t miss your turn,” Patterson said. “Because if you do, then you don’t get the ball back. The games are shorter. They get ready to go, so for us we’ve got to understand we’ve got to use our opportunities on offense. Defensively, we’ve got to get stops. You can’t allow the big play.”
K-State ranks first among Big 12 teams in time of possession (35:21), while TCU ranks second (34:19).