TCU quarterback Alex Delton leaves team; Duggan could play vs. Baylor, Patterson says

TCU fifth-year senior quarterback Alex Delton has left the program.

Delton informed the coaching staff that he wouldn’t be suiting up for the Frogs the rest of the way, TCU coach Gary Patterson said during his Tuesday news conference.

“He’s kind of been frustrated, kind of went through it at Kansas State with Skylar [Thompson] and I think he just kind of got to the point where it was time to step away,” Patterson said. “I appreciate him. I made him one of my captains. I really think a lot of him.

“The guy came here as a grad transfer, so obviously he would’ve liked to be the starter. Obviously he’d like to play more. Obviously he’d like to do all of that stuff.”

In a message to the Star-Telegram late Tuesday, Delton expressed gratitude for his brief tenure in Fort Worth.

“I’ll tell you that I have nothing but great things to say about TCU football, Coach P and the future of TCU football,” Delton said. “Coach P is a phenomenal top notch head coach at a first-class program. Coach handles business the right way.

“Nothing but love and gratitude towards TCU and the people of Fort Worth.”

Delton is the second quarterback to depart within a week as redshirt freshman Justin Rogers announced his intentions to transfer last week.

It’s a significant loss for a team that saw two quarterbacks injured on the final drive of Saturday’s 34-27 loss at Oklahoma State.

Starter Max Duggan sustained an injury to the right middle finger of his throwing hand, and backup Mike Collins was knocked out with a hard shot to the midsection on the final offensive play.

Patterson sounded optimistic that Duggan may be able to play Saturday against Baylor. Collins is likely out, Patterson said.

“I think Max will play,” Patterson said. “You guys should quit listening to Twitter so you see how that all goes. We won’t know until Saturday. We’ll find out more today because he hasn’t practiced so we’ll see how all that goes.”

If Duggan and Collins are sidelined with injuries, TCU may be left with redshirt freshman Matthew Downing as the best quarterback option for the Baylor game.

Downing, whose brother Michael played at TCU and is a graduate assistant on the coaching staff, joined the program as a transfer from Georgia. As a non-recruited player, Downing was not subject to the NCAA’s transfer rules that require a player to sit out a season.

“He’s a smart quarterback,” Patterson said of Downing. “The good thing on Sunday we run the whole offense with the younger group so they all know what we run.”

Another redshirt freshman, Ohio State transfer Matthew Baldwin, is eligible to play but was just recently cleared for full-go participation in practice following knee and back injuries.

Patterson grew testy during his weekly media session with all the QB questions, eventually saying: “By the way, we are playing Baylor. We’re trying to win a ballgame and all you guys want to know whether you can sell papers or not.”

But the Delton news caught most outsiders by surprise.

Delton had been praised for his leadership abilities since coming to Fort Worth and, as Patterson said, he served as a team captain all eight games. That doesn’t sound like a player who would bolt during the middle of the season.

Patterson acknowledged Delton had grown frustrated with the program. The turning point came Saturday when Duggan exited with an injury on the final offensive drive, and the team turned to Collins instead of Delton.

That didn’t sit well with Delton and he decided it was time to move on.

“Nothing really fazes me,” Patterson said. “I’m really not surprised. I’m sure Alex had a lot to do with when Mike went in the ballgame because we really just needed a pure thrower. At the end of the day, I get all of it.

“Again, I think a lot of him. I’d rather he stayed and fought through all of it and done what he needed to do, but that’s not my call.”

Delton, a Kansas State graduate transfer, opened the season as the starting quarterback, but lost the job to Duggan after two games. TCU managed to get Delton involved the next four games, but he didn’t see action the past two games against Texas and Oklahoma State.

Delton was 27-of-50 passing for 318 yards with one interception and no touchdowns. He also rushed for 100 yards on 17 carries.

At K-State, Delton played in 20 games, including six starts. He completed 56.1% of his passes (96-of-171) for 1,202 yards with five touchdowns and four interceptions. He also rushed for 868 yards with 11 TDs on 213 carries.

The hope is Duggan shows enough grit to play through the injury. It’s not unheard of for a quarterback to play through a middle finger injury on their throwing hand.

Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford played the final three games of the regular season and in the playoffs with a sprained middle finger on his right (throwing) hand in 2016.

For the season, Duggan is 120-of-208 passing for 1,405 yards with 12 TDs and four interceptions. He led the team in rushing the past three weeks and has 319 yards rushing on the season.

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